Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gun Control, Demystified

Or, We are more together than apart

With so much hate and divisiveness being used in this debate, my goal rooted in love, is to point out a few observations, hopefully build a framework for real dialog, and challenge each side to come together.

All gun control laws can be grouped into one of three categories. Laws that punish criminals, laws that attempt to limit criminals’ access to guns, and laws that attempt to limit everyone’s access to guns. (There is a fourth, laws that track all guns. This is a non-issue as no one has made any real headway in trying this, so we will leave it out of this discussion.)

The first, laws that punish criminals, is obvious. We have laws on the books for sentencing law breakers with time in prison, even the death penalty in some places.  The very basis for our criminal justice system is rooted in the idea that corrective discipline is normal and works.  It works as a deterrent to crime, and as a corrective system for those who have committed crime. The effectiveness of this model is outside of the scope of this discussion, but generally this is an area where people are in agreement. We want “easy wins” where we can make “real change” with "bi-partisan support"; this is where we can have it. Enforce and make stricter gun crime punishments.

The second, laws that stop criminals from getting guns, there is also large support from both sides. While I am disappointed at the NRA for not backing proposals in this category like universal background checks, etc., I am not surprised.  The NRA is a lobbying group, and you would expect them to take the far position.  However, more and more pro-gunners are following their lead and buying into this position of “give up nothing!” "I can sell my gun to anyone I want" just does not work today. As gun owners we need to recognize that we have a crime problem, and that we have a responsibility to limit access to criminals.

The last, laws that limit everyone’s guns, is where the majority of the division is happening.   On this topic, we are polarized.  Laws in this group include the so-called assault weapons ban, and the high capacity magazine ban.  The problem with these laws is that they are actually limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens.  Now those rights are limited all the time, and there is precedent to do so, but the negative reaction from the gun community is based on the idea that we see no real benefit to society as a result of these changes. I have discussed this at length, so I do not want to do so here.

The problem is that all of these topics are getting lumped into one big group of “upcoming gun control laws” and because we do not have the proper framework to discuss them, we fall into all or nothing discussions.

Instead, lets work to understand each proposed law.  Classify each in one of these categories. Universal background checks are not at all designed to limit law-abiding citizens access to guns, therefore we should support them.  Those who support banning certain guns need to understand that you are squarely in the third section which has dangers, and yelling about it wont help. If law abiding citizens are going to give up more of their rights, there needs to be a solid discussion on the benefits of doing so before you will convince anyone.  Educate yourself. Its hard for the gun community to take seriously calls to ban “assault weapons” when you still think they are “spraying bullets into a crowd.” Even better, show some measure of respect for the people that actually have knowledge of the topic. Their, our, opinion should matter to you because we own these devices, and we understand them. Recognize that this is and will be the hardest aspect of these types of proposals, and you should expect pushback. Ignoring that pushback puts you no better than the change nothing crowd.

If we come together, we can gain real traction on the first and second groups of laws.  If we have open and healthy discussions on the third, there may be some compromises that can be reached.   However, if we continue to argue from opposing viewpoints with all or nothing positions, we are no longer on the same team fighting for the same goal. We have instead embraced us versus them, battling each other, instead of crime.

Friday, January 25, 2013

On guns, God, love and hate.

Nothing is so clearly and poignantly evil than the murder of innocent lives.  Evil is rooted in hate. Hatred of self, hatred of others when fully realized leads to the most deplorable of evil acts.  Perhaps this is at the heart of the apostle’s letter when he says, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” or in Jesus’ equating of murder to hatred in the sermon on the mount. 

The idea that at the root of murder is hate stands as a warning to us all.  When we allow ourselves to be filled with hate, we succumb to the evilest passions of our being.  To hate is to reject God and the message of our common depravity instead embracing our supposed goodness over the object of our hatred.  Hatred is the very antithesis to God, because God is love.

The recent communal discussion on guns and the role they play in our society has taken a significant turn toward hatred. With time passing farther away from the latest tragedy many pro-gun individuals feel free to express this hatred through mockery or disdain for anything or anyone who would ‘take our guns away.’ Similarly, still impassioned by the heinousness of this crime others are calling people lunatics, or wishing people rot in hell who simply believe their rights are being taken away. This too is rooted in the same hatred. 

It’s easy to hate. It’s our natural stance because we are evil. The sad irony is that the church who has supposedly been set free from evil control is leading the charge from both sides. 

Instead, choose Love.  Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father in heaven. If you love only those who love you what reward is in that?  Everyone does that. Its time for us to recognize that we must love one another in spite of our differences. We must realize that people are in different places, and have different ideas.  We must remove the idea that we are better then anyone else.

I can foresee the supposed hypocrisy in this statement. Am I not saying the same thing; that I am somehow better than those that have chosen to hate. I am not. I have done the same things. I have enjoyed the quiet ridicule of those who have no idea the difference between a M-16 and an AR-15. I have, at times, allowed the idea that because I may know more than others on this topic, I am somehow better then they are. However, I am not the standard, God is. His rule, his morality is the standard, and I am consistently trying to reject those ideas and replace them with love. That love may not lead to my changing my opinion on a topic, but it aught to change the way I interact with another person who holds a different idea. I have seen very little love. 

We are a deeply divided people, which means the light that shines from our choosing love instead of hate will shine brighter than ever. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Open Letter to our State officials

Many individuals are concerned over the upcoming barrage of new gun legislations. Obviously, emotional responses are strong as people weigh the freedoms we have vs the real danger of crazies and criminals. We are too close to Newtown to not be deeply effected.
What I fear is that we have succumb to the polarization of us vs them.
For the gun rights folks, we fear our reduction in liberty and invoke the spirit of Henry Tucker who said: "[The second amendment] may be considered as the true [safeguard] of liberty. Wherever the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty is on the brink of destruction."
Our counterparts say that the death of innocent children is just such a pretext worth prohibiting liberty. Theirs is a powerful and palpable stance in these troubled days.
Obviously, there will be outspoken people from both extremes however, I believe that most constituents want realistic measures put in place that reduce crime. It is critical that we recognize this mutual goal together and find the common elements where we can come together. Without setting that framework, we will argue and fight and nothing positive will prevail.
My request, my challenge as you go to Hartford is to fight the root causes. Those are the issues with bi-partisan support.
Those root issues are weak families, weak community, weak morals, and a culture of death.
You want the Assault weapons ban in place? We already have it. You want magazine limits, they wont help, but go for it, or let Washington do it. But do not pat yourselves on the back when those are done because all you have done is slapped a bandaid on a bullet wound. Those are the simple, surface level issues. If CT is going to lead, we need to tackle how to restore strong families, communities and morals to our culture. We need to restore love and respect for every human being. We need to respect authority, serve those less fortunate, and ensure that people are free to talk about their problems with someone who loves them. I’m not sure how you legislate those issues. I have a few ideas, but that’s your job. However, simply banning a few guns is not enough. These deeper issues are what we desperately need resolved.