Meeting in the Middle

I try to steer clear of non-gaming related politics on this blog mostly because I hate when people dabble in topics they are ill prepared to discuss intelligently.

I remember after 9-11, many of the technology related blogs I read came out with amazingly ignorant positions on what the US should or shouldn’t do in the wake of such a tragedy. I can appreciate one’s desire to express themselves but I’m not sure what is being added to the collective debate when someone who couldn’t find Afghanistan on a map suddenly positions themselves as an expert on what the US should or shouldn’t do there.

Stick with what you know.

But, after seeing some of the reactions to the shooting in Newtown, I thought I would share my somewhat unconventional views on them.

I’m a proud veteran of our US armed forces. I served three years in the US Army in Germany during the Cold War era and was called back into service during the first Gulf War (though the war ended before I was ever deployed).

I’ve fired so many weapons I’m not sure if I even remember them all. M16’s, M60’s, RPG’s, anti-tank weapons, hand guns, etc. I’ve also thrown grenades and rigged claymore mines, as well as other explosive devices.

I also believe in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution that guarantees the right of citizens to bear arms. I’ve spent countless hours explaining the reasoning behind that right to many a European who has wanted to educate me on America’s gun culture (despite never having been to the US).

So, I probably own a garage full of weapons, right? Nope. I don’t own a single gun. I have never owned one as a private citizen (and, technically, I didn’t own any of the weapons I used in the military).

And the biggest reason I don’t own a gun is that I don’t want the responsibility of owning a gun. I understand that owning a weapon requires more than the ability to purchase one.

Responsible gun ownership includes storing it safely, making sure it is in proper operating condition, keeping access to it away from people who may not handle it responsibly, and making sure that I never handle it under the influence of drugs, alcohol, anger, carelessness, depression, or any other mental state that might cloud my judgment.

When I weigh the pros and cons of having a weapon in my home, I’ve decided that I don’t want those responsibilities. If I want to enjoy firing a weapon I can rent one at a gun range or borrow one from a friend who has chosen to accept those responsibilities.

That point of view might change in the future as my circumstances change but, then again, I may never feel the need or desire to own a gun.

The point of the above is to show that I’m neither a gun nut or a peace-loving hippy. I don’t think taking guns away from everyone makes any more sense than arming everyone. They’re equally absurd solutions because they’re equally unrealistic.

But, to some degree, that’s the point of those arguments. They’re not designed to be solutions.

It seems as if politics in the US has come down to two groups taking polar opposite positions and then refusing to give an inch.

On one side you’ve got people who seem to think that if we just made guns illegal things like what happened in Newtown would never happen. On the other, you have people arguing that if the other students or teachers had been armed they could have stopped the shooter.

Both so-called solutions are silly. If you understand anything about American culture you know that disarming 350 million people is completely unrealistic. Similarly, arming everyone and allowing them to either openly carry or concealed carry a weapon is equally unrealistic.

Since the two sides are so far apart in their positions, it’s not even worth trying to reach a compromise and thus nobody has to actually solve the problem by coming up with a solution through compromise. Both sides falsely paint these as the only two options and the only way forward being total destruction of the opponent. For you to win they have to completely lose. And for them to win, you have to lose the battle.

But what about all of the sensible alternatives in the middle? Actually, what about all of the alternatives that actually do reduce gun related deaths while still preserving the right of responsible gun owners to continue to own guns?

One of the hallmarks of a healthy society is one where people make compromises for the greater good. Nobody can win a stalemate.

I won’t pretend to be smart enough to have the right answer to this issue but I do know that the current state of discourse is the wrong path if anyone is actually interested in less tragedies like the one that happened in Newtown.

But, I don’t want to end this on a gloomy note so thanks to a retweet from KevMath, I’ll end this on a note that shows what can happen when we pull off the blinders and focus on what’s really important.


8 thoughts on “Meeting in the Middle”

  1. I too was in the military, but I only own one weapon that was given to me by a friend that hasn’t been fired in 30 years.

    One thing that gets me is the culture of violence here in the US that in my opinion is totally bogus. By the time I got to Vietnam, I had been in almost continuous, strenuous training for over a year. Basic, AIT, Airborne, OCS, Ranger School. Today people think they can qualify for Seal Team Six by buying or participating in a few wargame videos. They see all that shit, then they acquire some weapons and ammo, put on some camo and go out and kill innocent civilians.

    In my opinion, take away all the psuedo military weapons from everybody. Really really enforce the gun laws we have. It will take a long time, since we have about as many guns here as we do people. Does anyone really think we are inherently more evil than Europeans? No, we just have more guns.

  2. @Shawn: It’s a bit more complicated than that. Most of the people who flip out and kill groups of people tend to be people who wouldn’t normally be on anybody’s radar. People get fired from their jobs every day but all you need is one guy to go home, pick up a rifle, and come back to the office and mow down all of his co-workers.

    But, most gun deaths in the US (other than suicides which account for something like 55% of gun deaths) are not those types of incidents. They’re gang shootings, hold ups, domestic disputes, etc. And mostly with guns either acquired illegally or possessed illegally.

    So when gun rights advocates proclaim that if you make it illegal to own guns than only criminals will own guns there’s more to that than just rhetoric. You would still have millions of guns out on the streets except that everyone who still owned one would not have acquired it through a trackable or verifiable process.

    So you can’t address guns by making them illegal since there are already millions of illegally owned guns out there currently. You would have to go after the illegal guns as well. And not only would you have to get the illegal guns currently in the US but you have to stop new guns coming in illegally as well.

    To stop gun violence like what happened in Newtown, you need different approaches for the different parts of the problem. Gun violence in America is a multifaceted problem with a lot of different causes.

    I don’t know what the answers are but I do know that you seldom find an answer to a problem by ignoring facts, which is what both sides of the debate tend to do.

  3. @Adam: I totally get what you’re saying.

    I like to believe that most of us are in the middle but when I was reading the comments on many of the news sites I couldn’t help but feel that’s not really true. I mean, you’ve got one group of people using the fact that some Chinese man slashed a bunch of people in China as proof that gun control works and the other half saying it proves that gun control doesn’t work since people will just kill each other anyway.

    And yes, most people have a problem distinguishing between explaining something and holding that belief. As an American living abroad for several years I’ve heard just about every criticism of the US on can think of. And it’s amazing that sometimes you can be in agreement with someone but in trying to explain why it’s that way, it’s instantly assumed that being able to understand something is the same as approving of or advocating for something.

    And, again, I agree on the fact that inaction has winners and losers as well. In fact, in some cases, setting your cause back can have other benefits. Many special interest groups simply outgrow their original charter so they create phantom issues that get people to write a lot of checks but have little chance of ever having any impact.

    I could name some very specific examples but I don’t want to because as you just mentioned, if I say XYZ Org once did X then it’s assumed that I support ABC Org. 🙂

  4. @Dan: I’ve toyed with or at least tried to understand the political views or ideologies and parties across the spectrum. But I can never get past the fact that most have so narrowly defined “the right way” that everyone else has to be wrong.

    Everything, every issue, gets boiled down to right or wrong. You’re either for it or against it. To compromise is to lose.

    That just doesn’t work in the real world.

  5. It’s a very sick society that can’t even protect their children at school. IMO there should be no debate. If you give the power to kill to everyone then the risk is too great because if someone flips out, it only takes a second to pull the trigger…by the time they come to their senses it’s too late.

  6. Many wise words here, don’t know about everyone else but I’m glad you weighed in :).

    Couple notes or thoughts that may be of interest… I don’t really think the general public is all that far divided. Obviously there are some who believe in total disarmament and others who think buying a weapon should be like buying a bag of m&m’s. But I’d say extreme viewpoints dominate the discourse more than they dominate actual public opinion.

    This leads to an interesting corrolary for me… People tend to assume without much thought that others around them have one of two extreme viewpoints on issues like this and immediately get on heavy defensive when it comes up. An example… I posted a link on Twitter to Nate Silver’s article showing the decline in use of “gun control” in the media and relative increase in use of “gun rights” and some other terms. The article hardly presented a pro- or anti-gun viewpoint, but immediately on posting I had a response about what a bad idea it’d be to ban private ownership of guns. I hadn’t suggested that, nor had the article. But we are now trained to assume any different or conflicting viewpoint or source of info represents an extreme, polar position.

    Lastly, I think that this situation isn’t just happenstance. If we are all yelling and screaming and not listening to each other, nothing gets done. And when nothing gets done, there are winners and losers. Certain incumbent interests (left and right) have a strong interest in stifling public conversation about the viability of various existing policies. Keeping all sides feeling like the other side is extreme, out of touch and unrealistic is a great way to prevent the conversation from happening

  7. Fwiw, this is the first thing I’ve read about the shooting that didn’t make me stop reading. I personally take an Andy Griffith approach to guns, but back in my libertarian days used to believe you should have the right to have a nuclear missile in your backyard if you wanted one. (Sure, the gov would have to keep an eye on you then, but hey …)

    But now I realize why that extremist stance wouldn’t work, and really It’s just a matter then of where you draw the lines at what private citizens can own without being tracked.

    Not saying that solves all problems, but there really is a sensible middle that can prevent people from harming others.

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