Guns are not the problem.
Right now, half of the people reading this just perked up in glee at my apparent appreciation of the Second Amendment. The other half are planning to send me an angry email with the names of all the victims of gun violence between Sandy Hook and Orlando.
Because guns are not the problem. And I don’t mean that in a “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” bumper sticker kind of way. Slogans are not the answer.
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Slogans make it possible for people to boil down complicated problems into a one-line response that is easily spit at people who don’t agree with you. It makes it simple, even expected or acceptable, to cut off a rational argument by repeating a mantra the way a child covers her ears and hums to avoid hearing something unpleasant.
I’m not picking a side. I’m stating a truth.
The problem is that nobody is listening.
Tell someone on the pro-gun side that you want to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of people who do bad things and you get shut down because of fears about what that might mean.
Tell someone on the anti-gun side that you have a handgun or a rifle in your home and you can immediately become a redneck prepper ready to get into a standoff with the feds.
There is middle ground. A lot of middle ground. There just have to be people ready to meet there and discuss solutions instead of fears.
I grew up in a house with guns. I was 6 years old the first time I held one. My stepfather demanded that everyone in our house understand the awesome and terrible power held in that piece of metal and wood.
There are guns in my house now. My husband was a collector and a target shooter. He kept his guns locked in one safe. His ammunition was locked up separately. The first priority was always safety.
I have never personally known a gun owner who didn’t treat his weapons with respect and caution.
I have, however, written about many who have not.
I have written about people who gotten drunk and shot a relative at the family hunting camp. I have written about someone whose teenager decided to clean his dad’s revolver and shot himself.
I had to stop making calls to local schools on the morning that Adam Lanza ripped apart the lives of kindergarteners in Newtown, Conn. I had to stop so I could take my 4-year-old son to a public school building and hand him over to his preschool teacher and pretend I wasn’t afraid.
I know that this isn’t about guns because we have become incapable of talking about anything that splits us apart without anger and denial and an inability to even consider conceding that the other side has a point.
If no one else can do that, I will, because I do see both sides.
I know that there is a use for guns. We live in a state where hunting is an industry and a way to feed families. We live in a county where the first two days of deer season are not just holidays but practically religious observances.
I know that there are people who pervert the use of those weapons in ways that are almost impossible to understand.
I know that our Constitution gives us the right to have those weapons, to defend ourselves, to make decisions about how that happens.
I also know that the Declaration of Independence stresses the importance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but it puts life first.
I know that there has to be an answer — a way to integrate the two sides. We just have to be willing to find it, and we can’t do that with our eyes shut and our ears covered while we hum really loudly.
Because guns aren’t the problem. We are.
But we can also be the solution.