By Gary Bethea
Instead of uniting us in mutual sympathy and driving us to look for real policy answers, tragic mass shootings have us turning on each other. It’s time for that to change.
Contrary to the beliefs of insightful Twitter enthusiasts, liberals certainly do not rejoice when children are murdered en masse. The suggestion seems to be that gun control advocates have an ulterior motive for regulating guns. But there’s no money to be made from goods not being produced and not being traded. Liberals occasionally see government regulations as necessary to serve the public good, but they have no motive for wanting rules and regulations as ends in themselves. The only possible motive for favoring gun control is for the sake of safety. Gun enthusiasts need to recognize that while they disagree that gun control is a viable solution to violent crime, supporters of gun control are coming from a place of concern and responsibility.
And supporters of gun control need to understand the position of gun enthusiasts. Gun owners are, more often than not, good people. And more often than not, they would actually not be effected by the sorts of regulations that their liberal “opponents” advocate.
Gun owners are often concerned that their right to keep their firearms is being threatened. However, I have yet to see liberals support a policy of breaking into people’s houses and taking the guns they already own.
Firearm enthusiasts worry that they will be unable to purchase more guns in the future. However, unless they are felons or mentally ill, it’s unlikely that anyone wants to stop them from buying guns, given that they’re willing to endure a short waiting period.
The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that firearms should not be banned outright, but that criminals and the mentally ill should be unable to possess them. So what exactly are we fighting about?
Anecdotally, it seems to me that many arguments are made of peripheral and senseless issues. A line of reasoning popular among militant gun-enthusiasts seems to be that guns are so easily purchased illegally, that what’s the point of regulating guns at all? As it happens, we know for a fact that most mass shootings are carried out with legally-obtained firearms. Does this mean that none of these shootings would have occurred if legal guns couldn’t have been obtained? Of course not, but it certainly would have made it more difficult and expensive, and some attackers would have been discouraged. Wouldn’t even one less rampage mean something?
While it’s now conventional “wisdom” that obtaining an illegal gun is easy, the truth is a little more complicated. Organized and semi-organized criminals have an easy time purchasing guns because they have access to extensive criminal networks. They purchase guns, but with help. An isolated mentally ill teenager might find it impossible to obtain an illegal weapon.
Other silly arguments abound. Why are we having them? We agree that limited but strict regulations on firearms should be in place. We agree that this is not a panacea. We need more focus in this country on mental health services, we need an economy that allows the young to do meaningful and engaging work, and we need to do everything within reason to protect our children.
We must strive to end gun violence, but we must also try to end the daily verbal violence that we try to inflict upon each other, and remember that we’re all in this together.