Everyone, or seemingly everyone, is arguing over gun control versus gun rights. It’s a crucial topic. When I read the arguments, it feels like the people debating live in different realities. In one, having more guns makes us safer. In the other, having fewer guns makes us safer.
It can’t be both. Mr. McAvoy, best teacher I ever had (with apologies to all my other great teachers), taught us logic and this one can’t compute. We can’t have more AND fewer guns; we can’t be safer with more and fewer guns. One is right. The other is wrong.
Now, right this second, as you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are preparing for what I’m about to say. “Does he agree with me? Is he on the right side? Is he friend or foe?”
So here is my position: Stop treating one another hatefully. Please. Stop brutalizing one another in your online arguments. Are you arguing that way face to face with people? Calling them idiots and morons and expletive-expletiving expletives? If so, stop that, too. I’m serious. Please, stop.
Because a)No one ever, in the history of history, won an argument that way–“best name-calling wins”–no one’s heart was ever converted through being called a (&@#%(&, b)We need a revolution of kindness and compassion and empathy and that could start with not demeaning strangers or Facebook “friends.”
Is the issue of how we handle gun issues in the U.S. important? Absolutely. It’s crucially important. Lives depend on it, innocent lives, students’ lives, preschoolers’ lives. It’s too important for us to keep behaving like this.
Recently, a few friends and I, who occupy different places on the political spectrum, started a Facebook group. It’s private. We are attempting to discuss the issue of guns in the U.S. with people with whom we disagree, in a respectful, intelligent, rational manner, including doing research, presenting our findings, and listening to one another. We just started, so I don’t have any great testimonies yet as to how much we’ve accomplished. And yet, I do: we have been respectful and we are listening to one another. “How big of a factor is mental illness in mass shootings?” One of our folks works with the mentally ill and has experience. We’re learning.
Here is the truth that most people don’t like, taught to me by one of my lifetime best friends, after he did…years of research: the statistics DON’T make a clear case for one conclusion or the other. There are too many factors, too many numbers, and while it is extremely easy (and tempting) to cherry pick to make one’s case, the overall picture is much more ambiguous and difficult to interpret. If that makes you angry, because you want your side of the argument to be right and obvious, I hear you. I felt the same when he sent me all his findings. But it isn’t. Have you noticed that there are “conclusive” arguments thrown around all the time, about which states have more restrictive laws, what the trends clearly demonstrate, how in other countries it is so OBVIOUS that [Insert desired conclusion here]. Australia had a mass shooting in 1996, made their gun control laws much stricter, and have not had a mass shooting since then; Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, and has very low rates of violent crime. But neither of those proves anything in regard to the gun debate in the U.S. They don’t, in and of themselves, even prove anything about Australia and Switzerland. They are correlations, but those simple facts do not prove causation. For countries with millions of people, crime rates involve a complexity of factors that interrelate. Australia has 24 million people, Switzerland has 8 million, and the United States has 319 million.
Yet we argue as if a)Switzerland has many guns, b)Switzerland has low violent crime rate, therefore c)many guns results in low violent crime rate. Or a)Australia had a mass shooting and adopted stricter gun control laws, b)Australia has had no subsequent mass shooting, c)stricter gun control laws prevent mass shootings. AND THEN we scream at each other when this “logic” fails to convert people to our truth. We spit our truisms and act shocked when the other side can’t grasp the obvious.
These are real people we are arguing with. These are people made in the image of God and adored by God. These people are us. I mean, we. We are these people. I, along with all of you, want never again to see that children have been shot in a school. I want us to find a solution. I want us to change this undercurrent in our culture from being so violent, so hateful, so destructive and self-destructive.
I am guessing you are not a mass murderer. You are not going to commit the next school shooting. So what can you do to stop the next one?
Refuse to contribute to or participate in the culture of mockery, hatred and illogic that has become the public debate over guns. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Listen. Read the arguments and evidence produced by both sides. Think beyond sound bites. There is no simple solution. But propagating a politics of hate, of making people who disagree with us the enemy, is a cause, not a solution.
Here is a crazy thought: how we treat one another may do more toward finding a solution than whichever political stance we hold. No, murderous, mentally ill people aren’t going to stop because we start speaking politely. But somebody knows the person who plans to commit the next atrocity. I don’t care if that sounds naive, it’s actually true. I believe that our acts of kindness can transform people and I’m willing to bet you have a story to back that up. We do have a large mentally ill population, which I fear is increasing. Thinking together and problem-solving toward solutions for their plight will do more than getting righteously angry that someone disagrees with our stance. It’s not as gratifying in the short-term. It takes a lot more effort and time and costs us a lot more than typing out a flaming comment that our sixty friends who agree with us will “like.”
Here is a crazier thought: it may be more important for us that we treat others with respect and kindness and civility than it is for the people whom we are addressing. We are formed by the words we use; we are formed by the way we disagree. We form our collective culture in large part through the sum of our interactions. In the same way that forgiveness can most benefit the forgiver, my decision of how I treat the
fool jackass fellow human being made in God’s image with whom I disagree could be the key to my transformation.
That’s what I think about guns and people: we need to love people, and I’m thinking about the guns. I promise. I hope you are, too.
For more insights into how we treat one another within social media, read this: http://jaysondbradley.com/2015/09/03/3-ways-social-medias-turning-us-into-monsters/#sthash.Sy5bgW0D.dpbs