Dear NRA: What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Teri McGrath

224867_616517682864_449966030_nI’ll tell you one thing that makes conversation and cooperation pretty difficult is a gun. Nothing shifts dialogue into monologue faster than the promise of violence. A gun is the promise of violence, no matter whose hand it is in. Jesus Christ said if we live by the sword, we will die by the sword. Right now, we are living by the gun, and we are dying by the gun. And there is no way to opt out. I don’t know how to solve the problem, but it is a problem. I want us all to agree that it is a problem. I do not want to live by the gun. I do not want to live in conflict, in competition and fear. I don’t want war. War on drugs, war on women, war on terror. I don’t want it.

The argument seems to go that I will have to wrap my froufrou hippy mind around the fact that there are “bad” people out there. And we need to protect ourselves from them. But I have a hard time thinking that way about people. When I think of people, I don’t think they’re bad. I think people do bad things, but I do not think there is “evil” and I don’t think there’s a group of people we can define as evil. I think that’s why we now go to war with abstract concepts, like terror, instead of people. I don’t think there is a person in the world who deserves to die by my hand.

Some people I have been arguing with lately seem to have a pretty clear picture of the person they will kill. Anyone who threatens them or their family, they will say. “You’re goddamn right!” they’ll say. It’s a sort of boast. Sometimes people want to feel superior to other people–they like to be judgmental. They have some weird notion of strength, and it perversely involves holding killing machines in their hands. That makes them strong and brave and safe. Whereas those of us who want nothing to do with any of that shit are weak and probably deserve whatever horrible thing happens to us when the bad guys come through our door. But if we live in that rhetorical world, we have to accept that the only way to be safe is to carry a gun and be willing to kill. I don’t accept that. I am not willing to kill. Also, I don’t think it’s brave to carry a gun. I don’t think it makes you a hero. If you carry a gun for protection, you are afraid. And because you are afraid, people around you are in danger.

I can only control my own actions, and I’m glad that’s the only responsibility I have because that can be hard enough. I don’t feel the need to control other people.

If we follow the logic of “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” in the context of a debate about regulation, training and all of the other legitimate and necessary proposals for protecting innocent children, we are saying two things: First of all, like fools, we are unnecessarily clarifying that guns do not act on their own. For example, Nancy Lanza’s legally purchased guns did not walk into a school and kill 27 people including 20 children. More importantly and more relevant to this discussion, what we seem to be saying when we use that stupid slogan is that guns cannot or should not be controlled. People should.

A lot of the tactics of advocates for “gun rights” are designed to shut dialogue down. They start with the “guns don’t kill people” silliness, which creates an impossible frame for intelligent discourse. Then they describe all kinds of Ramboesque behaviors they will engage in if anyone tries to take their guns away from them. Thus, they create their favorite strawman–the big government man who wants to take away all of the peoples’ guns. I think gun enthusiasts like strawmen. They are like those black silhouettes they practice with on the shooting range.

The reason defending the second amendment is so important to some gun rights advocates is because one day, in the weird, violent, crazy world they live in, they may have to use those guns against their own “government.” I’m not exactly sure what they are imagining here. What is the logical end to that line of thinking–that we will be at war with our government? Who are we talking about here? Are we going to be fighting our military? Who will do the fighting? The military is made up of us. If we’re shooting at our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and cousins etc. we’ve already lost. What is there to fight for? Are we talking about dismantling congress? Guns are not necessary to do that.

People who are privileged do not often get to behave as if they are being oppressed–because they are not. But a perceived threat to their 2nd amendment rights gives them something they can be passionate, sincere and weepy about. Even though it is a clear, obvious and childish lie, and their second amendment rights have never been and never will be threatened, and they either know that or are dumb.

Our nation has a problem with gun violence. We can not ignore it. This isn’t a controversy. It is not a “hot button” issue. This isn’t a competition. We have a problem, and we need to find solutions. And we cannot have a conversation about solving the problem of children getting gunned down in the classroom if we can’t even be heard over the cacophony of ridiculous slogans and fallacies.


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