No one asked for my opinion on the gun debate raging in America. No one has really asked for anyone’s else opinion if we stop and think about it – and yet opinions are everywhere these days. In your face on social media, at work, at the dinner table. I’m sure you’ve also seen the snarky memes that point out that no Tweeted or Instagram’d or Facebook’d opinion has ever changed anyone else’s mind. Most of the time that is true.
But I feel compelled to put something on paper nonetheless.
I have two young boys so I see this through a mother’s lens. I come from a military background and from a family of law enforcement personnel. I helped to train federal law enforcement officers–not on weapons but I know these men and women and who they truly are– so I can see this problem through a green and blue lens. My sister is an educator in a high school, in Florida no less. So I can see it through the lens of a teacher who would die to protect their students but doesn’t necessarily want to be armed in order to do so.
I sat in the media section of the Conservative Political Action Conference this week when Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and Dana Loesch of NRA TV gave their speeches. I sat there as a gun owner and a proponent of the Second Amendment and I tried very hard to truly listen to what they were saying and not just what I wanted to hear. As LaPierre spoke I could hear echoes of media clips in my head–the voices of people saying these tragedies are all the NRA’s fault. I can see how they have been led to believe that.
I often find it interesting how many will damn the NRA but then give their friend or family member who is an NRA member a pass because “well i know you and I know YOU aren’t evil.” I really did feel the passion in Dana Loesch’s speech. A speech I might add, given less than 24 hours after she had been shouted down as a murderer during a CNN Townhall. I think we throw pejoratives around like that too easily these days.
There may well be fault to be found in the gun lobby itself, but calling her a murderer? I believe that was a bridge too far. God knows we have seen there is plenty of blame to go around in the Parkland case – all eventually settling in the hands of a 19 year old bent on evil.
Full disclosure, I do not know Loesch at all personally but I try not to automatically condemn someone I don’t know anymore than I try to automatically give a pass to someone I do.
What I found most interesting in her speech, the part the made me sit a little straighter in my seat was this passage that you have probably seen multiple clips of on TV by now:
“Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media in the back (of the room).”“And notice I said ‘crying white mothers’ because there are thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend, and you don’t see town halls for them, do you? Where’s the CNN town hall for Chicago? Where’s the CNN town hall for sanctuary cities?”
Before I tell you what I think, let me tell you what I saw and heard in that room. The mostly left leaning outlets I was sitting next to in the media section visibly bristled immediately–really, they bristled when she was first announced and throughout the entire speech. I get that she was lobbing some arrows directly at the media, but I honestly believe that if she had stood on that stage and apologized to CNN and offered to sacrifice her children to the progressive movement, it still would not have made a difference. They would have hated her all the same. The coverage of her words above in the days since, from most left leaning media outlets, confirms that to me.
That said, the crowd in the room got on their feet and cheered every single word that came out of her mouth. There was a lot of conservative red meat in her speech and so their standing ovations were not surprising. But I cannot help but feel that unless she had apologized to CNN and pledged her children to the progressive movement — nothing she could have said would have been wrong to the right. They would have loved her all the same.
So now to what I thought about her speech and especially the passage above. I thought she sounded passionate and frankly, still hurting from her treatment the night before. I don’t mean to say that she is weak or that they even hurt her feelings specifically, but I do believe that she is human. And I think that even tough people who have really strong opinions can be subject to the emotional effects of being blamed personally for a tragedy like Parkland.
I didn’t agree 100% with everything she said– because these days if I am really being honest and listening to all arguments — I find I never agree with ANYONE 100% of the time. I do think what she said about no town halls for Chicago needed to be said. I do wonder why the massive loss of lives in places like Chicago and Baltimore aren’t the cause for a national town hall every single week?! If you aren’t wondering the same, you probably should be.
We could spend an entire day debating that one so I will move on for now.
My real fear is that the core of what needs to happen next is going to be lost in the noise of confirmation bias and echo chambers and hurt feelings and nefarious agendas. My fear is that the rush to DO something will be more about saying something was done than doing what will make a actual difference.
I know that gun control measures or new gun laws alone, no matter how well intentioned they are will not solve this problem. I believe there are loopholes we can close and age limits we can revisit and background checks that need to be tightened and exiting laws that need to be followed. I believe we need to correct the systemic issues that allowed such an abysmal failure by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI. I believe that there aren’t enough mental health resources in this country and that we need to have an honest conversation about the effect the degradation of values and family structures has had on our society. I believe that we can consider putting concealed carry holders in the classrooms but I have a friend who is a high school educator in Orange Park, Florida, and she gave me these points to consider when I brought up arming teachers:
“I agree with everything you said except the teachers carrying at school, for so many reasons. Resource officers (good ones who don’t hide), yes. But teachers with guns just open too many problematic doors for me, being in a high school. The kids getting the gun away from the teacher, the teacher using bad judgement or making a bad decision or acting out of fear rather than logic, the teacher being racist or sexist or a narcissist, the teacher getting shot by officers because they were mistaken for the gunman. I would not feel safe in an environment like that.”
To me those are valid concerns worth listening to from someone who would have to live with the consequences of these policies every single day. OK, so we harden our schools but maybe not with armed teachers? And just like that, we are having a discussion. We are listening to each other.
I don’t know what more to tell you about AR-15’s. That requires hundreds of articles or videos or… wait those have already been done. The pro-gun side of the fence has tried to inform people what an AR-15 really stands for. We have explained the differences between and the fallacies about semi-automatic, automatic, “assault weapons” and “military grade weapons” until we are blue in the face. Most people haven’t heard anything we have said.
My question to a friend, who considers banning AR-15’s a good idea, was simply this: “What comes next? What is the replacement going to be? Because someone intent on doing harm with a weapon is going to choose something else or they will just get it illegally.” And thus begins the slippery slope argument about going beyond the existing weapons laws to banning specific platforms. Where does it end and who decides?
So there it is. The beginnings of my opinions on a topic that is so hard to get our arms around. I wrote a small novel here but it is still just the beginning because this issue is such an emotionally charged one. I am but one person and I admit I do not know how to solve this in my own little bubble.
I know I am not willing to give up my second amendment rights but I also know I am willing to have a conversation that will lead to action to protect the innocent. So let’s talk America. Let’s really listen. And then please, let’s get something done.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr