There are plenty of reasons of why we need to rethink, retool, and reform our gun laws. There are far too many examples to be cited underscoring how broken our relationship with firearms is. I have gone on record discussing this relationship and how we need to change our laws to reflect the urgent need for greater safety in the face of the increasing ease with which we can kill one another. We need more, and better discussion, which is not achieved through the manufacturing of another outrage.
The internet has been abuzz with the shooting of a 17-year-old boy by an angry father. Much of the coverage of the is event has painted the father as a psychopath gunning down a kid making time with his girl. The title of the above linked article even uses the loaded (pardon the unintentional pun) term “guns down.” We are led to believe that this was an unhinged man asserting his fatherly rights like some caveman. Meanwhile evidence to the contrary is ignored, even in an article mentioning that evidence.
There are plenty of times when there is absolutely no excuse for having a gun in a situation that escalates to its use. This is not one of them. Would he have been better off without it? Certainly, but it is not like he merely decided to go shoot someone. He was led to believe there was a stranger in his house, with his children potentially in harm’s way. When the situation could have been clarified and resolved without violence it was instead made even more confused. It would have been better without the gun, but he could not know that.
There are plenty of elements of our society to blame here. There is our continued habit of treating our children not as distinct beings but as extensions of ourselves, as I mentioned yesterday. This, along with our patriarchy, both of which either led to a pattern of behavior by the father or examples in the media that made this girl believe she had to lie to him. The patriarchy again leads to unhealthy attitudes regarding our sexuality that led to these teens behaving in a way that was risky in ways beyond the penultimate example played out in that bedroom. Yes, there is even some blame to be had in our unhealthy relationship with guns.
That said, the way this is being discussed is also unhealthy. We are oversimplifying, turning this man into a monster. We so want him to be a monster, because we want to keep guns out of monsters’ hands which is what gun regulation is all about. The thing is, in ignoring the complexity of this horrible tale we are laying down a poor foundation for honest debate about guns, their regulation, and the place of both of those ideas in our society. Just as it is wrong for gun control advocates to claim the Newton shooter could have killed all those children and their teachers with a knife (as some have done) it is wrong to say every tragic use of a gun is because gun owners are inherently irresponsible.
I would hope both sides of this debate would want to sit down together and discuss rational, compassionate solutions to gun violence. I would hope gun rights advocates could see that we need to make sure that guns do not get into the hands of those who would abuse them, and that one of the best ways to do so is make sure the people buying guns are properly vetted (ie, they undergo a background check.) Likewise I would hope that gun control advocates could see not everyone who owns a gun will abuse it. So long as we keep dealing in half-truths and knee jerk reactions, though, neither of those things will happen. I believe in the Second Amendment, but I also believe in proper regulation of gun ownership. The ideas are not mutually exclusive and I hope before things get out of hand both sides see that.