22 Aug 2014
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Some Ground Rules for the Debate on Gun Regulation

I am only interested in one thing, and that is in finding the best solution to the problem. The problem with extremists and fanatics is that they only care about pushing their cause, not about solving the larger issue at hand.

Some Ground Rules for the Debate on Gun Regulation

 

I don't own guns and I don't mind if people do, within reason of course. And that’s the problem our society is struggling with right now — what is reasonable around gun regulation.

Step 1 is easy. Define the problem. I offer this up for starters: “What do we do as a society to reduce the likelihood of another tragedy like Sandy Hook, without excessively infringing on the individual?” It really does come down to how to balance the good of the many vs. the good of the individual.

Step 2 is research and that’s a problem. Research takes time, effort and resources. Few are willing to take these steps, but they will still seek to offer up their uninformed opinions anyways. I have said before that I don’t believe in the adage “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.” I take a different view: “Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion.” Sure, everyone can give an opinion, but it’s obvious that an uninformed opinion does not carry the same weight as an informed one.

I, for one, am going to leave the question of whether or not we, as a society, should regulate gun availability and ownership to those who have actually done the research necessary to make informed decisions around the issue. But I would like to offer up some suggestions for the rest of us while we are seeking to rationally discuss this complex issue.

What I won’t do is allow myself to be derailed from intelligent debate and discussion by extremists, fanatics and the uninformed. There are those few, a tiny few, who will always live on the extremes, ie. “No one should have guns” and “Everyone should have whatever guns they want”. The vast majority of rational people will see these two positions as extremes and not waste time discussing them. So let’s agree to start the national debate by taking those two extreme positions right off the table. Let’s not waste another moment on them.

I am only interested in one thing and that is in finding the best solution to the problem. The problem with extremists and fanatics is that they only care about pushing their cause, not about solving the larger issue at hand. They come into the discussion from the point of view of protecting their position, not in coming to a greater understanding of the issue. In my book, that makes their input null and void.

As I look over articles in Patch about guns, I very quickly get overwhelmed by the sheer number of comments on these articles. Unlike the typical half dozen to a dozen comments most articles seem to receive, the comments on articles about guns are numbered in the multiple hundreds. And as I read through them, I find a great deal of these comments offer nothing valuable to the discussion. They are obviously extreme viewpoints that just waste a reasonable person’s time sorting through them to get to the reasonable comments.

Of course, that is often the goal — to derail reasonable discussion by falling into the trap of trying to speak reason to unreasonable viewpoints. So in an effort to avoid giving these few individuals more time and energy than they are worth, I offer up these suggestions to keep in mind while discussing any controversial topic and certainly that of gun regulation.

Don’t respond to extremist’s posts or comments. Ignore them completely.
Why give credence to these posts by replying to them? Why treat them as rational by trying to explain why they don’t make sense in the real world? These people take something that is merely “possible” and turn it into the “probable.” These are the conspiracy theorists. These are the people who make the mistake of “because it is possible for something to happen, it will happen.” This was one of my favorite Patch posts around this concept: “Let’s take gun control to it’s logical conclusion which is the complete disarmament of the citizenry. When this happens, what do we have? We have totalitarianism because when only the government has weapons, then the government has all the power." That is not the logical conclusion, it’s only one conclusion. And it’s probably the most unlikely conclusion too. It is simply paranoid and unbalanced to be focused on ending up in a place where the "the government has all the power."

Discuss the issue in terms of gun regulation, not gun control.
Lose the term “gun control” and use the less inflammatory phrase “gun regulation.” Any reasonable, rational person I’ve ever heard discuss this issue has never advocated abolishing a citizen’s ability to own a gun. I’m willing to bet that the term “gun control” was tossed out there as a means to rile up the less informed members of our society and start this whole “they’re trying to take away our right to bear arms” nonsense.

Don’t respond to “They want to take away ALL our guns.”
As soon as someone tosses this one out there, just walk away.

Don’t respond to arguments about the 2nd Amendment.
Let’s stop letting this one derail real discussion on controlling violence in our society. The answer is not going to be found in a discussion about what the 2nd Amendment really means to say. It will be found in looking at what is real in our society today, and then figuring out what makes the most sense from there.

Don’t get lost in definitions that are obvious to the majority.
This is just another tactic to derail an otherwise rational discussion. I found this absurdity in one series of comments on Patch: “You say that these were 'military weapons.' What does this mean? What is the difference between your 'military weapons' and your non military weapons?" Whoever this was, please stop wasting our time. Obviously, the writer meant guns that "spray" a slew of bullets in a moment, it means guns that are designed to be VERY efficient in killing masses of people — as in those used in the military.  This person’s statement shows no interest in solving the problem, merely in muddying the waters.

Ignore what comes out of organizations that have a vested interest in the status quo.
Gun manufacturers, gun vendors and the NRA have a lot of money to lose if tighter gun regulations become a fact. Organizations like these are not interested in the public good, they are interested in their pocketbooks. They are obviously biased and have no place in an open, reasonable and impartial discussion on what is best for our society. These organizations are going say whatever they need to say to stay alive.
We just had the experience of our political parties out-and-out lying — altering reality and history in order to push their agendas. We should certainly learn from that and know that these organizations are going to do the exact same thing to survive.

Don’t let the discussion be only about guns.
It’s a certainty that the issue of the growing violence of the Newtown/Columbine type has more that just one dimension to its cause. To get stuck in an argument over whether or not gun regulation is part of the solution to mass killings in our society shows a complete lack of understanding of the complexity of the issue. To solve this problem, we've got to look at ALL the aspects — gun regulation, mental health policies, parenting, and the glorification of guns and killing in the media and the gaming industry.

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