RULE: I will not post to Facebook anything of a divisive, political nature--nothing about abortion, civil and gender and sexual rights, Obamacare, Obama, "the war on Christmas," firearms, etc..
(I do write about those things here on my blog now and then, but those are not direct FB posts--a subtle difference between smoking but not inhaling? About what the meaning of is is?)
The other day, though, an old friend posted on FB a question about guns ... and I (not thinking! typing and clicking too fast for my own good!) weighed in with a response that I thought was fairly innocuous. Apparently not.
The next thing I knew, the back-and-forth had morphed into some ad hominem comments about me. So there I stopped--not because I was cowed or defeated or humiliated or had a road-to-Damascus epiphany ( I am wrong!)--but because such exchanges are pointless. And they escalate quickly. On many hot-button issues, we--on both sides of the chasm that divides us--know what we think; we're not about to change our minds. (By the way, the spell-checker on this blog site suggested I replace hominem with Eminem!)
What I'm going to write here is not going to change anyone's mind--it's not really my intent to do so. I think I just want to clarify what I think. I remember that novelist and philosopher William Godwin (Mary Shelley's father) said somewhere (I'm too lazy to go look it up) that he didn't write to declare what he thought; he wrote to figure out what he thought. (This, by the way, is my principal objection to those rigid essay formats we teach kids in school--forcing them to have a thesis and/or an outline even before they begin writing! But that's another divisive issue I'd better not get into--even though I just did.)
I've followed the gun debate a long time. And I really do understand various points of view. My father was a hunter--had a shotgun, two rifles, and a handgun in the house. He'd grown up on a farm in Oregon with multiple siblings, all of whom (well, the men) grew up to be hunters and fishermen. I loved my father; I loved his brothers. They were all responsible gun-owners and did not hold up 7-11s or shoot up shopping malls or movie theaters or schools. In a word: Gun ownership was "normal" in the world I grew up in. And although I'm not a hunter myself, I eat animal flesh and am not about to embrace hypocrisy by saying, with my mouth full of turkey, that I oppose hunting.
Gun proponents like to point out that cars kill more people than guns. True right now--but I just saw a projection that shows the two statistics edging ever closer--and a prediction that gun deaths will surpass automobile deaths by 2015. (Link) But--again--I know all about statistics and damn lies and everyone-has-his/her-own-database thinking. (And I should note here that I'm not all that impressed with arguments that say this is more deadly that that. If anything's deadly, we need to take a long hard look at it and figure out what we can do to make it less deadly. We do so routinely in other arenas: medications, pollution, food quality, etc. It's just plain silly, isn't it, to argue that you have a right to have a poisonous snake in your house because there are more poisonous ones in Arizona?!)
So let's forget the stats a minute--and consider this:
I would be perfectly happy if we regulated firearms as assiduously and responsibly as we do cars. For example--to drive a car ...
- You need to be of legal age.
- You need a renewable operator's license (which you can obtain only by passing both a written and a practical test).
- You need liability insurance in the event you injure or kill someone while you're driving.
- You must register your car--and renew your license annually. You must display (in Ohio anyway) that license number prominently above the front and back bumper.
- Your car must have safety and environmental-friendly features.
- If you violate traffic laws, you can lose your license--permanently. And, of course, go to jail.
I guess what I'm saying is that it shouldn't be easy to get and keep a firearm. Yes, you have a right to have it--but that right is not absolute (just as all our other rights have limitations on them). And firearm ownership is a right that--like driving a car--comes with enormous responsibilities. Your car can kill if you're careless--or homicidal. So can your gun. So why do we treat the one with great rigor and care? And fight like mad not to regulate the other at all?
I am probably not going to live to see any of this come to pass--definitely is a more accurate word. I'm sixty-nine years old and fighting cancer, a most determined foe. But I would like to think that my grandsons, 4 and 8, could live in a country with leaders who recognize the carnage--and would do something about it other than wax lyrical and weep at schoolchildren's funerals.