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Gun Control and Lost Boys

Gun Control and Lost Boys

I read the most interesting article about guns today by Isabel Fattal in the Atlantic Daily. The anniversary of the mass shooting at Uvalde is coming up, and what do we have to show for it? In contrast to the desires of most Americans, who want to see gun control expanded, we have a Supreme Court ruling which expands the rights to carry guns under the 2nd amendment to the point where open carry could be the new normal.

I have very mixed feelings about guns. I was in ROTC in my teens, and we were supposed to learn to fire rifles. All of the rifles were old and frequently misfired. This made me extremely uncomfortable, to the point where I wanted to quit, but the sergeant wouldn’t let me. I told him that I wanted to shoot him. And he dismissed me from the class for the rest of the semester

Realizing how easy it was to fire a gun if you had one, I became very anti-gun. I did not like the idea of people like me having guns, people who might fire a gun because they were angry. However, my views were challenged by a girlfriend who had been raped. She began to carry a gun in her purse. Everywhere. I did not want the gun in my house. She told me she wouldn’t visit without it. My compromise was to ask her not to tell me it was there.

My views on guns changed again when I learned more about the Black Panthers, their decision to test open carry laws, the resulting development of SWAT teams specifically to eradicate them, and the advent of gun control to address black men with guns. Why shouldn’t black people be allowed to carry guns? Why does this make white people uncomfortable. (The answer is rather obvious – can you say “retaliation” – so I won’t go into it.)

My guns changed yet again when a friend who I respect deeply said that guns were important for self-defense in Baltimore, where there are about 300 gun violence deaths every year. You can’t know who has a gun. But the need to protect yourself is high. The presence of a police officer, or of cameras, may seem like a possible deterrent, but police are rarely around to prevent someone from killing another human being if that is their intent. It is more likely that the police will act after the fact, after someone is dead, to bring the killer to justice. And in Baltimore, a “no snitches” sentiment in our communities, Baltimore has a horrible record for catching killers.

My views changed one more time when a co-worker, whom I liked, began to talk about hunting. She enjoyed it, she liked developing her skills as a marksman, and she was proud of her kills. I didn’t like this one bit. But I was determined to respect her right to enjoy hunting. I began to learn about hunting, about deer herds and deer populations, about hunting for food. I decided to accept it as a legitimate sport, and this has actually helped me on my trips to the Midwest where hunting is common.

So, I have evolved to the point where I respect people who have guns because they like hunting, I respect people who have guns for self-defense, and I respect people who enjoy target shooting. Don’t like it, but I respect it. It is with this framework that I try to approach the issues with gun control.

People with mental illness should not have guns. People who have restraining orders filed against them should not have guns. Children under 18 should not have guns unsupervised. If we could pass some basic gun control laws, I think most Americans would be happy. Even most members of the NRA would be happy. (Their leadership is another subject, but I think the NRA is led by gun manufacturers who have their own agenda.) But this does not do anything about the young men who are acting out their anger at the world by shooting people. What are we going to do about them?

We have a generation of young men, who have no wars to fight, who are having difficulty finding meaningful employment, who think the world is against them, who are acting out. Maybe they are not pulling the trigger, but they are on-line cheering for the one who prepares to commit violence. What can we do about these young men? Can we find them? Probably. Can we change them? Possibly. What would change them? Jobs. Maybe the military. I think it’s time we brainstormed this. Because gun control does not address the problem.

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