In the Crossfire III


This is the third in the series of In the Crossfire posts.  I chose the title because those of us taking a moderate position seem to be exactly that, caught between the rhetoric of the gun rights and gun control extremes.

Over dinner with a friend to celebrate my 20th 12-Step birthday on Thursday night, I mentioned that I was writing a series of posts on gun control.   I perhaps could have phrased that differently because, before I could explain that I was exploring the subject, not lobbying either side, he said, Don’t give up a thing because once the government gets a little, they’ll come for everything.  And there it was … the theme for this post.   Because if you can get past the patriotic BS and the endless statistics and the discussions of just what this weapon can be used for, you find an underlying theme on gun rights sites … THEY want to outlaw all guns and if we give an inch, THEY will take a mile.  Is that just paranoia or is extreme gun control a possibility in this country?  Partly, that depends upon what you mean by extreme.  Let’s pick a two possibilities that  gun owners would certainly see as extreme for talking purposes: the banning of all handguns; and the banning of all private firearms.

According to the pro-gun ownership website, GunCite, Gun owners do have legitimate cause for concern. Although a majority of Americans do not want handguns outlawed, a significant minority does. In nation-wide polls taken over the last twenty-five years around 40% are in favor of banning the civilian possession of handguns. Almost 20% are in favor of banning the civilian possession of any kind of firearm.  Yet, according to a Gallup poll taken after the Newtown tragedy, a record percentage of Americans, 74% oppose a ban on hand guns.  Are 20% and 26% really significant minorities in a country where opinion is divided in the forty and fifty percent range on most issues?  Or where 30% believe in zombies?  I’m not naive enough to think that all of our politicians are responsive to the opinions of the people but I believe their desire to maintain their own … and their party’s … power base keeps them from enacting legislation opposed by 70-80% of the people.  And the movement of public opinion after Sandy Hook against a handgun ban makes me think the right of gun ownership is deeply rooted in American culture.

That doesn’t mean I’m totally unsympathetic to gun owner’s concerns about extreme measures.  I may not always agree with the gun rights folk but at least they state their position unambiguously.  Gun control advocates are inclined to be two-faced, speaking as if only modest measures are their intent, then revealing their true colors in front of sympathetic audiences.  The majority of the media seems to be pro gun control, often reporting that the nation is evenly divided on stricter gun control, without noting that opinion is heavily against extreme gun control.  Google gun control polls if you don’t believe me.  And GunCite offers the valid complaint that while gun control advocates badger gun owners for compromise, anti-control groups never receive concessions in return for any new gun control laws (such as guarantees against greater control later).

So, while I’m inclined to think that extreme gun legislation is unlikely, I find myself in the peculiar position of favoring modest controls while trusting the gun rights people more than I trust gun control advocates.  Will certain politicians and certain local jurisdictions enact more controls opposed by gun rights advocates if public opposition is in the 50-60% range?  Probably.  But as I’ve said before on Bud’s Blog, I believe that this country more often finds its middle like a pendulum rather than through compromise.  There’s a degree of trial and error in that but short term swings right or left are usually erased in the next cycle of the pendulum.  Even prohibition was eventually revoked … and fear of our government going too far should not be an excuse for inaction on social issues.  So, my opinion** remains the same, tempered by a commitment to speak loudly when gun control advocates go beyond what I see as prudent.

I will approve all comments offered respectfully and intelligently.  Others will be dumped as spam.

** It’s time to outlaw possession of assault or military-style weapons meant for warfare and for high-capacity clips that make no sense as self-protection. It’s time to tighten standards for gun possession. Gun rights folk talk about only criminals having guns but crimes like Sandy Hook are more often committed by the mentally or emotionally debilitated and there certainly can be more control of access for the potentially unstable.  Sadly, I think only more extreme security measures at the schools can keep them from being a target of choice.

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6 Comments on “In the Crossfire III”

  1. Glenn Reed Says:

    I think you know by now that I am to the right of Attila the Hun. But I recently shared a post of one of the more liberal friends that I have that was pro gun owners. I shared it with enthusiasm.
    The first response was from Jason’s mom saying had he not had access, he might not have shot himself and one day after he did there might have been a change in his life.
    I stopped talking and don’t know the answers.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I started this series because I didn’t know where I stood. It’s actually an exploration rather than a exhortation. Every time I looked at the pictures of those kids from Sandy Hook, I felt like something needed to be done. I think I’m starting to understand the issues better but the only answers I’m getting are for me.

  2. I find that the disambiguation of the gun rights people is disconcerting. I’m intrigued that you like that about them; I would think it goes against your “let’s talk this through” tendency. Perhaps that’s because what you see as being unambiguous I see as being intractable.

    And you’ve reminded me of the thought I had in MY last gun post that I wanted to write about but didn’t because I couldn’t gel it. Hmm, might have to get back on that.

    One other point, as we revisit the issue of polls and statistics (polls are, after all, stats): I find that people don’t really know what’s being asked when they respond to polls. Poll questions can be worded in very tricky ways; poll responders may have thought they were expressing a distaste for guns that was interpreted to be a disinheritance of the right. The question they got was “Do you support the banning of all firearms?” but the question they actually wanted to answer was “Would you prefer it if people didn’t own firearms?” In personal philosophy, they’re very similar. Politically, they’re very different. I don’t think all poll responders recognize that.

    • I lied. I have another point. It’s subtle, but I think it colors the discussion. The term “gun control” immediately favors the gun rights lobby. No one likes to be controlled. I think the discussion could be changed if we didn’t use the word “control” and instead used “policy.”

    • oldereyes Says:

      I just like people to put their cards on the table as the discussion begins. When a politician says in public that he favors only modest controls, then addresses a group that favors total bans and says he’s with them, he’s lying to someone. I agree regarding polls and how people answer them. In researching the polls, I tried to use those that were very specific in their questions and even asked about different degrees of gun limits. The polls showing a high percentage against banning handguns surprised me and I don’t see how that could result from misinterpretation of the questions.

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