By Amber Lee
So far I’ve written opinion pieces about some fairly non-controversial things, but this one will be different. Some of you will read this column and agree with it 100 percent, and some of you will read it and think I’m a moron. The funny thing is, those are pretty much the only two reactions people have to anything that mentions the word–are you ready for it?
I’m just going to say right out of the gate I don’t like guns. In fact, when I see them, I feel a little sick to my stomach. The other day I read an opinion piece one of my friend’s shared on why gun legislation isn’t effective and the author stated that liberals (actually the writer called them libtards) based their opinions on guns completely on emotion. I thought about that for a little bit and, yes, I have an emotional reaction to gun violence.
I’ll give you my context because I think that always helps when you’re listening to someone’s opinion, and most of you don’t know me. There are a couple of gun-related things I’ve lived through that make me uncomfortable around them. Here they are:
One. I grew up in rural Ohio surrounded by people who loved guns and had lots of guns. My stepfather really loved guns and he loved drinking and he had a bad temper. In my memory, there were guns everywhere in the house—hand guns and rifles. Some of them were locked up and some of them were not. When he was angry at us he would shoot things–walls, our stuff, our pets. I have a feeling I’m not the only person who grew up like this. These are the kind of stories that don’t typically leave a house.
Two. I was pulled off a bus in Ecuador when I was sixteen and dragged into an office with a military gun poking into the middle of my back. I had forgotten to bring my passport with me. I was in the office with the men and their guns, and for whatever reason, they decided to let me go and get back on the bus.
Three. When my oldest son was three, I went to pick him up from day care and found out that a boy my son started day care with had gotten ahold of his dad’s handgun and shot himself. Before that day I thought that “knees buckling” was a dramatic metaphor, but it’s a real thing.
Four. Too many people I know personally have held guns to their heads. Some of them have pulled the trigger and some have not. It just feels too easy to me. It’s like when you hit send on an email, and then you think, “crap, I shouldn’t have sent that.”
So, yes, I have a visceral negative emotional reaction to guns. But then I take that reaction and I try to surround it with logic. I see people who enjoy hunting and this feels like a good thing to me. I also talk to a lot of people who enjoy marksmanship activities and that also seems good. I personally don’t want to participate in those activities, but I also personally don’t want to own a pet tarantula because they creep me out. I don’t, however, want to make owning tarantulas illegal.
On the other side, I hear people talking about how they need guns in case the government wants to take over at some point, and I just can’t roll my eyes back into my head far enough. Do they not understand what a complicated, globally-intertwined, slow-moving vehicle our government was deliberately created to be? And that the only thing that could get it moving fast and in the direction of some post-apocalyptic dictatorship would be a well-armed militia? And we’ve all seen how that turns out (see: “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Star Wars,” Cuba).
Or I hear the argument that people want guns in case of some foreign invasion. My brother literally said to me, “What if the Chinese invade?” And in my mind I saw the Chinese invading small town Ohio like a hoard of zombies that would just keep coming and coming long after my brother ran out of bullets. Even if the Chinese were completely unarmed, they could just pile up on top of him in a big heap and suffocate him. Anyway, that’s not the way wars are fought anymore. They would just stop sending over electronics and every generation after X would be completely crippled.
Then finally there’s the argument that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And that, I assume is why semi-dangerous things like driving cars, flying planes, operating on brains and even interpreting Google Analytics requires a person to prove they are competent and not crazy. We also don’t give civilians things like Black Hawk helicopters or tanks because why in the hell would they need them? Planes don’t kill people, cars don’t kill people, scalpels don’t kill people—but the people operating those things have to prove they should be doing it. I think that’s pretty fair.
So, what do I recommend we do about guns? I recommend we stop rolling up like armadillos and charging at each other every time the conversation comes up. I recommend we set aside the silliness of the typical arguments and try to really understand what a rational approach to gun ownership may be. Right now, it’s the fringe on both sides driving the conversation and the conversation pretty much goes: “You are ignorant and stupid for believing (fill in the blank).” Let’s have a real conversation that’s not about misinterpreted statistics and bumper stickers.
Amber Lee is a writer, mother, marketing consultant, blogger and pet-wrangler, among her other duties. She was a journalist, then legislative aide, early in her career. Currently she consultants on marketing and public relations projects for a variety of Alaska businesses and organizations. She resides in Anchorage.