The Take: Know the Issue

Don’t say anything. Say the right thing. 

There have been 74 school shootings since Adam Lanza killed 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012, according to The Washington Post.

The Post published a map Tuesday of every single one of them, the same day a teenager in Oregon shot and killed a classmate and teacher and injured another. There has been one shooting in Maryland (McDaniel College in Westminster), but there was another months before Newtown in Perry Hall.

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There were two in Missouri: one in 2013 in St. Louis, the other in 2014 in Raytown, just east of Kansas City. I have friends in both places. Columbia, where I go to school, is smack dab in the middle of both.

Mind you, these are just school shootings. The map neglects any homicides or murder-suicides or public shootings. I’ll never forget the shooting at the Columbia, Md., mall. My dad lives a block away. I went to high school with friends of the shooter.

Two months after Newtown, there was a shooting just off campus at the University of Maryland, where my twin brother, cousin and hundreds of friends go to school.

This spring, a Missouri klansman shot up a Jewish Community Center just west of Kansas City. A former business associate of my dad works in the building.

I have written extensively about gun violence. My views are no secret. I struggle to understand the conventional wisdom behind the Second Amendment. I struggle to understand why someone like me needs a gun.

I know I’m not alone when I say I have personal connections with these half dozen or so shootings. I know others have similar stories of time spent holding their breath and calling loved ones.

Why then, for such a personal issue, a dangerous issue, are we afraid to talk about it?

Why, when I write about seeing my dad in danger, do I get negative feedback?

It would be easy to attack Second Amendment proponents, the NRA, FOX News, the whole lot of them. It would be easy to reason out why guns are important and why “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” was included in the Bill of Rights.

But I’m not here to do the easy thing. If this issue was so easy, a reasonable nation would have solved this already. We wouldn’t have trouble keeping track of school shootings.

But no, this issue must be unusually challenging. I wish I knew the reason why. Why my best friend from college can’t stay in the same room while I express distaste for guns; why my friends call me “pussy” when I don’t want to hunt or go paintballing; why staffers from my old school paper say I don’t have the credo to write about guns because “you’re from back East.”

This is what I’ve come up with: the issue isn’t guns, it’s the idea of control and limitation. It’s for that same reason that conservatives who so narrowly read the Enumerated Powers Clause so broadly read the Second Amendment, “well-regulated militia” be damned.

If the government can limit guns — which, in some parts of the American psyche, are seen as tools, not weapons — what else can it limit? What else can it dictate?

Why should Washington politicos, who may not share the same psyche or similar definition of the American identity, make these decisions on regulation and limitation?

We’ve been having the wrong conversation about gun control. If the discussion was solely about killing machines, we’d have solved this issue already. We wouldn’t be pushing the debate into the realm of mental health and using the weak in our society as scapegoats.

If the issue was about guns and the danger they pose to society, we’d live in a safer world.

But that’s not the issue. Instead, gun control has warped into a proxy battle between a progressive and conservative way of life.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of liberalism and progressivism, schools of thought to which I typically subscribe. I’m not going to rationalize conservatism and individualism, valid ideologies that belong in our discourse.

We’re blessed (and cursed) with a representative democracy, which means we all play a role in the politics of our communities. The issues in Montgomery County, Md., and Montgomery County, Mo., may well often be at odds with one another.

How many issues that this nation debates are truly proxies between conservatism and liberalism? Surely, all of them: from tax cuts to healthcare, from foreign policy to social security. Therefore, we can’t expect to solve each by debating the merits of every political ideology over again.

Sometimes the issues are just the issues, not a wide philosophical discussion about the direction of our republic.

In the case of gun control, perhaps the issue truly is the amount of violence that emanates from firearms. Suppose those on the right had absolute guarantees about their continued freedoms to have certain weapons. Would they continue to oppose taking AR 15s off the streets? Desert Eagles? Uzis?

By asking for gun control, or supporting any other issue for that matter (on either side of the aisle), no one person or group of people is declaring war on another’s way of life.

Policy is policy is policy. As citizens of the republic we’ve forsaken our rights to be insulted by another’s view or ideology. We’ve accepted the responsibility to make our society a better place. It’s time we all start acting like it. Me too.


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