My Thoughts, No Prayers

neilschelly's picture

The division among people is getting to me. The latest activism surge about the school shooting in Florida has reignited the debates about guns in this country, and I find myself again at a loss for how to contribute productively to the conversation.

Increasing the division and heating up the debate further on gun control seems to do only two things consistently. First and foremost, it maintains the status quo that we are all getting tired of. People are dying. Second, it pads the NRA’s pockets. Imagine a world where the NRA was really an organization of responsible gun owners. It would want to promote safe gun ownership and keep guns out of the hands of people who would tarnish its reputation. It would want to promote reasonable gun control, because that would be the safe hedge for its owners to be able to maintain their gun hobbies rather than feel at constant risk of new government regulations coming to take away guns. The NRA doesn’t serve responsible gun owners. It serves the gun industry. By maintaining and encouraging this division among people, there is a constant threat to gun owners that they are about to lose their 2nd amendment rights. That threat turns into record profits when a politician seeking to improve gun control attains a high office or when a debate like this makes people concerned that the latest tragedy might be the last straw. Quick! Stock up on guns now! Lots of ammo too! Obama’s coming to take them! Please stop falling for it.

I have pointed out when gun-control activists share things like, “18 school shootings since the beginning of 2018!” and how that is obviously a made up statistic that no one would agree with the basis for. All you have to do is a minimal of research to debunk those numbers. There’s the usual calls for elimination of assault rifles by people without an understanding that they are already banned, that these weapons being used are not assault rifles, or that these weapons aren’t functionally any different than pistols. I’m also pushing back on the “conservative” views that try to stifle opposing viewpoints as invalid just because they are based on emotion instead of reason. Stifling others’ ability to share their opinion is a far greater concern to me than stifling anyone’s right to a firearm. You’ve got to allow people to cope with tragedy in their own ways. There is no right or wrong way. My contributions are intended to try to improve the accuracy of shared information, but they just get me labelled as the opposition, regardless of which side of the debate that is.

People seem to think that the failings of the existing laws related to gun control prove that what we have is inadequate. Maybe it is! Those people ignore that the government who would institute additional gun control laws is the one that ignored so many warnings about this killer in the first place. It’s the same government that already should have made it nearly impossible for this killer to get weapons within the current framework of laws. If those laws are so worthless, why are there articles shaming politicians for rolling them back? I applaud a politician who can recognize a safety regulation that is failing to make us safer and actually revoke it. There aren’t a lot of easy problems left, so we must be willing to try things, have them fail, and repeal them to try new things. Maybe every new law and regulation must have a built-in deadline with explicit pre-defined metrics for success that must be met in order for it to be renewed?

There are so many calls for “do something!” with no real clarity as to what something might look like. There’s calls for politicians to finally take action, as if there’s only one obvious action that would fix this forever. If the politicians are going to be faulted for doing nothing as much as something, can you really blame them from taking the payouts from the NRA in the meantime? Everyone, including politicians, wants the shootings to stop, even if they are relatively small percentage of deaths in this country. However, everyone seems to take the position that if you don’t agree with me, then you must want them to continue. I contend that the status quo will see these killings continue. If you want change, you must work to change the status quo.

If I wanted to keep the status quo, I would share stories that have clearly false or inflated statistics. I would post stories about “reasonable” gun safety and regulations based on my zero experience with buying a gun, owning a gun, the technical distinctions between guns, etc. Those will ensure that the opposition to my opinion can easily defend against and dismiss my opinions. I would share stories that ensure those holding opposing viewpoints know that I blame their obstinance, ignorance, or heartlessness for the deaths of others, so we can point fingers and rather than discuss solutions. I’d share stories that prove that you don’t need a gun, or that a gun makes you less safe, because I know better than you what keeps you safe. I know deep down, we all want others to make that decision for us.

Lately, I’ve even been seeing a lot of memes shared about how mental health is a worthless scapegoat, that it was only brought up because the attacker is white. The attempt to dismiss the mental health component of this is scary to me. The world needs to take more time to better recognize how universal and important mental health problems are. We should also recognize that persons of color who would commit these crimes are also probably experiencing some of the same mental health conflicts. It is a problem that we only mention this when an attacker is white. The answer is to stop dismissing attacks by a black person as just a criminal being a criminal. The answer is to stop dismissing attacks by a hispanic as just a drug dealer defending his business. The answer is to stop dismissing attacks by middle-eastern people as terrorists doing what terrorists do. The answer isn’t to stop focusing on how sick our population is to allow these things to continue. That’s just moving backwards.

I’ve also noticed a terrible trend with this latest school shooting where the students are old enough, and nearly adult enough, that the media and population is willing to encourage/push them up on stage to speak out against the violence and exercise their own political voice. I think it’s great if these kids want to turn this tragedy into a positive force for action. At this point, I just see this as the media profiting off of drama. I’m a cynic. Unfortunately, the victims are just old enough that no one thinks it’s going to damage them to be pawns. I hope each of the survivors here is getting the help they need to process these events in the most healthy way possible given the circumstances.

So, this whole article up to this point suggests is that I think nearly every article or fact or opinion shared about gun control, school violence, etc as a result of this tragedy is worthless. I don’t actually think that. It’s important to keep the conversation going. We could just move on and forget about this like every other shooting, but that’s clearly not an awesome idea. People just need to be more careful with how they present their views. Please understand that you are being used too. The news crafts these articles for maximum share power. They want the clicks. They want the eyeballs. They want the drama and the anger. Check your facts. Fake and manipulative news is really easy to find, and it is not just the other people that are sharing it. Try to consider whether the story or statistics you are sharing would really reach someone with a different view from yours, or if it will just make you feel better to vent anger toward them.