I can’t listen to gun talk without getting sidetracked in my own mental maze where the Second Amendment is secondary to a deeper confrontation with mortality.
I don’t want to die, but I will. I don’t want my family to die, but they will. A gun could, in various scenarios, save us from imminent death, or bring it. I own a shotgun. I weigh the risks. We live in the country. There is the potential for rabid animals, or heaven forbid, rabid people visiting us. But if at some point, I weigh the odds and conclude that a gun in the home is actually more of a risk than not — for instance, if someone in my family becomes deeply depressed and scares me — I’ll get rid of the gun in a heartbeat, because my feelings of mortal fear might tilt away from gun ownership. In my eyes, a gun is primarily a token of final possibility. I don’t know the future. None of us do. And whenever I hold that gun, it’s a sobering thought about what the future holds. It’s not a fun experience. I recognize that many people find great joy in shooting guns. And I don’t mean disrespect in any way. I truly don’t. This is a real love for many people. It’s an American past time for much of the country. I respect that. But I can’t hold a gun without thinking about mortality and the fact that I hold instant death in my hands. That's just how I'm wired. Call me what you like. So I treat that gun with real respect, because I respect life.
Of course, I wouldn’t want any official telling me I can’t have a gun in our home. That’s a personal decision, not a government one. The Constitution affords us that right. But I’ve never felt that there was any remote possibility that some government agent was going to come get my shotgun.
What I do see is a lot of gray area between a posture of defense and a posture of offense. The shotgun in the home is pretty clearly a defensive measure. Someone carrying a concealed pistol into a grocery store, well, that’s not something I like as a fellow customer, unless you’ve been through training and hold a law enforcement role, but the defensive argument can still be made — though you’re venturing closer to a potential offensive posture. But an AK47 at a grocery store (or airport as one man did to prove a point)? If you carry that into a store, that’s a straight-up provocation to every other customer. I’m sorry, but the right to defend yourself ends when you begin to purposefully scare others with a killing weapon in a public space. There’s a difference in my eyes. And that’s all I want in gun talks, a recognition that nuance exists, that sometimes regulations in this world go too far, sometimes not far enough. But rules are not bad simply because they are rules. I don’t want to drive without rules on the road. I suppose some people do want roads without speed limits or stop signs and no DUI laws, but I don’t think they should win any arguments with policy makers. Do you?
And elected officials, well, they like some regulations, too. Otherwise, we’d be free to take firearms into county commissioners’ meetings or the State Capitol. Right? When it's their actual blood on the line, they act accordingly.
With guns, it feels like we’re engaged in some kind of emotionally manipulative warfare. For instance, if I say, can we please not have our children in public places with weapons that could wipe out an entire classroom? The response is: Well, you just want to take away all the guns.
How long do we have to hear this? If my son responded this way, I’d send him to his room and say come back when you’re not trying to put words into my mouth. You know that’s not what I said. Quit it! This is absolutely an emotionally dishonest talking point. Who is saying “let’s take all the guns?” I’m not!
Face it, this sort of talk deliberately demonizes the middle ground. It tries to paint arguments over common sense rules as a version of extremism. And well, well, isn’t that exactly what American politics has become — a demonization of the middle ground? I consider myself a moderate on many issues. I feel so left behind, so ignored.
I simply want decent regulations that make it clear that the owners of devices of potential mass catastrophe, such as any weapon that can kill dozens in a blink of an eye, show something of themselves in terms of responsibility, training and mental health.
Why do we ignore the fact that the Second Amendment says “arms” not guns? I have never understood the definition of “arms” in that clause. What is it? I think the Constitution is really vague in that way. But explosives are mostly off the table in our society. Why? If I develop a love for pipe bombs, isn’t it a Second Amendment infringement of my rights to take them from me? If not, why? Pipe bombs are "arms." So is anthrax. So are nuclear arms. Where is the line on “arms?” I’m not trying to be a punk with that question. I’m straight up asking. Why are we hyper focused on guns when it comes to the Second Amendment? What about all arms?
Any talk of guns is like Alka-Seltzer to water. It creates a hiss and fizz. I’m not immune to that either. We all are passionate.
Here's ground zero of my passion: When I picked my 10-year-old son up from school last week he told me about his school lockdown and how he hid in the wrong place. He told me that the “bad guy” would have been able to see him in his hiding place.
I gripped the steering wheel so tight. I looked straight ahead. My son had questions, but I changed the subject. I just couldn’t do it. Not that day. Sometimes that stuff is just too much. What do I say? What can you say? All I could do was grit my teeth and fume.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.