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It’s about love

So here we are. Almost a week ago, something terrible happened in Connecticut. Sorrow, heartbreak, loss. Bright young faces never to be seen again on this earth.

The man who did it… gah.

It’s been a rough week for gun owners, and especially for visible gun owners – bloggers, firearms instructors, podcasters and broadcasters, rights activists, writers. Anyone in the public eye. Among my friends in that world, I know very few who haven’t received a hate-filled letter or twelve this week. Some of those letters have included threats of violence. Or murder.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Today, what I wanted to talk about is where we go from here. What I am doing, and what you might want to do.

Let me explain first that I’m not a gun-rights activist in any normal sense of the word. Like most gun owners, I do throw an occasional dollar into the pro-rights pot, especially toward the Second Amendment Foundation, which has done such awesome work with court cases in recent years, including the Heller, McDonald, and Ezell cases. Like all good citizens, I write and call my political representatives whenever it needs to be done. But I’m not one of those people on the front lines of the gun rights battle. My work lies elsewhere, in educating people about how to use the tools they’ve already chosen to own. My passion drives me to teach people how to protect themselves from violence. And that’s where my work will stay.

With that in mind, I do think it’s fair to educate new gun owners about one surprising and important thing. If you haven’t owned guns for very long, you may not realize just how quickly your right to protect yourself using an effective, modern tool can be snatched away from you. This isn’t hyperbole, and I’m not selling you anything by saying that. It’s just a simple statement of fact.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples from recent history.

In Australia, in spring of 1996, a scumbag walked into a public area (Port Arthur) and began killing people. Terrible, awful tragedy. Less than two weeks later, all state and territory ministers in the country had agreed to heavily restrict the ownership and use of semi-automatic rifles, and semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns. Within weeks, nearly all firearms in the country had been confiscated by the government.

In Scotland, in spring of 1996, a madman walked into a school and slaughtered 16 children and one adult before killing himself. Driven by that incident, within one year, it became effectively illegal to own a handgun anywhere in the United Kingdom.

Ah, but those are overseas, you say. Something like that couldn’t happen here in America. But it could. We know this because in 1986, federal law makers completely wiped out one small but thriving corner of the gun world with a back-room deal that took only a few hours to put in place. That was it. From suggestion to passage, slapped as a last-minute amendment to a basically pro-gun law, it took less than one day to completely destroy one corner of the gun industry, killing a number of thriving businesses. Now, you can think that was a good law or you can think it was a bad one, but regardless of how you feel about that, it was definitely a fast law.

So, if you value your right to own and carry tools that you can use to effectively defend yourself and the people you love, you should keep an eye on gun politics even though it’s unpleasant at times. We don’t have the luxury of ignoring politics entirely, no matter how much we might want to. Despite the tremendous strides we’ve made toward freedom over the past two decades, we know that all those gains can literally be erased overnight when people are upset enough. And right now… yeah. They are upset enough.

We’re not immune to those feelings, either. I’m certainly not. What mother, what parent, could be? We want the world to be a safer place for our children – for all our children. We want to protect them and keep them from harm. This is a driving need for any decent human being.

An anti-gun friend of mine (yes, I have them too) wrote this on Facebook: “I am more than happy to sacrifice my own individual rights for a greater good…”  The implication being, of course, that in order to protect our families and our communities, we must give up some of our rights, including the right to own and use effective tools for protecting ourselves and our loved ones. What I wonder is, would this person be equally willing to exercise her rights for the greater good? Because, you see, when we choose to protect ourselves, our families, and the people we love, we are acting for the greater good of our communities. By being prepared to stop violent acts, we are helping the people around us stay safe, and we are lowering the risk of violence happening at all.

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean,” wrote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Let each responsible adult prepare to protect herself and the people around her, and the violent crime rate drops. Make it illegal or difficult for ordinary people to defend themselves, and violent crime rates go up. We don’t carry firearms to protect the whole world, but our willingness to defend ourselves does have a protective effect on the people around us.

And that brings us to the nasty little implication hidden in my friend’s sentence. It’s an accusation that you and I own firearms only as an act of selfishness. We only want to keep our rights because they’re ours, and we don’t care about the people around us. You know that’s not true, I know that’s not true, but … this person doesn’t know that, just as most anti-gun or even neutral people don’t know it. What she “knows” is that gun owners are more concerned about their gun rights than they are about the 20 children laid to rest this week in Connecticut. She “knows” that, and frames her argument based on that wrong idea.

We have to tell her, that’s not true. We can say it kindly, factually, passionately, bravely, or with our knees knocking together. But say it we must. Here’s what is true: we own guns because we are deeply concerned about the safety of our families and our communities. We support the right to own firearms—all types of firearms—because we believe that gun ownership saves lives. We believe in the right to carry guns because we believe that carrying guns helps good people stay safe from acts of evil. We hate gun-free zones because they make it easier for violent criminals to murder innocent victims. We support human rights as they relate to firearms not because we are selfish, but because we love people and want to see good people able to defend themselves from murderous madmen such as the one who slaughtered a classroom full of little children at an elementary school in Connecticut.

So yes, I’m concerned about our gun rights in the wake of this awful event. But my concern for gun rights is not an act of selfishness. It’s an act of love. I love the people around me, and want them able to stay safe.

***

Last night, I talked to a friend of mine. This woman teaches at an elementary school in California. Like most schools in that state, her school has many entrances and exits, multiple buildings, and a campus that would be a nightmare to truly secure. My friend was sad, even angry, that neither she nor anyone around her would be able to protect “her” children in the case of a copycat attack. She would be expected to cower, and hide, and perhaps die – simply because there was no legal way for her to vigorously defend the children she loves. We talked about some of her options, including improvised weapons that would raise no eyebrows if she kept them in her classroom. We talked about making the decision to protect yourself and others. We talked about … the murderer.

Not that one.

The next  one.

The one that she knows. That everyone in her district knows. The smart, manipulative teenager with a hair-trigger temper and absolutely no empathy. The one whose own mom thinks he will kill her someday. The one who has been bounced from school, to school, to school within the system, who can’t be kept in an inpatient facility, and whose violent schizophrenic tendencies are getting worse. That kid.

“What can I do about him?” she asked me. “How can I keep him away from my school and out of my classroom?”

I have no answers. Within the system as it is right now, there is literally no way to stop that kid from committing murder. His own parents can’t get him into a treatment facility that will keep him longer than a few days. Even though literally every person in that teenager’s life knows that he will kill someone someday, he cannot be locked up. Not yet. Not until he snaps and kills someone… or a  whole classroom full of someones.

We should do something about that. That’s a conversation our society needs to have. But meanwhile, let me point this out: Not every potential murderer gives such clear warning signs.

Shouldn’t the intended victims have a way to fight back, if and when?

***

Believe me, I’ve heard all the answers about improving school security. “Lock the door.” In a classroom with a wall full of windows, that’s less than reassuring. “Have all visitors to the campus check in a the office.” Like the shooter in Newtown did. “Metal detectors.” The first person shot would be the person manning the metal detector. “Text message alerts.” Then what? Schools should be safe, and yes, some of these measures might slow some types of intruders. But they won’t stop the worst of them, the kind we’re talking about here.

Nothing will.

There is literally nothing we can do that’s guaranteed to keep the next madman out of our schools. Some campuses would be easy to make more secure than they presently are, but none of them can be entirely secured. So there will always be a risk of a criminally insane attacker getting inside the walls.

Shouldn’t the people inside be equipped to protect themselves and the children they love, if and when that happens?

That’s the question we should be asking. We should ask it with compassion and concern. And we should keep asking it until we get a positive answer.

Because it’s not about our gun rights. It’s about love.

13 Responses to It’s about love

  1. Old NFO says:

    Well said Kathy, and the sad part is there will be NO real action to confront the mental health issues, because those cost MONEY! And those letters??? All I will say is let them try…

  2. larryarnold says:

    “I am more than happy to sacrifice my own individual rights for a greater good…”

    Trouble is she’s not sacrificing her rights, she’s sacrificing everyone else’s, including all our children’s rights.

  3. larryarnold says:

    And by the way, Connecticut has the fifth most restrictive gun control in the U.S. (http://www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/stateleg/scorecard/2011/2011_Brady_Campaign_State_Scorecard_Rankings.pdf), including an “assault weapons” ban, registration, manditory training, and a might-issue CHL. (http://www.bradycampaign.org/xshare/stateleg/scorecard/2011/2011_scoring_system.pdf)

    It didn’t work. Again.

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  6. Selina says:

    The big fear of my liberal friends is that if kids knew there was a gun in the classroom, that they would always be trying to get their hands on it. If anyone can come up with a good response to this, I’d appreciate it.

    I work in Newtown CT, and out of respect for my heart-broken local friends, I’m not posting any gun-related stuff on my page until after the New Year. But I’m sure answering the one’s who post from out of town.

    • Selina,

      Welcome, and I’m glad you posted. Please accept my sincere sympathy for — well, for everything right now.

      The short answer for your friends who ask is that there are already guns in Utah’s public schools, carried by many of Utah’s public school teachers, just as there have been for many years. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no incidents where schoolchildren disarmed their teachers, nor any other significant problems related to it.

      In a lot of ways, the objections we will hear about allowing teachers and other school administrators to carry inside school buildings will almost certainly sound a lot like the same things we heard as basic concealed carry laws were passed in state after state. You know: blood in the streets, shootouts over parking places, taken away & used against you, etc. We have had that conversation, over and over again, as each state moved to shall-issue concealed carry laws. (To get an idea of how the nation’s demographics have changed on that, check out the graphic at http://www.gun-nuttery.com/rtc.php, which shows how right to carry laws have changed over time.) Basically what happened was that a few brave legislators looked at states which already had good concealed carry laws, realized these good laws weren’t causing any problems, and moved to make their own states just as free. Every time that happened, the same objections came up, and the answer was always the same: look at the states that are already doing it. Any problems there? Nope. The law would then pass, and a few brave legislators in a different state would look at the results and say, “Hm, that good law isn’t causing any problems for them…”

      So point your friends toward Utah, and Utah’s experience with concealed carry on school campus. There are other places — one small district in Texas, for example — but Utah is our biggest laboratory right now.

      Hope this helps.

    • Equusapple says:

      I don’t know if someone has already said this but…there is drug and sex education in schools why not gun education??? I am sure there are plenty retired military or police force men and women who would be more than willing to donate their time to a program like this I am sure it could even be added to the program the NRA is proposing right now. Along with Selina’s post about particular kids not getting the help they need, so are our other kids growing up with a false sense of how real guns are, especially with the video games they watch and the news that is portrayed on the media! I would think that if kids were educated it would help all parents fears of their kids around guns! After all no parent wants their kids having underage sex or becoming drug addicts and every year they are educated about making the right choices when it comes to these issues why not guns!!!

  7. RabidAlien says:

    Agreed with everything said in the post, and the comments as well. Going to look up my Senator’s website and shoot him an email…may link yours and Larry Correia’s blogs as examples of much finer oratory than my own blog post a couple of days ago.

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