Guns. Not only are they everywhere, but they are very much on everyone’s mind of late. As with many things political, people are greatly divided on this topic. The issue is clouded…by people’s emotions, their passions, and their fears. It is also clouded because of how the debates are often focused: on what’s wrong and can it be fixed.
Recently I was fortunate to hear a presentation by Richard Harwood, of The Harwood Institute and author of “The Work of Hope”. The talk was geared towards librarians and how libraries can be active in building their communities. It was a very good and engaging talk, providing many take-aways. However, one thing he said really struck a chord with me, especially in our current political climate:
We need to change the conversations we have in our communities. Currently, we try to create change by focusing on what’s wrong rather than focusing on what our aspirations are. (Lyrasis eGathering, February 7, 2013)
There is a lot of focus on what is wrong: too many guns, too much gun violence, too much gun control, not enough gun control, people trying to take away our Constitutional rights, crazy people, lack of healthcare, lack of economic opportunities, mental health issues, etc. What if we do flip the conversation and ask ourselves what we aspire to be as country and as a citizenry. One of my aspirations for my country is for it to be a place where people can live, work, and pursue their own aspirations freely and safely. How do we achieve this? Some would argue that the only way we can be a safe society is to have more gun owners and more guns. I, personally, don’t want to live in a society where this what we aspire to be. I want to be a safer and freer society with fewer guns and fewer gun owners; where guns are again considered items more for sport and recreation. I respect people’s right to bear arms and their enjoyment of guns. I do not respect being force-fed the belief that we need guns because there is so much to fear in each other and our country.
Two other aspirations I have are peace and happiness. Certainly, for some, owning a gun (or guns) does offer peace of mind. Again, we should be asking ourselves why we want these guns. Is it to pursue a hobby or the sport of hunting or is it the only solution we have to calm all our fears? Do we aspire to be vigilantes or do we aspire to be good and trusting citizens to each other? Can we reach peace and happiness if we live in regular (and often unfounded) fear? Our psychological well being will greatly suffer if we continue with this kind of approach. Although mental health has been brought into this debate, it doesn’t address the mental and psychological repercussions of actually shooting another human being. Trained military members, armed forces, and police officers have been greatly impacted by shooting another individual. During a period of time where crime, especially violent crime, has decreased, we have been led to believe crime is rampant and we need to live in fear. Aren’t we happier sending our kids to safe schools, living peacefully together, and enjoying the many freedoms we have in this country?
I would also challenge politicians and citizens to aspire to compromise. For whatever reason, compromise is viewed as being weak or wrong or lacking. Ironically, many of these arguments over guns center around the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a document that was created through compromise, a great deal of compromise. We can forever debate whether the intention of the 2nd Amendment was really about a well regulated militia or the right of an individual to bear arms, but those endless debates do not bring us any closer to making things better. I can certainly agree with an individual’s right to ‘keep and bear arms’, but I also believe that it does not guarantee the right to keep and bear ALL arms. Let us not forever debate the exact intentions of our founders, but rather work for solutions as they did: through compromise.
For our country, I hope we continue to aspire to be the best and strongest country in the world. We will be that because of the great diversity of people and ideas we have here in the United States. We will hinder that if we continue to limit ourselves by focusing too much on what all is wrong with our country and by not focusing and continuing to build what is great about our country.