Guns, Gun Culture, Starting a Dialogue…

13 Jun

Gun ControlThis has been yet another horrific week for schools across the United States.  Following the school shootings in Santa Barbara and Seattle, we lost two youth to a school shooting in Portland, Oregon at Reynolds High School.  If one calculates the average number of school shootings since Sandy Hook, we are averaging at least one school shooting each school week — 74 shootings and counting.

These school shootings take place against a backdrop of decreased gun restrictions and more aggressive gun activism. Consider the Open Carry Texas group, who are carrying guns into public places, including the Baby Toys departments at Target stores. Consider Cliven Bundy and his crew, arming themselves to defend his right to renege on a government contract. Consider the shooters in Las Vegas, who were too extreme for Bundy and one of whom trolled for guns on Facebook despite a felony conviction that prohibited his ownership of firearms.

I am inviting perspectives from all sides of this debate here, for I am truly nonplussed. With full transparency, I am not a proponent of guns and I am a strong supporter of gun control. With that being said, I am so very curious as to how people are not supportive of gun control? I am not passing judgment but I am confounded and horribly worried about youth being killed just attending school. How does the supposed right of a hunter or an antique collector become an imperative to proliferate arms?

I wonder why people feel they need access to guns? How does this promote a culture of peace? How does this promote a culture of non-violence? I hear people quoting the Second Amendment and I wonder if everyone has read the history of this particular amendment and how it has morphed, as living documents do. Strangely, the right to participate in a “well-regulated militia” has become something quite different. Since the NRA transformed from a hobbyist organization to a lobbyist for firearms manufacturers, its efforts have clouded the issue effectively. This has resulted in confusion over legal intent and such ready, under-regulated access to guns that schoolchildren find firearms drills routine — until the day that it turns out not to be a drill.

Where do we go from here? How do we respect individual rights but protect our most vulnerable and intentionally marginalized citizens? When is enough more than enough?


8 Responses to “Guns, Gun Culture, Starting a Dialogue…”

  1. Jennifer Carey June 13, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    Michael, you and I have discussed the second amendment and our contrary stances on it several times. I do think that it’s time for people like me, those in the middle, to come out of the word work and start demanding change. Right now, only the extremes are engaging and it seems that has led to a vitriolic stand still.
    What do I want? A *heavily* regulated gun industry, more registered and tracked than vehicles. You must apply for a gun purchase, you must own a gun safe and a trigger lock for every gun, you must pass a medical examination by a medical professional, you must re-certify ownership every year with a written and demonstrated test (show that you know how to clean, store, and discharge a stuck cartridge). We must repeal ridiculous laws like stand your ground. We must aggressively prosecute those who violate gun laws.
    This all operates within the second amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court. And to be honest, I would not take issue at this point with someone advocating that the constitution be amended. This insanity must stop. What is the difference between a bad guy with a gun walking into a Wal-Mart fully loaded and good guy walking into a Wal-Mart fully loaded? I don’t know, but I don’t want to be around either of them.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt June 13, 2014 at 6:54 am #

      Jen, I always so appreciate your voice! I love that we are able to have a conversation and hold different views. Yes, while I am completely against guns, I have to say our many conversations also have pushed me to examine my own beliefs and make space for other perspectives. I also love that you are calling for action–that more people, such as yourself, need to raise your voices to regulate the gun industry.

      Let us hope we are modeling what a respectful dialogue might look like. With love and humility, Michael.

  2. Christine Noble June 13, 2014 at 8:05 am #

    I am a Second Amendment advocate and have never been conflicted on the need for gun control. Firearms are “just a tool” yes. Just a tool designed to kill. There is a huge difference between advocating for the right bear arms and unrestricted gun ownership. To be fair, not all GRA types are like that, indeed most are not, but they DO allow the lunatic fringe to speak for them too often.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt June 13, 2014 at 8:36 am #

      Christine, as always, I am exceedingly grateful for your voice and perspective! Thank you for helping with the dialogue here. Peace, Michael.

  3. stephenpaulyoder June 13, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    I have no answer. I’ve read your offering 4 times. With you I just feel so much ache, hurt, sadness, confusion. (A 15-year-old boy simply shouldn’t have access to a gun.) So many nuances to these tragedies: mental health, loneliness, isolation; people wanting to be famous for anything, any reason — to be remembered for something, anything. I’m breathing heavily as I type. I’ve been part of support services to two gun tragedies in two years (including multiple deaths) both based on hate, jealousy, anger, bitterness, and so much more. Those experiences “haunt” me. It sounds so trite in this conversation, but someone recently said to me, “Hurt people hurt people.” It makes sense to me. I feel I have a part in this in terms of loving people who are lonely and isolated. But even that sounds flimsy, somehow. So, back to the beginning, I have no answers. But I’m praying we figure something out! (I’m sorry this doesn’t offer much; I just want you to know I care, Michael, and I’m grateful for your heart.)

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt June 14, 2014 at 7:09 am #

      Stephen, thank you so very much for sharing part of your narrative. As always, you offer such an honest and authentic reflection. I think we all are implicated in these tragic deaths. How are we as a culture failing youth? I can at least take some comfort knowing that you, and Jennifer, and Christine and so many others are working to make the world a better place for all. Peace, Michael.

  4. evelyneholingue June 14, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    This is probably what I don’t understand in this country that I love so much. What is hard is that I don’t see a solution in the near future. For Santa Barbara which resonates with me and my family since we live in CA and have kids on UC campuses, other weapons were used (knives) so even with stricter gun control laws I’m afraid that some people will still use violence in response to a personal problem. The acces to weapons is far too easy, I agree, but there is so much money behind that nobody in our government is ready to act. I want to take the opportunity to thank you for each and every of your posts. They are all thoughtful, thought-provoking and timely. I feel bad to realize that there are no easy and quick answer to most issues that you discuss here. The best we can do is often talk and act as an individual in the hope that more will follow and in the end change will happen. Change through grass root movement takes time but ultimately gets concrete. For example, each time someone makes the deliberate decision to not buy a gun or to get rid of a gun, it is a step forward a more peaceful world. Thank you again.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt June 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

      Evelyn, thank you for your wonderful voice of social justice and community building. Yes, the amount of money (NRA) is overwhelming, as money translates into power and influence. I can only hope we can engage more people in conversations around guns and violence as we work to shift cultural norms to achieve peace and harmony. Peace, Michael.

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