Don’t Just Take It From Me

I’m not usually one to get into politics in a public forum–because somehow it always turns out ugly and unproductive. But I’m going out on a limb today to offer my own personal commentary on today’s events.

I beg you, please read all of this post before commenting on it. The end is the most important part. In fact, maybe just skip the numbered bullets and get straight to the last six paragraphs. If that’s all you read, I won’t be offended. Because I want–no, need–you to understand why I stepped out of my usual box and posted something political. The numbered points are only candid reactions and probably have very little value. In fact, you can disagree with them all you want. You won’t hurt my feelings. But my real reason for posting this comes at the end, and (I believe) it is something we can all agree on.

Upon reading the transcript of Obama’s speech today regarding gun control, I offer the following thoughts:

1. Biden stammers when he speaks publicly. He repeats words a lot. He might consider rehearsing his speeches a little more.

2. I am all for action to prevent violence. I am not for nationwide reform decided on by one man being immediately put into action without legal consent from this country’s citizens.

3. If all Americans today had real rhetoric skills (which include listening without interrupting and not insulting your opponent) by which to voice their disagreements and work towards a solution, we would not need gun legislation, because we would not need to shoot each other to solve our differences. What we really need isn’t another law; it’s an attitude adjustment. We have to stop looking at each other as obstacles or resources to our own personal goals and start seeing each other as real people, with real feelings and real needs and real beliefs and very real reasons for everything we think and do. And maybe start considering that when we disagree on any issue, it’s usually not because we hate each other and love to argue, but because we honestly believe that our idea is the right thing to do. If we start seeing that we all want the same end goal, and start recognizing that we’re just presenting different ideas of how to get there, maybe we can stop making this so personally offensive and start coming up with real solutions to our problems.

4. I agree that if even one innocent life can be saved, we have an obligation to try to save it. But have we looked at all possible ramifications? Are we sure the death rate will decrease because of this? Or will the perceived weakening of household protection in our country make criminals bolder to strike out against unarmed civilians? And is the one life saved better than the five or six who die instead? (All hypothetical, but questions worth thinking about.)

5. I don’t see a problem with requiring background checks for gun purchases. But I don’t believe for a second that it will stop someone with intent to cause harm from acquiring a gun. It just means they’ll buy one that we can’t trace.

6. He only announced “a few” of the 23 executive actions he signed into effect today. I’m curious to know exactly what the rest of them were and why he didn’t share them publicly. Secrets don’t make friends, Mr. President.

7. I definitely agree that there’s no reason a civilian should need a military assault rifle. We aren’t being occupied by terrorists or the British. No need for another Revolutionary War or anything. And I don’t feel like a grenade launcher is the best method for killing deer–at least not if you want to have anything left. But again, I don’t think that banning these weapons will keep people who want them from getting them.

8. Stricter laws on gun trafficking sound great. But can we really enforce them? Criminal organizations have been getting around all sorts of laws since our country began. They’re already breaking the law. They don’t really have anything to lose.

9. I don’t know anything about this Todd Jones guy. Definitely need to look him up. Not sure how I feel about Obama nominating him yet.

10. More funding for police jobs–great. But where is that money going to come from? Taxes have already gone up once this year, and heaven knows the federal government doesn’t have enough to fund this, what with their increased spending and sending the president on multi-million dollar winter vacations and such.

Upon further reading, I noticed that they intend to redefine who may and may not purchase a firearm. While I believe those convicted of violent criminal offenses and those whose psychological or mental state makes them violent should not be allowed access to a weapon, the idea that anyone with a mental disability or any other undesirable trait should be denied firearms makes me nervous. Many nonviolent individuals suffer from mental illnesses of varying degrees, and limiting their Second Amendment rights arbitrarily seems to be in violation of anti-discrimination protections for disabled Americans. Furthermore, unsupervised and unchecked, this new legislation might be ambiguous enough that almost anything could be construed as a mental illness that would prevent gun ownership.

Maybe I’ve read too many dystopian novels, but I can’t help but fear that in the future, some corrupt leader with ambitions towards absolute power would find a way to have anyone not in support of his or her goals declared unfit for gun ownership, effectively creating an unarmed population ripe for the taking. And maybe this fear of mine is absolutely ridiculous–after all, it’s an extreme (and currently improbable) situation that would take a lot of political movement over time to take hold. But it’s the little decisions we make every day in our country that shape the course of our future, and I would feel like an idiot not to consider it a vague possibility. And being afraid makes me more attentive. More observant.

But I don’t think that these fears should keep us from finding a way to protect innocent civilians from violence.

I do think that each individual American citizen–especially those of voting age–should pay close attention to upcoming government events, and should examine all possible outcomes of the decisions we allow to be made on our behalf.

We the people have a right to make educated decisions regarding our future.

If we choose to neglect that right and follow the crowd like a herd of sheep, we risk being led to a slaughter.

I’m urging you, my brothers and sisters–conservative, liberal, moderate, gun owner, pacifist, young, old, Northerner, Southerner, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor–whoever you are: EDUCATE YOURSELVES. Don’t rely on fiery rants from the NRA or inspiring speeches from a politician. Don’t rely on what you read in the New York Times or the local newspaper. Don’t rely on what some website says. Don’t read just one source, or listen to just one voice. Don’t just listen to the fear around you–fear of more violence, or fear of lost rights. 

Read, read, read. Listen. Talk to each other. Have conversations with people who don’t think like you–real conversations, where you listen and respect each other’s right to disagree. Try to understand someone else’s viewpoints. Be kind to one another.

And above all, THINK. Use the mind and reason you have been blessed with. Make up your own mind. And then make a decision. Take action. Speak out. Vote.

That is the true privilege of the free.

As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, speech, Aug. 16, 1967