A Word to the Gun Rights Advocates, and a Word to the Gun Control Advocates

During national times of crises, it can be easy to be partisan. But what we need more of are people who are willing to speak with humility and gentleness to people “on both sides.” Here’s a quick word to gun rights advocates out there, and another quick word to gun control advocates out there.

To the Gun Rights Advocates

I want to apologize on behalf of all gun control advocates who have made you into the enemy. Many of you are grieving these mass shooting atrocities as well, and that pain is compounded when you are lumped into the same camp as terrorists who don’t share your values.

Those of us who want to make positive changes around the issue of guns need you in these conversations, so please do not let the ignorant and judgmental tendencies among us deter you from participating.

I, for one, don’t want to take away your guns. I’m personally fine with you owning a gun or two. I recognize that there are many good reasons to own a gun. And as an aside, to all those who hunt, thank you for paying those licenses to help fund our state conservation efforts.

But I think you know as well as I do that there is a gun issue in our country. In 2020, there were 45,222 gun-related deaths, and more than half of them were suicides. Furthermore, guns are now the leading cause of death in American children, even surpassing motor vehicle accidents. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, 311,000 kids at 331 schools have experienced gun violence.

There needs to be a way for us to keep guns in certain people’s hands while removing guns from other people’s hands.

To obtain a driver’s license in Maryland, one needs to pass a vision test, prove one’s age and identity, provide a social security number, and submit two documents to prove in-state residence. New drivers need to first take a written test to obtain a learner’s permit. Once they have a learner’s permit (with the permission of a legal guardian), they must complete 36 hours of a driver’s education course, complete 60 hours of a driving practice while being accomplanied by a licensed adult over 21, and pass a driving test. Only then will they have a provisional license, and they must maintain a clean driving record for 18 months before obtaining a full driver’s license.

Given that more kids die from guns than vehicle accidents, isn’t it ridiculous that the process to obtain a driver’s license is so much more cumbersome than the process to obtain a gun? At the very least, given the violent nature of guns, shouldn’t it be more difficult to get a gun than to get cigarettes, alcohol, or medical marijuana?

Here are some gun laws that I think our country can get behind. Raise the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years old, require universal background checks, pass “red flag” laws, require licenses to purchase and carry, and ban “ghost guns.”

What do you think?

To the Gun Control Advocates

First off, I recognize that many of you have been going through tremendous amounts of suffering and lament. It is right to demand justice and reform. It is appropriate to call on people to not just offer “thoughts and prayers,” but to pass laws that bring about substantive change. I fully affirm that it is ridiculous that the wealthiest country in the history of the world has such a huge problem with gun violence.

But I want to lay this out as bluntly as I can—a ban on all guns is politically impossible. There are 390 million guns in the country. 30% of Americans currently own at least one gun, and another 36% are open to owning guns in the future. Among gun owners, 74% say that their right to own a gun is essential to their own sense of freedom.

Furthermore, if we were to implement a gun buyback program, it would primarily be good citizens turning in their guns, not criminals. The National Crime Victimization Survey estimates that about 100,000 people use guns in self-defense every year. These people are not the enemy.

Many gun owners grow up in communities with longstanding traditions of hunting and sport shooting, and many of them also want gun law reform. You may disagree with their lifestyles, but you can still work with them. Do not make this political cause more difficult by offending people you don’t need to offend.

Additionally, please keep in mind that many of the gun laws that are currently being advocated for may possibly prevent future mass shootings, but they will have little effect on the vast majority of gun violence in our country.

Gun violence involved in mass shootings constitutes less than 1% of all incidences of gun violence in our country. The large majority of gun violence happens not in mass shootings, but in isolated incidences in low-income urban neighborhoods.

The city of Baltimore has had over 300 homicides every year for 7 straight years. Most of these homicides did not involve assault rifles. Many of them involved illegally obtained handguns. We also need solutions for this type of gun violence as well.

The reality is that many people in our country only think about guns in the aftermath of a large mass shooting. Why? Because in a mass shooting, anybody is vulnerable. You can be at a concert, a church, or a school, and you can be a victim.

But that level of anxiety is what some people living in high-crime areas face every day. Mass shootings force people who often live with some level of privilege to temporarily experience what some people in low-income neighborhoods experience every day.

I understand the desire to ride the momentum of this national conversation on gun control to get some gun control laws passed. But once it’s done, please also remember that gun violence is a complicated thing. It won’t end just because some laws are passed. We need a holistic approach, one that involves education, public health, community services, and justice reform.

What do you think?