Politics ([pol-i-tiks])

By: Jeff Mount

Politics ([pol-i-tiks])

1. the science or art of political government.

2. the practice or profession of conducting political affairs.

3. use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control

Two weeks ago, I posted an article about why we can’t have political conversations anymore in the US. It hit directly on my frustration with friends and family from all perspectives. We’ve gone way beyond disagreeing with each other’s conclusions, or even dissenting about premises. We now fast-forward to directly attacking the person.

I pride myself on being able to stay neutral during unimportant squabbles. I can count on one hand the friends that truly know my position on most politically contentious issues. But when I see an eruption on an issue that I provide professional training on? That I can make a difference on? I’m obligated to speak.

Fair warning. If you’re going into this article assuming you have me pegged, feel free to stop reading. Not because my words aren’t helpful, but because you’re probably part of the problem.

Another 10 people have died. Another national leader gave an impassioned speech. And everyone else seemingly took to Facebook to express their angst. And if I’m going to piss people off, I figured I’d be as bi-partisan as I possibly can about it.

I get it, everyone. It’s frustrating. But lest your self-righteousness whither before this Sunday’s round of NFL games, let me ask you a question.

What productive action have you taken since the LAST Active Shooter Incident?

Not your political party. Not your state legislature. You.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

No, a facebook post doesn’t count. Neither does an argument with that narrow-minded, sort-of co-worker whose political opinion is clearly the cause of all this. Nor does reading an article whose confirmation bias dripped off the page.

You know what counts? Researching pre-incident indicators for Active Shooter events. You know what else? Talking to your kids’ principals or teachers about their active shooter plan. You know what else? Suggesting (or demanding) your HR Director at your job provide active shooter training. You know what else? Actually finding a person to report to should you ever have concerns that a subject within your daily life is planning an attack. You know what’s better than all of this? Developing a response plan for you and your family, and practicing it. Now, raise your hand if you’ve done THAT since the last high-profile active shooter incident?

I didn’t think so.

I’ll let you in on a secret folks.

It’s not about the gun.

Pro-gun control folks. It’s not about the gun.

Pro-2A folks. It’s not about the gun.

I want to be as fair as possible, to increase the maximum likelihood that if I alienate people, I’ll do so in equal and impartial fashion.

Pro-Gun folks: It’s not about the gun(s).

I’m sympathetic to your position. I really am. I’ve spent my entire life learning how to use force against a threat. Some would say I’m decent at it. I understand that there are times when nothing but defensive violence will solve the problem.

But unless you’re of a predatory mindset, everyone agrees that’s a last resort. So while the issue of increased freedom to carry firearms is gridlocked, what ELSE have you done? What are you more interested in, saving lives or asserting your rights? While they’re not mutually exclusive, they’re also not the same thing.

Here’s why more guns is a bad approach. It puts you in a position of reactivity. There’s no dealing with the sources problem of mental illness, hatred, narcissism, disillusionment, or any other motivational cause. The point is – when you answer that greater freedom of law-abiding citizens carrying weapons is the answer to active shooter incidences, you’re offering zero answers until the shooting is already in progress. A single-source answer – more guns – paints you into a corner wherein you’ve spent SO much of your resources focusing on the gun, you’ve ignored anything else.

And let’s face it. Are you really shooting 300’s every weekend? Really? Under adrenalized stress? In street clothes? With your kids at your side? I KNOW that if I had the chance to prevent a shooting vs. respond to one, I’d choose prevention every time. Every. Single. Time.

If greater access to guns is the answer, then explain Jared Lee Loughner. He killed six, injured 19, in arguably the most gun-friendly state in the US, Arizona. And it wasn’t armed citizens that stopped it. It was an unarmed, 74-year old retired Army Colonel, Bill Badger. Funny – guns didn’t’ stop the incident, even though there were CCW holders on site, but training, experience, and sacrifice did. Badger had already been shot by the time he tackled Loughner.

If you’re really interested in stopping the problem, go ahead and suggest increased gun freedom as a last resort, only to be used when all other options are exhausted. It’s what the law reads, it’s what’s in keeping with most people’s abysmal marksmanship, and it’s what is the most honest response if you really value life. Go ahead and ask for greater latitude in carrying weapons to be used defensively, alongside of greater mental health awareness, researching pre-incident indicators so the chances of early intervention are maximized, alongside of a response plan that doesn’t involve the effective operation of a firearm. Anything else just sounds like you’re looking for a legal excuse to shoot someone.

Anti-gun folks: It’s not about the gun (control)

Pro-gun control folks, your arguments would sure sound a whole lot more credible if you did something other than using it as a chance to condemn guns. Have you written to your Congressional representatives asking for more funds to be contributed to free mental health services? Have you studied pre-incident indicators to understand where and when an active shooter incident might be brewing? Have you trained, equipping yourself with non-lethal active shooter response training? Have you really done anything other than rail on about gun control?

Yes, guns are the vehicle that many use to take the lives of others. And yes, as many of you have pointed out, there’s a chance that the fatalities would be lower if guns were not readily available. But is that your ultimate goal? A lower body count? Is that where you’re planting your flag? “We accept these attacks are going to happen. We just think they’d be less lethal without guns.”

You’re perfectly fine with friends, neighbors, co-workers harboring homicidal intent, so long as they have a less efficient way of acting out on it? We’re going to let this type of evil occur, just with fewer lethal tools? While eliminating guns would make it less convenient, this is only a band-aid that will at best delay someone from committing evil, not stop it.

Just like it seems mighty convenient for the pro-gun people to go to an answer they’ve wanted to justify in the first place, when you do nothing but blame guns, it seems like that’s what you’re looking to do all along– blame. Not fix the problem, not motivate and save lives. Blame. Certainly not save lives, since of course that would demand a whole other set of actions other than going after a conveniently stalemated issue.

In 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris attacked Columbine High School with a total of four firearms, killing 12 people and then themselves. However, their primary objective was to kill several hundred people with an improvised homemade propane bomb, which malfunctioned. How much anti-bomb legislation have you proposed?

If there were a weapon that killed 2,996 people in one day, common sense would dictate that you would lobby against that weapon. However, I’ve not heard one of you expound on the need for stricter box-cutter control, or consider outlawing commercial airline usage for mentally ill individuals.

To borrow a phrase from a friend, how many of you are simply completely outsourcing your own personal safety to law enforcement officers, many of whom are already being criticized publicly for abusing their power?

If you’re going to enhance the credibility of your argument, then please at least be honest about the fact that guns scare you. You personally don’t like them. Which is, to an extent, appropriate. They are part of a small number of inventions that were exclusively designed to do nothing other than take human life. But at least have the intellectual honesty to admit to yourself that your political perspective is to some extent rooted in your own fear – a visceral, emotional response. And to the extent you refuse to admit that to yourself, your argument will be self-invalidated, and you will not make progress in the ultimate goal for everyone – saving lives.

If your goal is to preserve life, there are all sorts of other things you should be advocating that you’re, well, not. But if your goal is to empirically prove your already-established aversion to guns, well, congratulations. Your entire outrage is one big exercise in confirmation bias.

The common ground

But that’s really the truth, isn’t it? Both political perspectives aren’t really changing, molding, becoming more nuanced or educated. They’re simply co-opting horrific events to reinforce what they already believed anyway. Anything else – anything I’ve suggested in this or previous articles, actually requires real, personal, individual change. Effort. Personal transformation. It requires brutal honesty about one’s own motives, fears, biases, and hopes. And then it requires positive action based upon that honesty. You’ll likely not convince anyone else of the rightness of your perspective. But by that point it won’t matter, because you will have changed, drastically and for the better.

But here’s the other common ground, which is much more important. By and large, the members of both camps honestly believe their position will save lives. To reduce a pro-gun argument to the sentiment of “you care more about your rights than the lives of children” is both unhelpful and untrue for many. It’s a huge straw-man-turned-ad-hominem attack. And to reduce a gun-control perspective to, “you want to take away my freedoms and you’re too much of a coward to take up arms against a real threat” does the same thing. It attacks and blames the disagreement and the one disagreeing, leaving the real problem untouched.

Pro-gun people: When was the last time you sincerely recognized that pro-control people want to save lives? When was the last time you had a conversation with that as a fundamental assumption? When was the last time you had a conversation that was designed to come up with answers, rather than simply accuse and blame? At what point are you willing to do something productive other than assert your rights?

Pro-control people: When was the last time you recognized that most gun-owners actually value life? That some of them see gun ownership, not as a right, but as an obligation? When did you take action that was geared towards introducing strength, positive action, and solutions?

I believe that if we committed to rid ourselves of the convenient emotionalized knee-jerk reactions (whatever they are), recognized the practical reality that the issue of gun control and gun freedoms is gridlocked, and worked hard towards other viable solutions in the meantime, we might actually solve this thing.

In the next few weeks I’ll be proposing some strategies that have already worked in the US. They’re not perfect, and I’m sure if your interest is in poking holes in my views, you’ll be successful. You’ll also still be part of the problem, while those that pursue answers, imperfect though they might be, are at least being a part of the solution.

Rachel Parker