When my oldest son started kindergarten back in September there was a guy who would drop off his kid every day wearing this sweatshirt.
There hadn’t been a school shooting in a while, so, aside from the immensely creepy sexual connotation, I suppose there wasn’t anything specifically inappropriate about it. I still had a hard time believing anyone could wear something like that in public, though—let alone at an elementary school. It just seemed like an affront to human decency.
It wasn’t because this guy was presumably a gun owner, it was because he was so flippant about something that, in my opinion, ought to be treated with more respect.
I spent six years in the navy and I used to carry a gun as part of my job. I was trained how to use it by seasoned professionals and I was fortunate enough to never have to use it outside of a shooting range.
I know plenty of people who have guns and, while I don’t feel a need to own any, I understand why some people do. I don’t have a problem with guns as a general concept and I don’t have a problem with gun owners.
What I have a problem with is the lack of progress in our country when it comes to gun safety and the imbalance of people calling for it. There are uneducated people on the left who don’t even know how firearms work, let alone why anyone would want to own them. And there are conspiracy theorists on the right with such a tenuous grip on reality, it’s a wonder they can function at all.
I don’t believe either of those extremes will do us any good. But despite what the internet would have you believe, there are also a whole lot of people in the middle who share enough common ground to have productive conversations and solve actual problems.
When it became clear that billionaires in this country were paying lower tax rates than the middle class, people like Warren Buffett spoke up. They called out the system that allowed that kind of injustice to occur. Of course gun ownership is different from being a billionaire, but my point is that a respected individual used his notoriety to bring attention to a problem within his own culture.
I’m sure all the prominent gun rights advocates in the US will be quick to make statements promoting responsibility and drawing a distinction between good gun owners and bad gun owners but I don’t think anyone really cares what they have to say. Their statements are about as effectual as the moment of silence that will inevitably happen in Congress.
The ones who really matter in this situation are the ordinary people—the neighbors and friends and productive members of society—who also happen to own guns. They’re the ones who possess the authority to say, “There is a problem in our culture and we need to address it.”
Average, decent people who know what guns are made for and treat them with the proper amount of respect hold the power in this situation. They’re the ones who could contact their conservative representatives and demand some kind of action. They’re the ones who could start conversations at the shooting range and change individual people’s minds.
Yes, Washington has some of the most restrictive laws when it comes to purchasing firearms but forcing a group of people to abide by a law is never as good as a genuine cultural change. We’ve also had plenty of examples in recent years of how long-standing legal standards can be threatened or completely overturned. Tacoma may present as a left-leaning city but it would be foolish to assume that it will always be that way.
On a national scale, I don’t think there are any realistic top-down solutions to this problem. It has to start with individuals making choices. All those senators refusing to address this problem are doing so because the majority of the constituents they hear from are only interested in preserving their Second Amendment rights—no matter the cost.
I know there are people who agree with me even if they don’t vote the same way I do. I know there are proud gun owners in our community who are just as appalled by what happened yesterday as anyone else. But when I drive around Tacoma I still see flags that say “Come and take it” and “Fuck your feelings.”
I don’t see flags that say “We need to change” or “Not everyone needs an AR-15.” If I do see something like that, it’s put up by someone on the other side who would just as soon outlaw all firearms.
I’m not trying to call anyone out here, I’m not trying to start any fights, and I mean no disrespect to the rational moderate gun owners who are already doing the work. I understand that my neighbors will probably read this and I hope we can have conversations about it in real life. I think it’s important to have a diversity of viewpoints in life and I value the friends I have with differing opinions.
None of us want to have these conversations with our children. None of us want to think about them running active shooter drills. None of us want to admit that despite all the changes that have taken place at schools in the last 20 years, this could still happen in Tacoma.
So please, with all the kindness and respect I can convey through writing, please do something. Please say something. Don’t turn this into an attack on your rights. Don’t let your liberal friends be the only ones having this conversation.
I don’t have any easy solutions to offer. Like I said, I don’t feel a need to own any guns so it’s not up to me to decide exactly what changes should be made. If you agree that there is a problem here but you think the root cause is actually ______, then next time you’re choosing who to vote for, consider how much time and energy they’re going to spend addressing ______ vs. how much time they’re going to spend fighting gun control legislation. Look around at your peers, your social media network, your coworkers, and look at what conversations are genuinely addressing ______ vs. how much time they spend complaining about liberals.
None of us want this and we’re not going to change anything without your help.