I like to think of myself as intelligent. I like to think of you as intelligent as well because I can’t imagine you are reading this unless you have an above-average ability to think and do. One of the greatest characteristics or qualifiers of intelligence is the ability to know when you don’t know something, to know when you need help or more information. It is easy for us to attempt to answer a question based on what is presently in our mental databases. What is not easy is to pause and consider the likelihood that our database just does not contain everything we need to reach a satisfactory answer or conclusion.
That’s why we ask questions.
There is a discussion going on that may, for some, literally be the difference between life and death. Like most discussions, this one started with questions that then produced answers. Although that seemed like a logical progression, it did not continue, and this is why gun discussions are failing. Questions are being asked, but they are not being answered, at least not correctly. Questions are being misdirected and avoided completely. Instead of addressing an issue, the answers are only causing frustration and mistrust. People at each end of the table are yelling at the other end, but neither side is listening to the other. They have their lists of talking points, shout their questions, wait for the others to stop talking, and then shout another question or an unrelated answer. Through this, it could be learned that sometimes the best answer to a question is “I don’t know.”
One thing is clear – nobody in the White House or Washington anywhere is talking about a complete gun ban. That would be a bad idea. However, the present state of guns is also bad. What should be done is unclear. Certain questions, when answered honestly and specifically, will lead us to an answer to the biggest question, “What – if anything – should we do about guns?”
There are three groups of people attempting to be heard here.
Group A wants to completely eliminate guns.
Group B wants to regulate or control which type of guns can be owned and who can or can’t own them.
Group C wants pretty much anyone to be able to own pretty much any gun they want.
Group A is nuts. Guns will never be completely eliminated. If you know anyone in Group A, give them a cookie, pat them on the head, and encourage them to play with Lego blocks.
Group B seems to be willing to talk, is worried about death, and deserves to be heard.
Group C has several things on its side including history, numbers, politics, and money. On that alone they deserve to be heard, especially because they might be packing heat.
Whenever anything is going to be changed, especially something that has been a basic American right, there had better be strong and hopefully indisputable reasons for change. Likewise, no change should be carved in stone without the possibility of retraction. Giving women the right to vote happened with good intentions, and it worked out well. Prohibition happened with good intentions, but the results showed there is not always a connection between reality and theory. We know where reality comes from, but what about theory? Theory comes from asking questions.
The only way to know if a theory will hold up is either to put it in effect and observe the results or ask as many questions as possible until you have exhausted all known angles. Look at a situation, ask questions, weigh the likely answers produced by theorizing, and continue until you have covered all bases to the best of your knowledge. This gun debate has so far resulted in the same questions, good questions, asked again and again. If these good questions are the “right” questions, and if they are answered correctly, then they should not have to be asked again. Once you have run out of questions, you will likely have all the information necessary to make a decision. In this gun situation, questions are being asked, but then they’re being asked again, and again. Why? Either it is because they are the wrong questions or because those questions are not being answered correctly. Someone is not doing their job.
Here are some questions for which we have not heard good answers. There might very well be good answers out there. If you have any of those answers, share them here because it might cause someone in Group B to join Group C. Or, vice versa.
As for Group A, just get them some more cookies.
Question 1: from Group B “Why are you against background checks?”
Answer 1: from Group C “Background checks have not been proven to stop anyone. Plenty of murderers passed a background check. Also, plenty of people who were turned away have found other ways to get guns and kill people.”
Examination: Well, that cannot be proven either true or false. If a background check prohibits someone from getting a gun, there is no way to know if that person would have killed anyone. Conversely, anyone who passed a background check and later killed someone was probably not thinking about killing anyone at the time they were given a weapon. When people buy cars, they do not plan to drive drunk and kill anyone. That is unpredictable. However, here’s where the background checks can help. There is – or was – something called a “waiting period.” Its purpose was to stop an angry person from getting a gun and killing someone while in the heat of an angry moment. Opponents would ask Why must I wait? I’m not going to do anything wrong? Advocates would answer with, Do you really need a gun immediately? If you know you are going to need a gun on a certain day, then apply a week ahead of time. What is the big deal? Calm down. Relax. A waiting period allowed that angry person to have some time to relax, cool off, and then realize that a gun would not be the answer to anything. Except maybe a Jeopardy question.
Question 2: from Group B “Why are you against closing the “gun show loophole” or what is called a “universal background check”?
Answer 2: from Group C “Criminals do not buy guns at gun shows.”
Examination: Well, again, yeah, but that does not answer the question. It is a true statement that distracts from the answer. There are professionally licensed gun dealers who sell guns at gun shows but must complete a background check. However, at that same gun show, there are private citizens who legally sell guns to other private citizens without requiring a background check. That is the loophole. Group C is correct when they said “Criminals don’t buy guns at gun shows. They get them on the street.” However, Group B is not following up and explaining how those guns get on the streets. People go to gun shows, buy guns without background checks, and then make a lot of money selling them to criminals on the streets. Lots of money to be made there.
Question 3: from Group B “Why are you against limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds instead of 30?”
Answer 3: from Group C “It infringes on my 2nd Amendment rights.”
Examination: No it doesn’t. Limiting the number of bullets you can fire before taking a break is not a 2nd Amendment violation. Eliminating bullets – that would be a violation. Not limiting.
Question 4: from Group B “Why are you against banning semi-automatic and/or assault-style weapons?”
Answer 4: from Group C “Semi-automatic weapons are not machine guns in gangster movies. A semi-automatic weapon still shoots only one bullet for each pull of the trigger. It is no different than even a simple hand gun.”
Examination: True, I know, but there is still a difference. For example, an AR-15 is designed so that you can easily fire four, five, even six rounds per second, depending on how quickly you can pull the trigger repeatedly. That could be six or more deaths per second. Of course, the magazine capacity will dictate how many rounds are fired in how many seconds until the clip has to be removed and replaced with a full one. Single-action or double-action guns will not fire as many bullets in as little time. That would limit how many people might die per second when compared to the semi-automatic weapons. It should be noted that a six-shot revolver also shoots one bullet per trigger pull. However, the effort it takes to pull a revolver’s trigger is greater than that of the AR-15.
Question 5: from Group B “Why are you against gun registration?”
Answer 5: from Group C “REGistration is the first step to CONfiscation. Once the government has a list of all the guns and gun owners, it is only a matter of time before they show up for a gun grab.”
Examination: Where to begin? The first follow-up question to this answer would be, “What reason do you have to think that the government is coming for your guns? It is completely impossible. Do you realize that you sound a little paranoid?” The second question would be, “Cars are registered and documented on a yearly basis. One of the benefits is so that if there is a car accident and a driver flees the scene, perhaps someone will get the license plate number. If so, the driver can be located and held accountable. If we make an effort to hold automobile owners liable for mishaps, why shouldn’t we also hold gun owners liable for mishaps? Are not guns more deadly than cars? Are not guns at least an equal or possibly more significant item to track than cars?”
Question 6: from Group B “Why are you against any kind of weapons ban or limit?”
Answer 6: from Group C “Because law-abiding people should not be punished for what a few crazy people decide to do.”
Examination: The flaw in this logic is big. The problem is that EVERYBODY starts out as a law-abiding citizen, until they decide differently. By then, it is too late and completely impossible to predict or determine what any given individual might do. That seems stringent, as if we are taking toys away from the good children. However, there are plenty of other toys for those good kids.
Bob Grant was a nationally syndicated radio host I often listened to back in the 70’s and 80’s. I once asked him what he thought was the key to being a good talk show host. He said, “Nobody listens. They ask questions, wait for the person to stop talking, and then they ask the next question on their list. The best hosts ask a question and then listen to the answer. It’s possible that you will only ask one question from your list of 10 or 20 because that first question – if you listen to the answer – might bring your interview into an entirely different direction than you planned. You must listen.”
That’s what is going wrong with this attempt at a gun discussion. Everybody is talking, but nobody is listening.