How To Find the Center In the Gun Reform Debate

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March 28, 2018 by bellabettina79

The country is extra polarized about a lot of issues. Gun reform is no exception. But for myself and many others who want to find a realistic solution, we feel our opinions are completely unrepresented in the debate. Apparently, we only have either/or choices. It’s either ban guns or do nothing, Trump or Hillary, Democrats or Republicans, Left or Right. Why must the choice always be one extreme or the other?

What about None Of the Above?

What do you do if you don’t believe gun bans will solve our gun violence problem, but you feel as if something needs to be done?

My perspective for this very difficult issue is to find the root cause. As an Analyst, I thrive on asking questions (which can easily drive people nuts). However, understanding the “why” can help us answer the “what” and the “how”.

Too often, people just accept information at face value, follow along with the pack, and fail to think critically about what they see or hear. That is why we have failed to resolve so many pervasive issues in our culture.

So, in order to find the root cause (and therefore a viable solution) for gun violence one merely needs to ask a single question: Why do people manage their anger through the barrel of a gun?

There isn’t a solitary answer. Yet, if our country focused on providing the tools to help people cope with those reasons, then perhaps we will finally be able to alleviate a vast majority of violent incidents involving guns. Let me be clear: we don’t need to ban guns to stop gun violence so long as our citizens are willing to have a difficult and HONEST conversation about anger management, poverty, racism, and mental health.

All of us should be asking one simple question, each and every time we have an opportunity: Why can’t we focus our money and time on giving people tools to deal better with what makes them pick up a gun in the first place?

Addressing the root cause of gun violence isn’t a radical perspective. I have talked with many people who are extremists on the Right and the Left, and we have all agreed that this country lacks coping skills (though we definitely disagree on who is to blame). Personally, I don’t give a shit how we got here…we need to acknowledge that we are here and we need to change.

The inability to handle a tough day, moment, or conversation is not something unique to teenagers…simply look at any comments section of a Facebook post and you’ll find plenty of adults who need some serious coping skills. These adults cannot refrain from firing off insults and death threats toward people who merely have a different opinion.

anger

Anger management, folks.

And this isn’t solely about guns being turned on other people. Suicide is the leading cause of death with respect to guns. Addressing gun violence isn’t merely about saving innocent children in schools; we also want to help people learn there are options for healing before they take their own life with that weapon.

So, what are the coping skills that could alleviate suicide and/or homicide? I could list many of them, but the most important is to seek counseling. Someone who can be a sounding board for life’s many difficulties. A third party who you aren’t afraid will judge you for how you think or feel. Even counselors need counselors, y’all.

Our healthcare system should make it a priority to pay for (maybe even incentivize) counseling to address anger, sadness, frustration, grief, abuse, shyness, poverty. You name any challenge or adversity, and a good therapist can teach you how to overcome.

I see a counselor, and I am not ashamed of it. No one should be, because it’s not a weakness to ask for help coping with difficult problems. At age 27, I was raped. That incident ended up destroying my life, piece by piece, for several years as I spiraled into a very self-destructive mode. Most of the disparaging choices I made were completely subconscious.

I didn’t seek help until 6 years later when my grandmother died, and the grief left me so crippled I couldn’t stop crying for days.

DAYS.

The guilt, the grief, the shame…all of it came flooding at me like a dam had burst. These are the moments where people ponder picking up a gun and ending it all. Someone had to help me learn to cope, but my friends and family didn’t know how.

FYI – my mother is a psychologist. But she couldn’t help me. I needed to talk to someone who wasn’t my mother, someone I could tell my darkest secrets and indiscretions to without fear of judgment.

(By the way, this is exactly why I advocate for anyone struggling to seek counseling, as opposed to just turning to your friends and family. Girls’ nights are wonderful and all, but even the best of friendships can be destroyed when secrets are revealed.)

After 5 years of therapy, I’ve learned strengths I never knew I had. I also didn’t realize until several sessions in just how much the trauma from the rape was shaping my decisions, even so many years later. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that therapy.

America, we need to remove the stigma attached to mental health, counseling, and addressing deeply rooted emotions which impact our daily actions.

I attended the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24. Though I don’t agree with all of the things the Parkland students are asking for, I still believe it is important that we change something. Contrary to a popular belief among modern political activists (on both sides) I do not have to agree 100% with the talking points or the end result in order to be part of an important movement. Politics shouldn’t be a bunch of carbon-copied voters. In fact, it’s imperative that I participate so I don’t allow the entire movement to speak on behalf of me, a bleeding-heart liberal who doesn’t want to ban guns.

I have my own voice, in a sea of demands for change.

So, why don’t I want to ban guns? Because it doesn’t solve the problem of why people feel they have no other option than to act violently. Do I think we have a problem with gun glorification in this country? Abso-fucking-lutely.

But…if we ban guns, that doesn’t get rid of them. It only makes them unregulated.

We know this to be true because of prohibition in the 1930s and the so-called “war on drugs” we have now. Banning alcohol led to a lot of deaths when people decided to make their own with toxic chemicals. Banning marijuana hasn’t kept people from smoking it; instead the drug is merely unregulated (and therefore, less safe). I strongly feel marijuana should be legal so it can be regulated for safety. I strongly feel guns should also be legal so they can be regulated for safety.

By the way, some people recently have demonized regulation, which is ridiculous. Ask the citizens of Flint, Michigan, if they feel regulations on safe drinking water are a bad idea.

While I was in D.C., I did an interview with VICELAND. Of the multiple stations I spoke to that day I found that interview to be the most fulfilling. I hadn’t said anything that was particularly unusual or controversial – all I asked was that Americans find solidarity in an important factor: addressing anger management and coping skills can reduce violence.

I also mentioned with respect to the Second Amendment, when we have a modern society which is dictated by 18th century policy, there will be consequences. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer decides justice with “consequence” in mind, and I feel he is correct in doing so.

breyer scalia.jpg

VICELAND told me I was speaking to issues no one else had mentioned. I found that shocking, because it means we really have lost what is important in this entire conversation. Is it too much to ask that we stop taking extreme positions and start talking about realistic solutions?

My brother is the extreme polar opposite of me politically, but I often speak with him about why he feels the way he does. I want to know how he feels because I can’t ever dream of finding a solution to so many of our political problems unless I understand his mindset, emotion, and life experiences that led him to such opinions.

Maybe it’s the Analyst in me, but I understand no lasting progress comes from only having half the facts. Often, understanding the human element of different viewpoints brings enlightenment which can lead to good resolutions.

This country does not do well with giving people tools to handle adversity. That’s why parents can’t cope with their child getting any grade less than an “A”, why those parents blame teachers for failing students, why Trump supporters and Trump haters can’t sit in the same room together without screaming, and why children can’t seem to cope with any level of discomfort or boredom without completely coming unglued.

It’s ok to be uncomfortable. It’s not ok to feel as if discomfort is justification for violence.

Speaking of discomfort, to properly address gun violence our country will also need to acknowledge some other factors which cause violence. These are controversial. But they are very important:

  • Our prison system (especially as a for-profit industry) thrives on the revolving door of incarceration. We should not allow entities to profit from crime.
  • Criminals who have completed their sentence (i.e., “paid their debt to society”) need opportunities to gain work, housing, voting rights, and healthcare. Treating former convicts as if they are still behind bars makes them more likely to return to crime out of sheer desperation. How can someone with no job put food on their table? Once a sentence is complete, former convicts should be as free to pursue happiness and prosperity as the rest of us.
  • Health is not the same as illness. Likewise, mental health is not the same as mental illness. Mental health is something EVERYONE should practice, elevate, and encourage. Don’t save mental health discussions only for those who have a diagnosed disease.
  • Something I learned while watching my father battle heart disease: People can become violent when their brain does not get enough oxygen. Therefore, any of us who are susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, or stroke are also at risk for becoming enraged over trivial matters. No one should ever feel as if they are exempt from becoming violent, especially when a weapon is in the home. The question “How do you know you’ll never turn your gun on someone else in a moment of rage?” has a simple answer. You don’t know.
  • Racism. It is real, and it is systemic. As a Caucasian woman, I acknowledge my privilege. I can tell you stories about how my white skin, gender, and looks have allowed me to be treated much differently (better) than women and men of color. Many in this country refuse to even acknowledge that racism is still a problem. It IS a problem, and those who refuse to admit it are allowing it to persist.

Parkland students have upped the game, and I applaud them for so fearlessly asking for change. We do need change, but we need the right change. Let’s drop the Left- and Right-wing talking points and actually make progress this time. We owe it to those students, and we owe it to ourselves.

 

7 thoughts on “How To Find the Center In the Gun Reform Debate

  1. greenpete58 says:

    At the beginning of your essay you say “It’s either ban guns, or do nothing.”

    Where do you get the idea that gun control advocates want a blanket “banning” of guns?

  2. greenpete58 says:

    Ok, thanks, just checking. Question then: do you really consider prohibiting civilians from purchasing and owning a military-style, high-capacity-magazine weapon, designed to kill many people at once, a politically “Left” position?

    • In my opinion, it shouldn’t be a left- or right- position. It should be politically agnostic. However, most of the discussion I’m seeing on social media and television media is polarized, such that any right-leaning person who wants to ban military-style weapons is immediately branded a “leftist”. I think it’s unfair. He decision to prohibit certain high-capacity magazines and military-style weapons should be determined by the voters, either nationally or at the state level.

    • By the way, I appreciate your questions! Very good and insightful.

  3. greenpete58 says:

    I agree with you, this should not be a left or right issue. Reason? It’s a public health crisis when a nation has 25 times the gun murder rate of any other high-income nation (and it also has the most lax gun laws). And a public health crisis should not be a political football. However, any common-sense legislation to remedy this crisis through gun reforms has met with head-on opposition from the gun lobby (NRA)… who subsidize numerous elected officials, most from the Republican Party (plus a handful of Dems from rural states).

    Only in America in the year 2018 would prohibiting private citizens from owning a weapon of war be considered an action from the “left.” In a saner society (such as Western nations outside U.S. borders) a banning of AR-15s would be considered “common sense,” not leftist. You may be new to the gun debate, so I don’t fault you, but your well-meaning essay is a good example of how successful the gun lobby has been in convincing people that a ban on assault-style weapons – or any other sensible reform to prevent these horrific tragedies – is a “left” concept.

    Your essay’s well-written, I just don’t agree with the premise that a “central” ground exists here. My hope is there will be a federal ban on assault weapons, soon (state bans won’t work, as Red states won’t take action, and guns easily cross state borders). Also, closure of the gun show loophole that allows criminals, juveniles, and the mentally unstable to legally buy guns. And federal, comprehensive background checks.

    And yes, I agree the voting booth is the ONLY way to get there. Thanks for listening… and God bless these courageous high-school students, who are trying to fix the wrongs of my generation.

  4. sabbathkeepr says:

    Now that, is a good piece of work. Keep digging.

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