Patronizing and the Gun Debate

Bill Clinton recently warned about gun control, “Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them.” I wasn’t there, but I’m sure he said it in his charming southern tone. Likely he had a twinkle in his eye, and that slight smirk on his face as he awaited the applause. Everyone loves Bill Clinton, right? Well, not all the time , but still, he’s a pretty charismatic guy who nearly single-handedly defeated Mitt Romney with his speech at the DNC. (Who knew such a long, technical speech would work so well in this day and age? I certainly didn’t.) He knows how to get things done with the other side, even when they’re things his own side is not entirely too sure about.

With regard to gun control, it may sometimes be hard not to patronize certain folks. I must admit, I shook my head upon hearing of the many accidents that happened on yesterday’s so-called “Gun Appreciation Day.” A 12 gauge shotgun discharged in Raleigh, North Carolina, injuring three people. Another man was injured in Medina Ohio when a gun dealer accidentally shot a bystander. Last, but certainly not least, another man shot himself while loading his gun outside the Gun and Knife Show in Indianapolis. Thankfully, no one was killed in any of these incidences, so I don’t feel so bad pointing out the palpable irony in it all.

It’s also hard not to patronize those who say things like “[Guns] … are absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live.” Now, it may be truthful to say that guns are great for self defense, and that self defense leads you to a new sense of safety, but to say that your God intended it this way just rings a little on the side of crazy to me. I would hate to say that God intended us to live in a constant state of fear for the lives of our family and friends unless we purchase a tool meant for killing. That’s not even mentioning that Jesus himself said, Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” I know a sword isn’t a gun, and the situations are at least a bit different, but this is one of the definite, quotable things he said, not that we can count on certain people to actually listen to his words

And it’s also so hard not to patronize Alex Jones when he starts a petition to deport Piers Morgan and then went on his show to scream that 1776 will commence again! But, that’s Alex Jones, and I guess it’s safe for us to all-out trivialize him, and the interview’s entire purpose was probably to highlight just how breathtakingly crazy he is.

But how about the NRA? They’re the big lobbyists defending this stuff. They’re out there in the dirt making sure your rights aren’t trampled. Perhaps they’re the ones we shouldn’t patronize? Well, when you speak out against Mortal Kombat in the year 2012 as a cause for gun violence, well, don’t be surprised when people not only disregard your silly opinion, but outright mock it. I’ll believe Mortal Kombat was a large part of the problem when a kid does a hand-to-hand fatality and kills 20+ people. Until such a time, I really doubt I’ll ever see a connection. I also tend to think when you stop gun-related research simply because it might come out against you, you’re also drifting into the realm of crazy. Yes, the NRA fought against research:

The federal Centers for Disease Control has cut firearms safety research by 96 percent since the mid-1990s, according to one estimate. Congress, pushed by the gun lobby, in 1996 put restrictions on CDC funding of gun research into the budget. Restrictions on other agencies were added in later years. [link]

And, guess who was President during this time? The non-patronizer himself, Bill Clinton. Now, I’m not entirely sure what he could have done at that time to fight it, but it surely doesn’t look good on his part. As President Obama says, “We don’t benefit from ignorance.”

As far as patronizing and trivializing goes, though, I think the most I’ve heard on this topic has been those silly image macros and quick sayings by gun advocates across social media and even uttered in real life when they’re feeling especially smug. It goes something like this, “if you think passing laws banning all guns is the answer… criminals DON’T pay attention to laws, DUMBASS!!!” Now, I realize I should probably never pay attention to an image with the face of a puppet that has terribly unfunny comedian Jeff Dunham’s hand up its rear-side, but the sentiment seems to stand for many.

First off, in this country there really are very few who actually want to pass laws banning all guns. Painfully few. This is a complete straw man equating any and all control to actually taking away all guns. Second off, this is an alarmingly inaccurate worldview. Not every crime is committed by criminals. Well, ok, every crime is by definition, but what I mean is that not every crime is committed by what we think of when we think of criminals. Not every gun crime is someone who has thought things out for weeks or months, planned what to do, and would likely circumvent everything in place in order to do their will. Not every gun crime is something like what happened in Aurora. That’s fresh in our minds, but we can’t let that be the only thing in our minds. No, what’s increasingly likely with guns is that people reach a point of depression, or a point of anger, or perhaps a point in a particular mental illness, and they reach for what they have available to them. A domestic dispute, for instance, may end with someone reaching for a gun that they previously bought when they weren’t “criminals,” and then BAM, someone’s dead or badly injured. Many times, though, this depression will lead to grabbing a gun and committing suicide. There aren’t two types of people, bad people and good people. No, there’s just humanity and its fragile psyche.

These are the things we’re talking about when we speak of lowering the rates of gun deaths. It’s patronizing to think that most of us don’t realize that some criminals will do all they can to pass up laws and do damage. We realize this. We just realize that statistically speaking more people will be deterred. To put it in a crude metaphor, let’s say you’re the sort of person that buys a lot of the candy sitting next to the checkouts at grocery stores. Now, if they moved that stuff and instead had nothing there no one would argue that if you really wanted to you could go pick some up elsewhere in the store. But, statistically, if we moved that it should lower your chance of grabbing those things. After all, that’s why they put them there. That’s what we’re talking about. If you put up even small barriers, as hard as it is to believe, those barriers will help prevent some instances. And let’s not forget that those in the midst of depression aren’t exactly the most motivated to go circumvent good, tightened laws, and search through a black market. That’s especially true when they’re just younger perpetrators who really lack the knowledge of the outside world and just wouldn’t be able to find such connections.

And statistics come into play with accidents, too. The examples stated near the top of this post show that. When you get many people together with dangerous tools, you get an increased chance of an accident with those dangerous tools. That’s just the facts. Increasing the amount of people with those tools just factually increases the amount of woops that can happen. This is the same for things that aren’t just a woops. If you let anyone and everyone have these tools, then you deal with the consequences of anyone and everyone having them. Small barriers reduce these things.

This should dispel some of the falsity in the proverb “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” too. Yes, on the reactionary surface it’s true. People kill people, and stupid people injure people, accidentally, like the examples at the top of this post. Easy access to guns makes it all the easier for this to happen, though. Again, that’s what we mean, and I think it’s patronizing to wave that line in front of us like its a flag. We know what you’re talking about, we just also know there’s a bit of nuance to it, something which you apparently forgot.

Now I know that a lot of these people aren’t and shouldn’t be representative of the gun advocate side. Some are caricatures, and others are just stupid. Still, when you’re talking about single issue, passionate gun advocates (and I’m pretty sure Bill was), some of these aren’t entirely far off. As politico points out in this example:

Clinton recalled Al Gore’s 2000 campaign against George W. Bush in Colorado, where a referendum designed to close the so-called gun show loophole shared the ballot with the presidential ticket. Gore publicly backed the proposal, while Bush opposed it. Though the referendum passed with 70 percent of the vote, Gore lost the state. Clinton said that the reason was because a good chunk of the referendum’s opponents were single-issue voters who automatically rejected Gore as anti-gun. [link]

To me, if that isn’t unreasonable, then I just don’t know what is. If someone supports something that you yourself support, why is he anti-gun? It’s the same question I have about how Obama is painted. Outside of his “cling to their guns or religion” comment, he’s really done almost nothing to patronize gun advocates. Let’s not forget that he actually expanded gun rights in his first term, by allowing concealed carry in national parks, and allowing guns in baggage on Amtrak. But, I guess now is his dreaded second term where he will come for your guns. He’ll be just like the boogieman you’ve had in your closet this whole time. He’ll be the most anti-gun president in history. He’ll send out his police to take them from your cold, dead hands. Then, when they’re gone he will have followed Hitler, apparently. (psst, the gun control laws in Germany actually happened before Hitler came to power.)

I guess what I’m getting at here is that sure, the gun control advocates should be less patronizing, but gun advocates should also try and be less patronizing and reactionary. I think as a nation we deserve a nice discussion on these things. Personally, yes, I think the Assault Weapons Ban is just silly posturing and back-patting. I’m with you guys there. Personally I think doing more for our social welfare will help gun violence probably more than some gun control laws, too. There are still things we can do, though, and research that can be analyzed, though. Stonewalling gets you nowhere. Appealing to the authority of the constitution and stopping right there without a discussion gets you nowhere. Throwing up smug image macros on your Facebook calling those wanting a discussion sheep gets you nowhere. Come on gun advocates, get your stuff together. Take on the NRA. They don’t care about you. They care about money. Don’t let them control the conversation. Join this discussion with us. I know there are some sane ones out there. I’ve talked to them. I work with them. I’ve grown up with them. Outside of the patronizing and trivializing they’re great American citizens that I’m proud to know. Let’s forget who’s on what side, and let’s come together and have a conversation on how to make this country better.

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