Thoughtful Discussion Needed on Guns
George Mitchell’s “gotcha” column doesn’t help. Real exchange of issues is needed.
Some Urban Milwaukeeans may have read “The Contrarian: The Real ‘Gun Nuts’” by George Mitchell. Some of you may have nodded in agreement, while others may have shaken their head. I was in the latter camp. This piece did little, if anything, to further the conversation on gun control measures and only re-hashed arguments we have heard over and over again. It is great that the author wants to talk about gun control; he would benefit the populace, however, if he did it in a productive way that would bring our community forward rather than keep it stuck in place.
Mitchell starts off by stating that he is relieved to be off Twitter and Facebook because it was too stressful to bear people’s ignorance about gun control. To show how these “otherwise sensible people” are “completely ignorant,” the author takes us on an imaginary trip to his local Starbucks where he tells his friends he owns a semi-automatic assault weapon. Their eyebrows raise and jaws drop when they hear this fact. He then shows them a picture of a Smith & Wesson MP pistol and says this is the assault weapon he owns. “Assault” because it could be used in self-defense to assault an attacker and “semi-automatic” because a round is automatically chambered after each trigger pull.
Setting aside that this conversation is all in his imagination, everyday people do not use the term “assault weapon” when discussing a pistol. In fact, referencing legislative language used in the 1994 US Assault Weapons Ban, the pistol he is referencing would NOT be considered an assault weapon. The author manages to dream up an argument in his head, obscure the definition of assault weapon, and not get to the heart of the issue that the vast majority of us “completely ignorant” gun control advocates want: re-evaluation of flaws in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), strengthening of processes that can prevent firearms ending up in the hands of those prone to violence, closing any loopholes that allow people to purchase a gun without a background check, and keeping military grade weapons out of the hands of civilians.
The last point, what constitutes “military grade,” should be properly debated in Congress but, as the author points out, we already regulate fully automatic weapons so clearly there is a role for Government to play in the regulation of firearms. Over 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks yet nothing is being done. Instead of stretching definitions and setting our friends up with “gotcha” moments, how about we focus on what 97 percent of Americans want and make sure our elected officials are truly representing us.
After all this, Mitchell proceeds to assert that even if AR-15s were banned and confiscated from lawful owners, people could still get their hands on a pistol and become proficient enough to discharge 100 or more rounds in less than five minutes. Even if we accept this as fact, the author demonstrates that it is harder and takes longer to prepare a mass shooting if you only have a pistol. We can never fully remove the threat of violence from society, but that does not absolve the government of the responsibility to take common sense steps to reduce the chance of violence occurring. Citizens are seeking a better future, not another funeral to attend.
The author’s argument boils down to the fact that if a law cannot completely prevent an atrocity from happening, then why have the law at all? Since a law against speeding doesn’t stop all cars from speeding, why have the law? Since banning heroin does not stop people from using heroin, why have the law? Mitchell would be well to remember the saying, “Do not let perfect become the enemy of good.” There are no perfect laws. This does not mean we shouldn’t strive for good ones.
Finally, the author proclaims that gun controllers always have “chest thumping-assaults on the NRA”. He seeks to prove the NRA is a fine organization because he has taken courses at his local gun club and everyone there was down to earth. Again, a majority of gun control advocates are not attacking individual gun owners. And they are against the NRA for many reasons but, for the sake of this reply, I won’t even get into the NRA debate. I will simply present quotes from David Hoggs, a student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that survived the tragedy. David said “we have a right to live just as we have a right to bear arms,” and that he doesn’t “want to take a constitutional right away from American citizens.” The real leaders of this movement, the students who have risen to the occasion after this tragedy, are not even suggesting the confiscation of weapons that the author seems determined to prove is their main goal. Let’s listen to the kids who were affected by this tragedy and work together to implement common-sense reform instead of arguing against straw men in fictitious conversations.
I would love to engage with the author, and the broader public, on what policy solutions we think should be implemented to decrease the rate of mass murders in America. Instead of telling pistol owners to try an “experiment” to fool their “completely ignorant” friends, let’s have a real discussion on guns, safety, mental health, and individual rights. Discuss with your neighbors and friends what you can do in your community. Find someone who disagrees with you and seek common ground on the issue.
And ask yourself and others, if 97 percent of Americans support background checks then why did the State Assembly of Wisconsin remove background checks from a recent Wisconsin gun bill?
If the author quit Twitter and Facebook because of the knee-jerk reactions or hyperbolic statements, then I see no point on bringing that type of discourse to the important issues of our time. Let’s instead combat immature discourse with decency, common sense and logical argumentation. These are the methods that will lead us into the light of a more perfect union, not cast us further into the shadows.
Kyle Hagge is a Trinity Fellow at Marquette University and the co-host of Bridge the City, a podcast that bridges together people, resources, and ideas in Milwaukee, and can be found on twitter. https://twitter.com/bridgethecitywi
More about the Gun Violence
- Representative Lisa Subeck Praises Federal Background Check Expansion Act Introduction - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Jan 9th, 2019
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Helps Introduce Background Check Expansion Act To Reduce Gun Violence - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Jan 9th, 2019
- Senator Larson & Representative Bowen: Call on Gun Manufacturers to Prioritize “Smart Gun” Technology and Other Gun Safety Measures in Order to Reduce Gun Violence - State Sen. Chris Larson - Sep 13th, 2018
- School Safety Grant Program Avoids Larger Issues of Gun Violence - State Sen. Chris Larson - Jul 24th, 2018
- Most School Shooters Get Their Guns at Home - State Rep. Terese Berceau - May 22nd, 2018
- Governor Walker Orders Flags to Half-Staff Following Tragedy in Santa Fe, Texas - Gov. Scott Walker - May 18th, 2018
- Bryce Releases Statement on Santa Fe High School Shooting - Randy Bryce - May 18th, 2018
- Why Student Activists Did 50 Mile March - Will Kenneally - Apr 20th, 2018
- Roys Marks 19th Anniversary of Columbine Shooting - Kelda Roys - Apr 20th, 2018
- Marchers Seek Gun Control - Margaret Cannon - Apr 5th, 2018
- Giffords Endorses Rebecca Dallet for Wisconsin Supreme Court Against Gun Lobby Backed Candidate - Rebecca Dallet - Mar 30th, 2018
- Mayor Tom Barrett Applauds Passage of Bill Prohibiting Straw Purchasing - Mayor Tom Barrett - Mar 28th, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs $100 Million School Safety Plan into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 26th, 2018
- Republicans Again Did Nothing to Address Gun Violence - State Sen. Chris Larson - Mar 20th, 2018
- School safety package is rushed, needs significant fixes - State Rep. David Bowen - Mar 20th, 2018
- Tom Palzewicz Releases Comprehensive Gun Safety Reform Plan - Tom Palzewicz - Mar 20th, 2018
- Dana Wachs Responds to Gov. Walker’s Short-Sighted School Safety Plan - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Mar 15th, 2018
- Gov. Walker fails to act on gun safety - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Mar 15th, 2018
- No Child Should Ever Feel Unsafe in School: Governor Walker Calls $100 million Special Session on School Safety - Gov. Scott Walker - Mar 15th, 2018
- I stand with our children - Ald. Chantia Lewis - Mar 14th, 2018
- National Walkout Day: I Sit in Solidarity with Students - State Rep. Jimmy Anderson - Mar 14th, 2018
- Youth Council measure urges support of National School Walkout Day and March for Our Lives - City of Milwaukee Youth Council - Mar 13th, 2018
- Mayor Tom Barrett, City Leaders Call For Gun Safety from Children - Mayor Tom Barrett - Mar 12th, 2018
- The State of Politics: School Safety Bill Renews Gun Debate - Steven Walters - Mar 12th, 2018
- The Intersection of Guns and Race - State Sen. Lena Taylor - Mar 8th, 2018
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Cosponsors Critical School Safety Legislation - U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin - Mar 6th, 2018
- Representative Subeck Statement on Governor’s Comments on School Safety - State Rep. Lisa Subeck - Mar 1st, 2018
- Roys calls on Walker to pass common sense gun reform during proposed special session on gun violence - Kelda Roys - Mar 1st, 2018
- Op Ed: Thoughtful Discussion Needed on Guns - Kyle Hagge - Mar 1st, 2018
- Guns, Grief and Grace - Elizabeth Baker - Feb 28th, 2018
- The time for action on gun violence is now - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Feb 28th, 2018
- The Contrarian: The Real “Gun Nuts” - George Mitchell - Feb 26th, 2018
- Did Michael Screnock Promise the NRA He Supports More Guns in Schools? - One Wisconsin Now - Feb 23rd, 2018
- Universal Background Checks Fail on Party Line in WI State Assembly - State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff - Feb 21st, 2018
- Bryce Calls on Speaker Ryan to Meet with Students from his District - Randy Bryce - Feb 21st, 2018
- Republicans block school shooting precautions - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Feb 20th, 2018
- Passage of Senate Bill 408 - State Sen. Chris Larson - Feb 20th, 2018
- Republican Bill Would Put Guns in Wisconsin Schools - One Wisconsin Now - Feb 19th, 2018
- Speaker Ryan Chooses Campaign Donors Over South Florida Teacher - Randy Bryce - Feb 17th, 2018
- Dana Wachs Calls for an Overhaul of Assault Weapon Laws and Other Measures to Fight Domestic Terrorism - State Rep. Dana Wachs - Feb 16th, 2018
- GOP Chair of State Assembly Committee on Education, School Principal Shares Article Romanticizing Guns in Schools in Aftermath of Florida Mass School Shooting - One Wisconsin Now - Feb 16th, 2018
- Data Wonk: The More Guns, Less Crime Scam - Bruce Thompson - Oct 18th, 2017
- Op Ed: 5 Ways to Reduce Gun Deaths - Patrick Dunphy - Oct 16th, 2017