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The Weight of the Gun Debate in the Wake of Parkland

Social media is a terrible place to get your facts. It’s also a terrible place from which to reference “truth” — or at least what you believe to be the truth. Selective exposure has become almost a religion. And never has it been easier to isolate and consume than in the age of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Some are more devoted than others, but from what I’ve observed, neither side embodies impartiality to the point of usefullness; certainly not enough to have an actual discussion.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland came the predictable patterns of justification via social media: analogies, proclamations, memes, thoughts and prayers and then, in a month or so, radio-silence until the crackle of a new gunfire jostles us from slumber once again. Whether you’re pro gun control or just pro gun, chances are you spend little time examining the opposing party’s argument in any sort of depth. I’m guilty. You’re guilty.

The discussion after a mass shooting seems to begin and end with “thoughts and prayers.” And although thoughts and prayers are a nice gesture, they do little more than bolster our complacency as a country.
If gun legislation rests solely on a bedrock of sweeping prohibition, then the scales are certain to fall in the direction they always have. In fact, opponents of gun legislation will go so far as to say that the answer to gun violence is more guns. Lately, the discussion has centered around arming teachers.

Our largest and most dysfunctional policy is shoddy background checks, whose processes catalyzed the massacres in Charleston, South Carolina, Sutherland Springs, Texas, and at Virginia Tech. Dylan Roof, for instance, obtained his weapon by way of a “default proceed” in which a gun sale goes through in lieu of a background check. In most cases (~90%) background checks are either approved or denied within minutes. But in some cases the FBI needs more information. They have three days in which to come back with a decision. Should the check take longer than that, the seller may proceed. Case in point: Charleston.

If we’re going to have a debate about guns and how we use them, let’s also talk about the American people and how they’re living.
Are they frustrated? Do they feel overworked? Do they feel as if the American Dream is still alive? Do they trust their elected officials?

All of these are valid questions in the gun debate. Perhaps instead of meeting fire with fire, we should give fire less fuel to begin with. There are many ways we could achieve this. Restricting the purchase of certain guns as other developed nations have is only part of the process, but a good start. Because doing so requires humility. A quality America seems to be lacking in. Humility is the recognition of all that you don’t know or understand.

For my part I don’t fully understand why gun control has worked in other countries. Research into the facts had me seeing the issue from the opposite side, a side I never thought I would sympathize with. We are similar in many ways to our neighbors across the pond, but also very different. The Home of the Free and Land of the Brave is armed to the teeth.

I wonder if the Wayne LaPierre’s of our country would comply should AR-15s become illegal tomorrow. Would voters rally behind candidates that looked beyond guns themselves as a remedy to our bloody woes? Our current administration doesn’t seem to have any interest in being proactive. And our-commander-in-chief embodies arrogance of the highest degree.

It is under this brand of leadership that I fear we will never ask these questions, but instead stick to our guns.