What Does Protecting Your Family Look Like to You?

Calm gun control discussion hosted by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom. Statistics on American gun ownership

Calm gun control discussion hosted by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom. Statistics on American gun ownership

I know I’m not the only one, but I find it very difficult to concentrate immediately following a national tragedy (whether it’s natural or man made). Obviously, I have strong feelings about this topic and come to this with my own biases, but here are some of the things I heard and learned yesterday as I argued with friends and strangers about guns:

1) When I mentioned something like stricter gun laws, or gun law reform, or improving gun laws, most of the gun owners responding seemed to hear my words as: I want to take your guns away. Even though I never suggested or hinted at such a thing. So that makes it hard to start a fruitful conversation. I’m still trying to figure out how to solve that glitch. Maybe if I start comments with “I definitely want you to be able to keep your guns, but….”

2) Based on wide polling, most Americans, whether they own guns or not, are totally in favor of things like universal background checks, and eliminating gun purchase loopholes at gun shows, and not allowing people on the no-fly list to buy guns. These things just make common sense. The vast majority of us are actually all on the same team as far as being on board with gun control. Which is great news.

So why can’t we make some progress in this area? Well, this isn’t something I learned yesterday, but a lot of it comes down to the NRA. Even though initiatives like I mentioned have wide bipartisan public support, the NRA is powerful enough and gives our representatives (both Democrat and Republican) so much money, that they can prevent legislation from passing. Which is what happened to the proposed legislation following Sandy Hook.

3) Though many countries (including ones with similar cultures to ours like Canada and Australia) have largely solved their gun problems, there are a whole lot of people who aren’t willing to look at what works elsewhere. There seems to be an idea that America is too different from every other country. I mean, I realize it truly is a unique situation, but I still think we can learn from other countries.

4) There are so many responsible gun owners in our country. They get proper training and follow the laws and go through the background checks. Which is fantastic. There are also a lot of people who consider themselves responsible gun owners but sleep with a gun under their pillow while parenting very young children in the same house. Do I think that’s an example of responsible gun ownership? Personally, no. But it brings up a good point: What does responsible gun ownership look like? There is no official definition, and I didn’t see much consensus on this in yesterday’s discussions.

I think it would be helpful if the idea of responsible gun ownership was more defined and agreed upon, because from what I can tell, it seems like it would align with fairly strict gun regulation. Which (no surprise) I’m on board with.

5) Speaking of responsible gun owners, every single one I asked would be totally fine if semi-automatic assault rifles were severely limited in availability or not sold at all. That seems like a good unifying thing, a point we could all rally behind. Everyone seems to understand that these are not tools used to protect families, they are used attack and to kill a lot of people at once.

6) When the topic of gun law reform is brought up, there are a limited number of arguments that status quo gun advocates will present. And yesterday they were presented over and over again. Perhaps they will be presented in the comments below. They boil down to these:
– more laws won’t work
– guns don’t kill people, people kill people
– it’s not appropriate to discuss this right now
– you can’t talk about this unless you’ve already eliminated abortion and solved alcohol-related deaths
– the status quo is working fine for me and I don’t want things to change
– it’s a “heart” problem, not a gun problem
– it’s a mental health problem, not a gun problem
– any gun law changes will punish responsible gun-owners
– evil people will be evil even without guns
– we already have really strict gun laws
– there’s nothing that can be done

I understand these arguments were offered sincerely in some cases, but personally I find them to be pretty weak (or examples of straw men), and I spent a lot of time responding to them yesterday. Ultimately, they seem to be a distraction from what people are really feeling. Which is:

7) There are a whole lot of Americans that are 100% convinced they will need to defend their family at gun point. Today, tomorrow, or sometime in the future. And to this particular group (which is a LOT of people), owning a gun, and spending time training how to use it, is simply what is required to be a responsible adult or responsible parent. A worthy goal.

The problem I have with this goal, is that it doesn’t really seem to be justified from a non-emotional standpoint. If shown statistics that they are more likely to get hit by lightening than they are to have to defend their family at gun point, it doesn’t change their thinking even a little bit. If shown reports that it’s been proven that homes with guns are actually less safe than homes without, they think their home is the exception. If told that data shows their guns are more likely to cause harm to an innocent family member than a criminal, they block that fact out.

They sincerely believe their family is or will be under attack. And the only thing that calms their fear, or makes them feel prepared for the oncoming attack, is owning a gun.

I understand that their feelings on this are real and powerful. I get that. I really do. The thing I can’t figure out is: where does the idea that we will need to defend our families at gun point come from? Because I don’t have that idea in my head at all, and it’s hard for me to comprehend. I mean, I get wanting to protect my family, but I don’t associate that desire with guns.

8) In a discussion about the NRA, someone brought up the history of the tobacco lobby. Apparently, for many years they were hugely influential, and it was thought that nothing could overcome them. But here we are today, and smoking isn’t allowed in restaurants, in airports, on campuses or in most publics spaces. Things have changed drastically. The tipping point seemed to be putting into words that one citizen’s rights couldn’t infringe on the health and safety of another citizen.

If we allow members of our community to gather a personal collection of semi-automatic rifles over a few years or even decades, with no knowledge of how they are stored or maintained, are we putting their rights above the safety of the community?

What would it take to overcome the influence of the NRA?

9) The way gun owners spoke yesterday about mental health was troubling to me. Part of why they are confident in their gun ownership is because they see themselves as mentally healthy. But bodies are tricky. They change. And sometimes change very quickly. You’re healthy one month and the next month you have cancer. The brain is part of the body and it can change quickly too. Ben Blair’s great-grandfather was President of BYU. He also committed suicide because of depression. Bodies change. Often without warning or awareness that the change has happened.

Yes, you’re a healthy, responsible gun owner today, with a tidy personal collection of firearms. But when you hit a mid-life crisis will it be as safe for you to have easy access to guns? How about when you become older and senile or forgetful? How about when your teens go from happy-go-lucky to depressed and suicidal over night?

10) What I’d like to see? More sensible regulation and lots of it. We could start with what we require of drivers and car owners. Things like registration for all guns, required to be renewed yearly. Regular physical inspections of all guns to make sure they are working properly and have not been altered in a harmful way. Universal gun licensing with ongoing renewals and physical check ups to make sure gun owners are of sound mind and body. I would LOVE to see a nationwide gun buyback modeled after what was done in Australia. I know people have invested a lot of money in their guns and it would be great if they could get that investment back while doing something good for their community. I think semi-automatic firearms should be illegal and not sold period (and old models not grandfathered in either which is what has happened with automatic rifles). I think it should be very difficult to be able to get a permit to sell guns, and that guns should only be sold in a very small number of regulated shops. I think we should limit the amount of ammunition that can be purchased. I would like to see gun laws unified across the country, because we don’t have checkpoints at state lines, and it’s too easy to buy a firearm in one state and bring it to another. I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

Notice that none of these ideas mean guns are being taken from people against their will. None of these ideas mean someone can’t protect their family. None of these ideas prevent hunters from participating in their sport or from providing meat for their family.

Would these ideas 100% eliminate gun violence in America? Not likely. Would they reduce the amount of gun violence in America. It seems so. And hey, at the request of 2nd amendment enthusiasts, we’ve tried the status quo for a long time now and we know gun violence has only gotten worse. Isn’t it time to try some ideas from another point of view?

What’s your take? Do you own guns? If yes, how do you define “responsible gun ownership?” Is your main reason for owning guns to protect your family? Or perhaps you’re a hunter? Are there any ideas I suggested that you feel are extreme? And as a gun owner, what changes would you suggest to reduce gun violence in our country?

For those of you who are not gun owners, what are your thoughts? Have you read anything lately that changed your thinking about guns in some way? And when you think about protecting your family, since you don’t own a gun, what comes to mind instead? For me, it’s stuff like a living will and life insurance.

How did you talk to your kids about Las Vegas? Would love to hear your thoughts.

P.S. — Want to put things in numbers perspective? This very short article stunned me. Also, this is helpful: Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts.

P.P.S — If you’re tempted to bring up Chicago or “black-on-black crime,” please don’t. I’m not okay with race-baiting while we discuss this topic (or any other time).

273 thoughts on “What Does Protecting Your Family Look Like to You?”

  1. Well stated. I think you nailed it when you reiterated several times that the gun issue is really an emotional one for gun owners – it is not about presenting rational or logical arguments or pointing to facts or learning from other countries and communities who have grappled with this issue and implemented positive change. When issues (like gun control) become emotional for stakeholders, those stakeholders (i.e. gun owners) don’t make decisions based on facts. It is not about changing their minds, it is about changing their hearts.

    And US policymakers – they are not really in a position to make morally correct decisions nor are they incentivized by the american political system to actually represent all of their constituents. They simply need to ensure they get re-elected and that they get money for re-election. If the NRA’s monetary support is part of that calculus, then policy makers wouldn’t want to endanger their job security (i.e. re-election and NRA funding) by voting in favor of gun control policy, even if it is the morally right thing to do. By asking many policymakers to vote in favor of gun control, you are also asking them to endanger their re-election, and therefore risking their livelihood/job. Why would they take that risk? And gun control is such a divisive issue, there is no reason for policymakers to take a really strong stance on the issue and alienate potential voters.

    I wish I had faith in our system to change gun laws, but it is hard to be hopeful after so many devastating attacks in America by private citizens mis-using personal firearms in the last few years and zero progress.

    1. “By asking many policymakers to vote in favor of gun control, you are also asking them to endanger their re-election, and therefore risking their livelihood/job. Why would they take that risk?”

      You’re right of course. Which is discouraging. I remember reading that to bring about legislative change in Australia a politician had to sacrifice his career. He brought about the needed changes, and was voted out the next election. He knowingly gave up his career to save the lives of his fellow citizens and it worked.

      Perhaps one of our own politicians will be so brave some day.

      1. It will take someone in their family or loved one to get hurt by a gun to make the change. As you both said, it’s heart at this point, not fact.

        1. Or not. I just heard the Dad if one of the young women injured in Vegas interviewed on the radio and he clearly stated he was not in favor of changes to gun legislation.

          1. Yes. I know someone who lost a loved one to gun violence who also does not see the gun/gun control as an issue and takes the opposite stance of more people carrying to protect. (I’m not saying this is my personal opinion.)

      2. In Colorado two legislators, including the President of the state senate were recalled or forced to resign because they backed some small changes to gun laws. They are heroes and I wrote to them and said they will go down in history as demonstrating the same courage our governor did during WW II when he stood up against the camps for Japanese American citizens. He lost the next election. What kind of cowardly people are we electing who won’t stand up for what is needed to save lives and instead accept ” blood” money for their campaigns? I wonder how they sleep at night. No parent or grandparent can ever recover from the loss of a child…

  2. Just chiming in (after years of lurking- I love your blog!) to say that your list of next steps in #10 is excellent. There’s absolutely no reason why getting and owning a gun should be less rigorous than getting and owning a car. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  3. I just want to thank you for doing what you do. You are informed about so many topics, but always acknowledge humbly when you aren’t. Your writing is continually eloquent and you ask challenging questions. You always make me think. It is for those reasons that I read this blog every day, even though I’m not even a mom. (Not that your readers need to be parents!)

    In terms of this post, I agree with all of your statements and views whole-heartedly. We need change. It is long overdue.

    I am sharing this with my friends. Thank you for writing it.

    1. You’re too good to me, Olivia. I was a real grump on Facebook yesterday and am not feeling deserving of your praise. But I truly appreciate it.

      And thank you so much for sharing this with your friends!

      1. It’s ok to be imperfect sometimes. This “debate” is beyond the realm of reasonableness, and a little anger is appropriate as we watch our fellow citizens get mowed down by semi-automatic weapons and have to sit stoically by as our children go through shelter-in-place drills at school. You’ve done a great service to us all by channeling your frustration into a productive conversation here, but equally so by letting your emotions show.

  4. I’m totally with you, Gabrielle. Stricter gun laws are the only option. But I have very little hope. After all, nothing changed after Sandy Hook. And if the death of so many kindergartner a isn’t enough to force a change then nothing is. BTW I think media is responsible for making people so fearful of other people that they think they need a gun to protect their families.

    Greetings from Germany,

    1. I think you have a point about the media, but obviously it’s not a universal thing, because I consume a lot of media but don’t feel fearful for my family. So then I wonder, is it certain kinds of media? If we polled Rush Limbaugh listeners would we find they are more likely to think they need to defend their families at gun point? If I used Facebook too much am I more likely to think I need a gun to protect my family?

      I don’t have the answer media wise. I did take Facebook off my phone and that has been an interesting experiment. But that’s another topic. : )

      1. I believe it’s about a) what you consume and b) if you have the ability to critically evaluate what you see on tv.

        1. I found a comment on Em Hendersons blog that summarizes all my thoughts on media. I cannot put it in words on my own like this since I’m no native English speaker.

          “I think we have unintentionally culture of violence in our country. Art reflects what a society values and our music, television shows, movies and video games are filled with murder, mass murder, rape and incest. I don’t believe this reflects our society’s true values but I can see how a profoundly mental ill individual would come to believe any of these violent acts are normal because these images surround them. “

  5. I loved this. Very well thought out without getting hysterical (which how I inevitably get after one of these events). It all seems so clear to those of us on this side of things; I don’t get how we’re still in this predicament. Thank you for helping parse out the opposing view points.

    1. I can’t pretend there’s wasn’t a whole lot of hysterical coming from me yesterday. It’s why I couldn’t post. It just would have been a steaming pile of anger.

      1. This Sarah is on board with the other Sara and Gabby. Once again, Gabby, you are right on and then some. (And just for the record, if I had the type of public platform that you do, I’d have THE hardest time not being hysterical publicly.).

  6. Oh my goodness, after reading a fraction of the facebook posts I was reminded (again and again) of how happy I am NOT to be on facebook – so toxic!

    To quote Mother Theresa, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

    1. Miranda Anderson

      What a beautiful quote. I attended an incredible lecture by Krista Tippett last night where she reminded us how for centuries people knew the well being of others, even strangers, impacted their own. We seem to have forgotten that.

      1. I agree wholeheartedly – it’s so hard in this world to practice but we must try! Thank you for the reference to Krista Tippett, just looked her up – wonderful!

    2. Oh I hear you on Facebook. I’ve been experimenting with using my professional profile instead of my personal profile to see if I like the experience better. Sometimes it’s really rough over there.

  7. Thank you very much for posting this very sensible and well thought out piece.
    I totally agree with you. I hope at some time in the future, you will run for public office. We Americans need more politicians with your global view, inc.lusiveness and grounding. Thank you

    1. The last office I ran for was Studentbody President in high school. I’m not sure I’m up for another run. : )

      But really, thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it.

  8. Very well-written. I spent two full days searching for a 12 year old boy who ran away from home after receiving a bad grade. He was found two days later, after a snowstorm, with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the head. He used the gun (with a “child-lock”) that has father had hidden away to protect his family. The statistics of suicide and homicide within gun-owning families is staggering.

    I am seriously considering leaving this country. I have worked for years in the areas of universal healthcare, education, and public policy. We will never change America until people care about common safety more than their rights to own guns. It is my right to go to a movie, a concert, and school without becoming a forgotten victim of another mass murder. I am so tired of the callous “thoughts and prayers.” For such a religious country, we seem to have no problem with murder. It’s really disgusting.

  9. So well said. The point you make about bodies changing in the note about mental health is such a great one—and something that isn’t brought up often. Suicide accounts for a high percentage of gun-related deaths and I’m sure the majority of parents who lose a child to a self-inflicted gunshot didn’t see it coming. It’s chilling.
    I thought you might appreciate this Propublica article in light of what you said on perception of risk (Propublica is a nonpartisan investigative journalism source, for others looking): it’s an interview with a researcher at the CDC about what they were learning before Congress defunded the studies on gun safety. https://www.propublica.org/article/what-researchers-learned-about-gun-violence-before-congress-killed-funding

    “What the research showed was not only did having a firearm in your home not protect you, but it hugely increased the risk that someone in your family would die from a firearm homicide. It increased the risk almost 300 percent, almost three times as high.

    It also showed that the risk that someone in your home would commit suicide went up. It went up five-fold if you had a gun in the home. These are huge, huge risks, and to just put that in perspective, we look at a risk that someone might get a heart attack or that they might get a certain type of cancer, and if that risk might be 20 percent greater, that may be enough to ban a certain drug or a certain product.

    But in this case, we’re talking about a risk not 20 percent, not 100 percent, not 200 percent, but almost 300 percent or 500 percent. These are huge, huge risks.”

    1. Oh. Yuck. It’s all awful, but I’m stuck on the part where Congress defunded the studies on gun safety. I mean this is not news to me and I know it’s true, but I can’t even fathom that they did this.

  10. I think we need to flip the script and talk about safety from gun access keeping families safe. A gun in your home (or in the homes your children visit) make suicide, homicide (especially domestic violence murders) and accidental gun deaths and injuries exponentially more likely to happen. Ironically, having a gun is one of the LEAST SAFE things you can do to prevent your family from experiencing violence.

    How about people acting to voluntarily reduce the number of guns out there and access to them? Get your parents to get rid of service and hunting rifles (turn them in for destruction) before your kids stumble across them. Make having a gun a frowned upon thing. Ask about guns when your kids go on play dates or hang out. http://www.askingsaveskids.org/ Sue parents and families who did not prevent kids from getting access to guns so people take this seriously.

    A school shooting happened two weeks ago in my hometown because a teenager who was suicidal had the combo to the gun safe with automatic weapons and pistols, even though he had left a suicide note the week before for his parents and had threatened people at school.

    Right now, let’s acknowledge that we love the idea of guns in America far more than we love any American. We are willing to sacrifice any number of people for a thing (in my religion that is called idolatry). It’s up to us to start a groundswell if that is not the case. Only then will politicians feel like they need to listen to us instead of the NRA.

    1. Oh. I love your comment. So much good stuff! I really like the idea of flipping the script on guns in the home. I imagine something similar happened with tobacco (second hand smoke is killing your kids!).

      I love the idea of making it a norm to always ask if a home has guns before a playdate. There’s some social shaming there that could be very effective. And I LOVE the idea of parents and families getting sued who didn’t prevent guns from being accessed by kids. I know it sounds awful to say I love it all caps, but right now, there are no real consequences. If people knew they might get sued if there’s a gun in their house, it seems like they’d be less likely to purchase one in the first place.

    2. That reminds me. Is it harder to get home insurance or life insurance if you keep a gun at home? Because based on the data we have, it should be. If you’re an insurance risk assessor, that should be a key question. Higher rates or no insurance at all till you get rid of the guns. When I lived in New York, I remember hearing that it was really hard to get home insurance if you owned a trampoline. I understand trampolines can be dangerous, but how many deaths by trampoline do we have each year compared to guns?

      1. Just RE: your comment about trampolines. I think the problem there is that insurance companies view injury as more costly than straight-up death. <— because health care costs in this country!! Everything is connected -_-

        1. That makes sense. And now I want to go compare the number of gun injuries in our country to trampoline injuries. I imagine the gun injury numbers are still staggering. Maybe I’ll be surprised.

          1. Looks like trampolines win with 300,000 broken bones each year. Though I was reading some tweets about gun violence from an ER doc, and I’m guessing she’d rather set a broken bone than deal with a gun shot wound.

            Which gets me thinking: How much medical cost do guns create every year?

            That’ll be the next thing I google…

      2. Thank you, thank you for this important and thoughtful post. As I was reading it this morning, it also dawned on me that life insurance, disability insurance and homeowners insurance should have significantly increased premiums for gun ownership. When we increased the cost of cigarettes, people stopped smoking. Maybe people should even have insurance on their guns like we do with cars, although I’m sure that would go over like a lead balloon.

        And like you, I am tired of hearing the mental heath retort. Not all individuals that shoot another person with intent have diagnosed mental health conditions. Many of them simply have trouble with anger management–we see this every day on the roads–or are simply sensitized to gun violence. Of course it is always in our best interest as a country to fund mental health research and focus on compassionate care for those with such illnesses, but in the context of gun control, it’s a red herring.

        1. I’m very intrigued at the idea of requiring people to have insurance. I can’t buy a car from a dealer if I don’t show proof of insurance first. With guns it could work the same way.

        2. But what about law enforcement officers who bring their gun home? What are the statistics for accounts and suicide among them? And should they have to pay insurance premiums as well? And what about THEIR mental health and issues with anger management? So many questions… so many scenarios to consider before making a blanket decision. It’s all so tricky :/

          1. I know for a fact there was an off duty police officer in Boston who committed suicide in his basement last year with his service weapon.

  11. Gabby, I think we SHOULD be able to say, “I want to take your guns away.” Deference to gun-owners hasn’t helped reduce gun violence so let’s drop that tactic. It’s time for a sea change. As a society we set limits on what others can do in order to protect the vulnerable. In the case of firearms, literally everyone is vulnerable, even the shooter in the case of suicide. The privilege of owning a gun should not trump the actual right (legal- or human-) to not be shot.
    None of the lives lost on Sunday in Las Vegas were people coming to “get” your family or steal your property. And not even trained, armed professionals were able to use their own weapons to stop the assailant, he ultimately took his own life.

    1. You bring up a good point. I try to be careful with my language when I talk about this topic. If I’m honest, I would be more than fine if no one in our country owned guns, but I know if I say that it will shut down the conversation. But maybe the time for conciliatory language has passed and I need to use stronger words.

      Interestingly, as careful I was writing this post, I’m sure there are plenty of gun owners who will be offended if they read it.

      All that to say, I don’t have answers on what kind of language will effect change, but if anyone else does, I’m on board.

      1. Excellent, informed and well written post. Also, I sorta like reading un-hinged Gabby of FB yesterday. ;)

        I will say that I too grew up in a home with guns. In fact, my grandpa had an NRA sticker on our front door that warned potential burglars that their lives may be in danger if they enter this home! Not joking. My grandpa and brother were avid hunters and boy did I eat a lot of deer jerky growing up. My husband owns a couple hunting rifles (he has never used them in our 12 year marriage–they were also used for hunting growing up– but I’m sure he will one day), but like you I could totally go without guns in my life.

        I am 1000% on board with increased gun legislation, but I also support the 2nd amendment. I think you can believe in both. What I worry about with the wording above, i.e. “I think we SHOULD say I want to take your guns away” is that plays directly into the fears that many conservatives have that we really do plan on taking all their guns away, 1 small step at a time. Which I get that you may WANT to do, but if we want to affect any change at all we need to come to the table willing to listen and support both sides. (Although at this point, the tables have been tilted in favor of the conservative viewpoint, so they could definitely stand to be tilted the other way slightly more.)

          1. I visited your FB page for the first time just now, because of this post. I really admire how you held your own with so many people! You kept your cool — something I know I couldn’t have done. I think your post made a very good impression of who you are, an you should be proud of it/yourself!

            Also, I’m with Stephanie — yes, let’s take everyone’s guns.

    2. The one sentence I disagreed with in the whole piece was “Maybe if I start comments with “I definitely want you to be able to keep your guns, but….”

      I don’t want people to keep their guns. Because yes, “everyone is vulnerable” as a result.

      1. I hear you. And I am open to any idea the gets me past the “wall” many gun owners put up when I mention any kind of gun reform. It’s truly like they hear me saying something entirely different than I actually say.

        ME: Let’s consider a national gun registration.

        THEM: You can’t have my guns! Stay back Satan! If you don’t like America then leave!

    3. Elysia Evers Wilson

      This was my gut reaction as an outsider (Australian) that we are having to tiptoe around peoples feelings about having their guns taken is ludicrous to me. You don’t get to own an object designed to kill just because it makes you feel safe, it is aggressive not defensive. I understand that it is a deeply ingrained and defended cultural mindset but it is just so alien to me.

        1. Also seems ludicrous from Ireland. Our police force doesn’t have guns (only special units) so I find it horrifying that any Tom Dick or Harry could have one in America. I honestly cannot understand the culture of gun ownership. Nothing will change until all the guns are eliminated.

  12. Miranda Anderson

    What a well thought out and well discussed article. This issue is one of the polarizing ones–there seem to be many of those these days.

    I’ve never been a gun fan, but grew up in a family where shooting rifles at targets was a boding activity, and gun safety was taken seriously. I also understand and sympathize with those who use hunting for sport and for sustanence, and choose to use guns responsibly.

    Gun laws don’t have to be all or nothing. While I personally would be fine with a blanket “no guns allowed in America” policy, I believe the only way to actually begin making progress is by looking critically at the issues, research, and reality and creating policy that supports both the armed and unarmed–like you mention here.

    There is no reasonable need for someone, anyone, to own semi-automatic weapons. People who fight to buy and use guns should be required to pass inspections, tests, and certifications. Gun laws should be nationalized and uniform.

    The productive conversations only really happen where we create space for real understanding and not just agenda pushing and argument. The civility is so dangerously low in America right now, we all need a little perspective and a lot of love.
    Thank you for your always-thoughtful forums.

  13. Seriously debated not commenting but then I realized that’s one of the core issues. I genuinely feel uncomfortable (borderline fearful) in expressing an opposing view on-line and even in person. I’m not even THAT opposed to what you said and I’ve always stayed calm in stating my opinion. I’m just not sure actual progress can be made until the moderate mass majority of America can speak without being torn down but the very loud. I don’t know.

    1. “I’m just not sure actual progress can be made until the moderate mass majority of America can speak without being torn down”

      I wonder the same thing. When you say you’re not THAT opposed to what I’ve suggested, is there a particular part that doesn’t feel right to you? Or is it more of a general discomfort about talking gun law reform?

      And thanks for being courageous enough to participate.

  14. 100% agree. Thank you for putting together these thoughts and discussing this. And ditto the comment about many gun owners turning this into an emotional issue and losing all common sense in the process. I love your point about needing to define “responsible gun ownership”. That feels very much at the crux of the problem. I’m still baffled as to how the 2nd amendment continually transcends everyone’s right to “domestic tranquility”, which is written at the very start of the US Constitution above all else. I am a Canadian living in the US and have never been around guns nor do I have any desire. In my mind and experience, building a supportive community is the best way to keep my family safe because then you have more people looking out for one another. Some might hear that as naive but to think otherwise (eg: *needing* a gun to defend myself) seems to be a rather dystopian view on life and this world.

    1. Your idea of a supportive community as family protection resonates with me.

      Total sidenote, but when I read “domestic tranquility” in your comment, my mind immediately started singing the Preamble Song from Schoolhouse Rock. I can’t imagine they showed Schoolhouse Rock in Canada, but I’ll bet some other readers here know that song too! : )

      1. And hehe, I did not watch Schoolhouse Rock, though that might be a factor of growing up without cable and not because I grew up in Canada ;)

        1. I can’t believe that this is my comment to your amazing post, but yes we saw School House Rock in Canada :) This is because we got our Saturday morning cartoons from a Spokane affiliate.
          There are a lot of things that us Canadians got from a close relationship with the States and we are so happy for – but the gun issue that is going on right now is not one of them. We have had massacres, murders, social injustice and lots of domestic troubles. I know that. They don’t happen at the rate of our southern neighbours.
          We are more of a socialist country. There are conservatives and liberals here – but I I do feel that our left leaning government protects us. Have we had a break in? yes. Do I hear police helicopters in the air sometimes looking for bad guys? yes. Crime exists – But I generally don’t feel scared or nervous when I go out and about my business in the city of 1.2 million that I live in. In contrast I live my summers in the Bay Area, two summers ago I lived in Oakland and fell in love with your blog and the city and almost moved there. I saw hope with the Bernie and/or Hillary signs all over. I lost hope that November and changed my plans to move back to the USA. Chilly Canada is where I will call home for a bit longer. I look forward to the debate on guns moving forward towards some peace and a change in gun ownership laws.
          Ling, I love what you said about building a supportive community to keep a family safe. This is how I live my life.

    2. A friend of mine whose husband owns guns enlightened me on the fact that “semi-automatic” encompasses the majority of guns in this country. It simply means that you must pull the trigger to release a shot but you don’t have to cock it in between to load up the shot vs. a revolver where you have to cock it for ever trigger pull. So I think that’s probably why there’s so much backlash from pro-gun owners when you talk about getting rid of all semi-automatic weapons.

      1. So funny. I was just discussing that exact thing on FB about most guns being automatic guns. I confess to being frustrated by the technical terminology because any time I think I’ve got it right, someone corrects me yet again. : )

        And there are so many sidenotes and exceptions! Like if you mention automatic guns you’ll be told they’re illegal. But that’s only partially true. If the gun was designed before a certain date, it’s grandfathered in and you can still buy it.

        A friend of mine suggested that we should name guns based on what they are designed for. So you might have a mass-killing-machine, or you might have a person-to-person-killing-machine, or you might have a deer-killing-machine, and on and on…

        I would SO get on board with that.

  15. I agree with everything you said about tighter gun laws. Not taking guns away, but limiting who can have them (no fly list), and semi-automatic weapons are not needed in my honest opinion.

    I am however of the belief that we should have a gun in our house to protect our family (although currently neither my husband or myself own a gun) and I can see where that stems from two different directions. My husband grew up in a home with guns with very ultra conservative parents in Idaho. It’s basically a way of life for them. For me, I grew up in a very unsafe city in high school and our home was attempted to be broken into while my siblings and I were home and my mom was not. There was gun violence near our home all the time, and it seemed like having a gun was the only way to be safe. So I can see people who come from unsafe homes and backgrounds having a desire to protect themselves based off their past experiences. All this being said, my husband and I talk about getting a gun often, will it ever happen? Likely not. But it is a recurring conversation that we do have a few times a year… mostly when he’s about to go on a business trip and I’m home alone with the kids ;)

    1. “So I can see people who come from unsafe homes and backgrounds having a desire to protect themselves based off their past experiences.”

      I think that’s very true, Paige. And I get that. I’m so curious: If you don’t mind sharing, when you read statistics about how homes with guns are actually less safe, is that the kind of thing that puts a pause on your gun buying? Or can you pinpoint what has influenced you to put off the purchase?

      And sorry if those questions are too personal! Do not feel like you need to answer.

      1. Paige, your comment really resonated. (And Gabby, your essay is very balanced and fair and most appreciated.) I lived in Oakland very near Gabby’s current home (based on her comment that she is within walking distance of the Temple). My husband was out of town and my neighborhood was being cased. My front door was bashed in (through the dead bolt and framing) at 3 am by an armed druggie. My children were 1 and 3. We were not hurt but it took years to get over the trauma. Despite participating in many line-ups, our assailant was never caught. The Oakland police told me this: Buy a gun and shoot the person next time. If he’s off your property when he goes down, drag him back on to your property. I was horrified then, I’m horrified now, and I would still never consider buying a gun or allowing a gun in my home. (We did buy a police-trained Rottweiler who happily guarded us with a very scary demeanor.)

        1. That sounds like a terrible experience, Cynthia. I’m so sorry. I grew up in a home with a gun because my father was a police officer and my mother’s biggest fear was not that our home would be broken into and we’d need that gun but that it would be broken into while we weren’t home and the person would find my dad’s work gun and hurt another person with it. Her other big fear was that my father would accidentally shoot us. At a very young age, she sat us down and explained that we shouldn’t hide in closets or try to prank or frighten our dad. Having a gun in the house never made me feel more safe–it made me feel that the world was very dangerous and that even my own father could kill me. I spent a lot of my childhood wishing there wasn’t a gun in our house. I loved having a dog, though, and hearing her clip clop through the house at night is one of the most reassuring and comforting sounds i can think of. I hate guns, I hate the “logic” of gun ownership, I hate the American obsession with being a gun slinging hero. I don’t want more heroes, I want less victims. I support all forms of gun control.

        2. As a Canadian who has never owned nor been interested in owning a gun, this comment by the police actually shocks me. I wonder if those who feel safer because they have a gun in their houses for protection have actually prepared themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically to shoot another human being in what would most likely be a highly fraught moment.

          Cynthia, as you’ve shown, there are also other ways to provide yourself with protection.

          1. When my daughter was 5 months old and my husband was deployed I heard glass shatter in the middle of the night. I thought it was someone breaking in. I called the neighbor first who was at my house with his dog and gun in 3 minutes, then the police. Turns out it was just a glass vase, sitting on a shelf that spontaneously shattered. But afterwards I was sufficiently scared because it brought to my attention to the fact that my house was down a tricky to find road, my back yard was forest and my back porch basically had a wall of glass for easy entry under cover. I felt very vulnerable and called my Dad (who taught me how to shoot as a child) to discuss what gun to purchase for protection. He brought up a lot of well reasoned questions: like, how to a keep a gun at hand but simultaneously safe from a baby? Whether I would be a good enough shot in the dark to mortally kill an intruder and not just wound them in which case they would then most certainly harm me. Could I shoot someone dead between the eyes without question or warning? And lastly he pointed out that if someone was just there to take my stuff and I pulled a gun, then I had just escalated the fight to “for your life”. He reasoned that it would be wiser for me to start with an alarm and a dog and that we should reassess from there. Basically he told me the risk outweighed the benefit and I agreed. And yet, I was so grateful that the neighbor came armed. So although this discussion is tricky for me, I definitely err on the side of make guns very very hard to own. License, insurance, registration, yearly check ins etc.

  16. Thank you for writing this. I don’t do Facebook, so I missed yesterday’s firestorm.
    My thoughts: banning & an Australian-model buy-back of all handguns & anything with more than a single-shot capacity would do a great deal to keep us all safer. And requiring that all hunting long guns be kept in an approved gun safe, with regular police inspections (as is done in the UK) would reduce all other risk–except the suicide of the licence holder–significantly.
    The one of my friends whose husband hunts & has both a rifle & a shotgun has kept her children & their friends safe by keeping the guns in a locked gunsafe, the ammunition in another locked safe, with the keys hidden separately. The only time they have ever had to “defend their family” was from a rabid raccoon; they live too far out in the country to call Animal Control.
    I’m going to go way out on a limb here & generalize from anecdotal conversations with co-workers, but I think that many, if not most, people who have guns for “protection” are afraid of the “other”; people of color. When I push them, that’s what they finally admit.
    And I don’t know how we get past this one, though as an excellent account of how we got here I will recommend Jim Wallace’s book “America’s Original Sin”. He makes very clear how deeply racism permeates American culture, & how it infiltrates issues that do not initially seem related.

      1. I think racism is definitely a root of the desire to have guns. Not all gun owners are racist, obviously, but one of the major arguments that I hear is that if all of the people who got guns legally had their guns taken away, criminals would still get a hold of guns, and then what would happen? And when pressed, they imagine those guns coming from Mexico and South America, and being in the hands of Hispanic and Black gangs. None of them are worried about a white kid breaking into their house and having a gun, despite the fact that most of the gun owners I know live in majority white neighborhoods and live nowhere near the gang activity they fear. Fear is such a powerful catalyst, and there are definitely those who benefit from people being afraid. I don’t live my life from a place of fear, and so I’ll admit that owning a gun makes no sense to me.

          1. Based on my own group of friends and family, this rings true. I grew up in NYC, and still live in a relatively diverse suburb. We always lock our cars and doors. But it is the people I know who live in homogeneous small towns or rural areas, who leave their houses unlocked, that shout the loudest about protecting their families. I always want to ask why they continue to live in such area.

  17. Thanks so much, Gabrielle. As always, you think through things carefully, consider all sides, and state things fairly and simply. Thank you, again.

  18. I think one of the issues with the NRA is that there is no all-encompassing counter group. I remember Michael Bloomberg trying to address this after Sandy Hook? The NRA is THE lobbying group if you are pro-gun, but the opposition seems to be split into many smaller groups.

    1. Really good point. So maybe we need to combine all the groups into one powerful one? Now need to go google anti-gun lobby groups so I can see how many there are…

  19. As a Canadian, it is so difficult to understand how all of these mass shootings are not making people understand that tougher gun laws are needed in the US. I am going to be brutally honest here… as an outsider, looking in, I am getting ‘annoyed’ with the “thoughts and prayers for ( insert latest city/state” and the “cute” instagram and Facebook graphics… this is happening all the time and yet nothing is being done to change it and you have the power to change it, you know what needs to happen for this to change and yet time and time again, you do nothing. This is not magically going to stop. Unless you do something, something drastic, this will continue. I just hope for your country that someone, somewhere has the courage it takes to stand up and make the changes that are needed.

    1. same, from the French perspective. I have the feeling that America believes that, well, it’s sad but overall, thousands of deaths/year are an ok price to pay for the right to own gun.
      Gabby, I disagree with a lot of your posts but definitely not this one ;-)

    2. I am fully with you on this, Sharon. Thoughts and prayers don’t change policies. It’s become a way of avoiding the conversation about gun access. Not all Americans are complicit, but it is definitely hard to feel like your opposing voice matters. I have called my congressmen over so many things since January and I will keep trying, but when you keep making phone calls over the same issues and nothing changes, it becomes incredibly discouraging.

    3. Allison Skousen

      That’s exactly how so many of us feel. The observation from the French commenter below is sadly true. Many (BUT NOT ALL) American do feel that thousands of deaths a year are the price we must pay for the right to own guns. It’s mind-boggling.

    4. I agree with Sharon as well. I’m Canadian too and I live right on the border. There’s so much I love about America and Americans but to be honest even before Las Vegas a lot of us were too scared to go south anymore, especially to large events.

  20. You’ve addressed this whole issue so thoughtfully here. Thank you; I’m still reaching for words to have calm discussions about these emotionally loaded topics with my relatives who own guns (and have small children). This sentence in particular struck me as a good starting point in a discussion with someone: “…it would be helpful if the idea of responsible gun ownership was more defined and agreed upon, because from what I can tell, it seems like it would align with fairly strict gun regulation.”

    1. It seems like the definition varies widely for people. Some commenters yesterday mentioned never taking their guns out of the their safes, and others talk about leaving them in the car while they go drinking — while also mentioning how often guns are stolen in their neighborhood. And no doubt everyone commenting would think of themselves as a very responsible gun owner.

  21. Full disclosure: I don’t know anything about guns. I probably don’t even have an adequate gun-related vocabulary. I also have not thought long and hard about guns, gun control, policy, etc. I feel like having a view on these kinds of issues requires a level of due diligence I can’t provide given my other responsibilities.

    All that being said, I found this conversation really interesting and thought this might be a safe community to ask a few questions in/share some thoughts. First, a general question: I wonder about the extent to which someone’s apparent emotion should discredit what we think about them. Does the fact that gun owners get emotional when we talk about regulation discredit them? Or the fact that pro-regulation people are emotional about the recent tragedy mean *they’re* not credible? Is there a no-emotions-allowed standard for discourse?

    Second, I really worry (again, these are the thoughts of someone who doesn’t personally care about guns or know anything about them) about totally eliminating gun ownership. I grew up in the Dakotas and I now have close family who now live in Wyoming, and I have a really hard time imagining those contexts without guns. After I left my home town, I was always annoyed at how people assumed where I grew up was backwards. (It wasn’t that backwards! We had a Target!) But the truth is that at the Dakotas and Wyoming are still extremely wild places. There are large, dangerous, and/or sometimes-rabid animals that threaten your livestock, if not your people. In many areas, there are no police to call, let alone some kind of animal control. It’s not at all unheard of to need to quickly end the life of a suffering animal. And, though I don’t know anyone who’s fired a gun to protect themselves from criminals, I know my friends who live in the country have felt the need to have a firearm on hand because the police are so far away. This is related to your #7. They’re not at all 100% convinced that someone will attack their family. In fact, I think most of my friends would think there was a < 50% chance they'd be attacked. And even were they to be attacked, I don't think they intend to shoot or be shot at. They want a gun so that if someone were to try to attack their family or steal their very expensive equipment, they are actually capable of posing a threat to the offender.

    So I guess given that a not-insignificant part of the country is rural in the ways I've described, it seems unfair to me to ban gun ownership entirely. Does this line of thinking make sense? I recognize that nothing you said in #10 at all entails getting rid of guns entirely and, per #1, you in fact want people to be able to keep their guns. So this isn't a question about *your* view. But one thing I'm having a hard time figuring out in this debate more generally is how many people think we shouldn't have guns *at all*? Is that a standard line in this debate?

    Here's something that sort of troubles me once I think about how we probably shouldn't ban guns entirely. It seems that if you allow anyone to have a gun, whatever regulations you put into place for further access to guns should be loose enough that people can actually access them, and access them equally easily (it shouldn't be harder for poor people to get guns, e.g., or urban people as opposed to rural people, or people who don't have a car that can take them far enough to register, who can't take a day off work, etc.). Otherwise you'll have certain populations who can arm themselves and populations who can't. And that would be unfair and probably unsafe for the populations that have more barriers to re-registration, etc. (I think the last thing we want is armed rich people and unarmed poor people, right?)

    Third, I work in medical ethics, and I can't help but notice the parallels in what I know about the gun policy debate to famous (infamous?) conflicts in medical ethics. Almost everyone agrees that patient autonomy and a parent's right to privacy is of the utmost importance, for example. In most cases, prioritizing autonomy/parent privacy works pretty well. But it can lead to major conflicts when what a doctor thinks is best conflicts with what a patient thinks is best or, more troublingly, with what the parents of a patient think is best. Some religious parents staunchly oppose certain medical treatments that would be life-saving for their children. And many patients experience illness (mental or otherwise) that lead them to ask/demand/do things that they would not do otherwise, but doctors fail to intervene in the interest of patient autonomy. My point is: autonomy can be very dangerous. And of course, it is therefore sometimes restricted. (Sometimes the state intervenes with parents who do not want to allow their child a certain procedure, for instance.) But nevertheless, in spite of the risks associated with autonomy, the winning/standard view in medical ethics is still autonomy-centric. Even though a patient may very well join a religion that forbids him from treating his child with modern medicine, and even though a patient may experience some kind of illness that brings a level of fear, depression, denial, etc. that can cripple his ability to act in his own best interest, the default still favors autonomy. I think what made me think of this was your point about mental health in (9). I wonder how the possibility of mental illness should affect what we establish as the default. In medical ethics, it doesn't affect that autonomy is still the default value. A more general point: I wonder whether it would be fruitful to try to apply some of the resolutions of dilemmas in other fields like medical ethics to what strikes me (again, from an arm chair! in an apartment without a gun! but from the mind of someone who grew up in the Wild West!) as a real dilemma.

    This is a stupidly long post. To anyone who reads it–thanks.

    1. To be clear– I meant that my *comment* was stupidly long, not Gabrielle’s post!! I really appreciated the original post–content, length, etc. :)

      1. I don’t think your comment was too long. I enjoyed it.

        Obviously, I don’t have answers for you, but I continue to be fascinated by commenters from Australia and Canada (on Facebook), who describe a gun situation, that even adjusted for population, is so much better than ours. No one seems at all interested in opening up the gun laws in any way.

        Of course, from my point of view that would be because they appreciate the benefits so much. : ) But I really know nothing about it. Perhaps there’s a brewing faction that’s trying to bring more and more guns to their cultures and I just haven’t heard of them.

      2. **Sam – I’m going to go totally off topic of you comment at the end. Please don’t take it personally. The first couple paragraphs are in response to rural folks. But I didn’t want to make a second post for the other stuff I had to say.**

        I live in the southern Dakota. A large percentage of the population here today does not own guns to protect their livestock or their family from predators. And what predators? Coyotes? Mountain lions? There are no bears or wolves over here… And there are other ways of deterring those smaller predators than just shooting them. That said, fine. I don’t take umbrage with someone wanting to protect their livelihood (provided the animal they are protecting themselves against isn’t endangered). However…

        Almost every person I know here who I’ve spoken to has a single action rifle for that. They also have hand guns (single action or semi-auto) and semi automatic weapons either for FUN or for “protection”. And when you ask about protection? That means from “the other”. One person argued with me that they really needed it because if “those Syrians show up, they aren’t going to find a home here”. One even made the argument that they believed the world knowing “most of America has guns” is a deterrent from attack. Really? Because you don’t think they’re just going to bomb us?!? Who is going to come to the United States and go door to door attacking people?!?

        And why do you need TWENTY guns? I can understand 2 – a rifle for hunting/protection and a handgun in your house if you feel necessary. I’ll even maybe give you 2 per adult. But anything over that turns into a fatal hobby collection. (And no, I certainly don’t need 4 sewing machines. But my sewing machines aren’t going to kill anyone.)

        It’s hard to have this conversation though, because most people here grew up with guns. They are the normal. Those of us who choose not to have guns or be around guns are thought of as the strange, overly emotional, illogical sort. It’s also put a large burden on us to severely restrict which houses our kids can play at without us being present and forces us to provide our own kids with rigorous gun safety training. “If you are with so and so, no matter how many times they tell you something that looks like a gun is a toy, you do not touch it. You never point anything that looks like a gun at another person. You will tell us or another trusted adult any time you see a gun not locked in a safe.” etc etc etc. So now I’m stealing away my kids innocence because someone else thinks their family “needs” guns. (And no, we don’t let our kids (7 and 10) play violent video games or watch anything PG-13 rated or above (okay, I admit. I caved on Star Wars because it’s my first love).) I’ve had to make a lot of excuses so as not to offend folks we genuinely like because I don’t want my kids in their house after I’ve heard how guns are handled there.

        I believe firmly in the 2nd amendment and what it stood for. You want a gun? Join the militia as it states. In this day and age that means police force, National Guard, or military. The 2nd Amendment was written so we, a newly established country, could rally together to defend against an invasion. NOT so we could kill each other, our families, and innocent people.

        I obviously have strong feelings against guns. I believe in your right to reasonably own a gun. I believe in my right to be protected from guns. I believe rational discourse and reasonable action can be taken. The first thing we need to do is get the NRA out of our government. Heck, as far as I’m concerned, all lobbyists should be removed from our government. No more pay to play. To do that, we need to reform our electoral process. As soon as we institute term limits, restricted funding, and restricted campaign lengths, we’ll be on the road to taking our government back for we the people.

        1. Re your point about joining the militia, Bdaiss, I’m not a historian but I think that the 2nd amendment was put in place not to secure peoples’ right to join the *established* military but rather to allow for people to *resist* the established military if necessary. I think it’s supposed to be one of the checks on the power of the centralized government. Which was obviously something on the minds of colonial Americans. (I think in kind of a different way, with Trump having been elected, our generation can appreciate wanting to proceed with caution with respect to reducing checks on the people in charge…)

          Also, I hope I didn’t sound like I thought there shouldn’t be restrictions on guns for rural areas. I definitely think that there should be. I just can also understand why people in the country, with livestock, etc. would want a gun. I did a little reading about the gun laws in Australia (this link was helpful: https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/4172274/what-its-like-to-own-guns-in-a-country-with-strict-gun-control/%3Fsource=dam). And a farmer’s license is one of the licenses available. In fact, farmers can own a semi-automatic! (So can professional shooters.)

          I thought that link was an interesting read. It seems like it’s a pain to get a gun and that they are highly regulated, but that the barriers to having and maintaining one aren’t insuperable.

          1. This idea that owning a gun is vital in case of a need to resist aggression by the centralized government or established military is puzzling and fascinating to me. I’ve heard that argument numerous times in Facebook discussions recently and from friends over the years. Gun proponents are quick to point out (falsely) that Hitler’s first step was to confiscate weapons and therefore eliminate resistance. The Nazis actually loosened gun restrictions for the general population while severely restricting them for Jews and other perceived enemies. (source:http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/oct/26/ben-carson/fact-checking-ben-carson-nazi-guns/) Regardless, it’s a very real fear and key rationale for gun-owning for many Americans, I believe. I think if we want to make any progress toward significant gun control, we have to address this fear. I’d love to hear others’ take on this.

          2. Allison, I definitely understand the desire to be able to resist aggression by the centralized government for very early Americans. That was essential to their ability to resist the injustices of British rule. My cartoon understanding of history is that they learned from this experience and wanted to provide future generations of Americans with the same ability, should the government they were establishing likewise begin to use its position of power to treat people unjustly.

            In a general way, this really makes sense to me. Why should we trust that whatever institution is in power would always preserve justice? Or never need resistance? If history has shown us anything, it’s actually that having power is associated with using it badly. So I kind of get the general motivation.

            That being said, given the technological advancements that have occurred between the Revolutionary War and today, would guns really be effective (against a government that has access to nuclear weapons, biological warfare, etc….)? Kind seems to me like the answer is “no”…

          3. Exactly. The original intent of the framers of the Constitution made perfect sense at that time but now we’re funding the largest, most technologically advanced military on the planet.

  22. Oscar Rodriguez

    I’m not a gun owner and not likely to become one, at least while I have kids at home, so I don’t have very strong opinions either way, but after reading this, if anything, I’m less supportive of gun restrictions.

    It’s disappointing to see the way these “discussions” go. When you start out with, “there are people in my life who value keeping their little gun-collecting hobby restriction-free more than they value other people’s lives,” you’re not likely to change minds – except in the opposite direction.

    “Would these ideas 100% eliminate gun violence in America? Not likely. Would they reduce the amount of gun violence in America. It seems so.”

    That’s not a winning argument, and there is very little evidence that any of these actions would significantly impact gun violence.

    “And hey, at the request of 2nd amendment enthusiasts, we’ve tried the status quo for a long time now and we know gun violence has only gotten worse. Isn’t it time to try some ideas from another point of view?”

    Actually, we’ve tried a lot of gun regulations in the past, and gun violence has still increased. The reason people are worried that you want to take away their guns is because you want to take away their guns. At the very least, you want to make it very difficult and costly to buy and maintain a gun. That is the end game here – that is what is happening in the other countries you’re pointing to. That’s ok – you’re welcome to that position, but it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

    The reality is this a very emotional issue on both sides – all you have to do is read the comments. I get it – it’s a senseless tragedy and we want to do something about it. But before we do something, we ought to have a very clear view of both the costs and the benefits. Unfortunately, even a total gun ban probably wouldn’t significantly reduce criminal violence (accidental gun deaths/injuries perhaps). It’s not as if we don’t have experience with trying to ban things in this country – there was prohibition – not a rousing success. War on drugs? That is not a data point arguing for stricter laws.

    1. I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Oscar (and I have a son named Oscar so you get extra points for that). The line from your comment that stood out to me was: “At the very least, you want to make it very difficult and costly to buy and maintain a gun.”

      And yes, I fully admit this. With two buts: 1) What I’m asking is no more difficult than other regulations we put in place to keep our communities safe (I’m thinking of cars and drivers’ licenses), and 2) We have 300 million guns in this country right now. And many of us (77% of us!), like you and me, don’t own any guns at all. Is there anything that could possibly justify that number of guns? If there is, I’m obviously not seeing it.

      Anything we can do to lower that number seems like a smart move. Making it more difficult to maintain guns would be one way to discourage people from buying more guns.

      As for as banning things in this country, I get what you’re saying, but I think it’s more effective to focus on ways we’ve improved dangerous things. There are car accidents so we require car makers to include seat belts. People aren’t wearing their seat belts so we make it a law that they have to. And now seat belts save lives every day.

      I mean it’s not like we’re not willing to make sacrifices to keep our communities safe. We have one shoe bomb threat and now we all take our shoes off at the airport. 3000 people die in 9/11 and 3 days later we go to war and spend 1.7 trillion dollars on it. But 33,000 Americans die from guns every year and there’s nothing we can do about it? Come on. I don’t buy that.

      What if there was a law that households with children under 18 can’t keep guns? It wouldn’t affect the majority of households in America, but it could save the lives of something like 5000-6000 children each year. Because as was mentioned in another comment: Every year 22,000 people die from gun suicides (approx 6000 of those are kids if I understand correctly). Only about 10% of non weapon suicides lead to death, but 90% of gun suicides do.

      Without guns, those kids might still attempt suicide, but they would only be successful 10% of the time instead of 90% of the time.

      Wouldn’t it at least be worth trying something like that? To save 5000 kids a year? And if we aren’t willing to try something like that, it’s not hard to argue that Americans love guns more than our children.

      1. Oscar Rodriguez

        Thanks for the response. I agree that there are definitely some reasonable things that can be done that make sense on a cost/benefit analysis, but instead what’s being debated in congress is an assault weapons ban and ban on silencers.

        However, I don’t agree that because we decide not pass some certain law, that it’s hard not to argue that Americans love guns more than children. There are all kinds of things that kill more people that we don’t legislate. It does not mean that we love our children less than (fill in the blank). For example, many more injuries and deaths are cause by car accidents. My children would undoubtedly be safer if I kept them from riding in cars. I don’t do that, but it does not mean that I love driving or the convenience of driving more than my children. It means I have evaluated the risks and rewards, and made a determination for my family. We do that on a local, state and national level as well. It’s faulty logic to suggest that someone’s opposition to a particular law means they love (fill in the blank) less. I would even go so far as to say that making arguments like that is more harmful than helpful to your cause.

        The shoe bomb threat is actually a great example of a knee-jerk response with little benefit. And there a lot of other examples of laws that do not accomplish their intended purpose, and may even have other more significant unintended consequences. Laws have real costs, and any additional laws either require additional resources or necessarily mean some other law or laws get less attention. So, where there is data to support the effectiveness (particularly vs. the costs – not just $ but consequences, reduction of freedom, etc.) of particular regulation, I’d say it is worth doing something. But just to say we did something is often more harmful than helpful.

        1. I agree the shoes at the airport thing is extreme. I didn’t bring up as an example of effectiveness, because I don’t think it is effective. I brought it up as an example of Americans being willing to make sacrifices for community safety. I was responding to your concern that gun registration would be too burdensome (and implying gun owners shouldn’t have to make that sacrifice).

          As far as building new gun policy around data, I am ALL CAPS FOR IT. And that goes for any other new law or policy on any topic we are making. Yes, we should be basing things on data. Where do you suggest we get the data on laws or policies we haven’t tried nationwide? (Yes, we have tried different things over the years in single states or small pockets, but there has been nothing resembling a nationwide overhaul.) Since we don’t have the data ourselves, it makes sense to me to look at other countries. And based on other countries, the suggestions I made in the post would work. Would they work for sure? With no glitches? No hiccups? Needing no adjustments or amendments? Of course not. So does that mean we shouldn’t try, and instead simply accept the status quo?

          I am very open to having these ideas criticized and debated and improved. Do you have your own ideas on how to make things better, or improve on the suggestions I’ve made? I’m all ears.

          P.S. — There’s a comment below from a doctor in the UK who explained how their system keeps guns out of the homes of unhealthy patients without risking the doctor/patient relationship. There are lots of good ideas out there. I’m open to them. Suggest your best ones.

  23. Anonymous for this

    Gabby, thank you for this thoughtful post. I so appreciate how you don’t shrink from talking about tough issues, and how you talk about them in such thoughtful and thought-provoking ways. I think “What does protecting your family mean to you?” is such a key question to ask.

    For myself, the answer to that question is “give my family the mindset and tools they need to be smart and courageous anywhere,” because I believe that we can never actually keep our loved ones perfectly safe, as frightening as that thought is. But to talk about guns specifically: I’m still figuring out what I think about this issue, but I grew up around them, I’ve used them, and several people close to me are gun owners and avid users of them. So I want to share a few thoughts from that perspective.

    First, two notes: first, I’m anonymous for this comment not because I’m afraid to put my name behind these thoughts, but because my spouse prefers not to broadcast the fact that they own or carry a gun, and I want to respect that. Second, to be very honest, to me personally it feels almost disrespectful to type these things when so many of us are mourning the events of Sunday night. So I want to preface this by saying that I mourn that with all of us, and were I face to face with someone personally affected by that terrible shooting, I would be just offering a hug and weeping with them.

    But since we’re having this thoughtful conversation in this space, here are a few things to consider:

    – The NRA does not represent all gun owners or advocates. My spouse, who owns guns, practices shooting, and feels strongly that the 2nd Amendment protects the right to do those things, also refuses to be an NRA member or to donate any money to them because of their irresponsible approach to this issue. There are other, smaller (often state-based instead of national) gun-rights organizations with more nuanced and thoughtful approaches to this issue — and in fact the NRA has sometimes actually opposed those smaller, local organizations.

    – A common opinion of those who own and carry a gun is “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” I believe that the need for actually using a gun in self-defense is very rare, but I can understand and respect that perspective. Most (not all) mass shootings in the US have occurred in places designated as gun-free zones. There are also situations in which an armed “good guy” prevented violence, and these understandably get less attention than stories of horrible violence being carried out.

    – I have never met anyone more informed about gun laws and careful about gun safety than the concealed-carry permit holders in my family. As of 2012, there were more gun accidents among police officers than among concealed-carry permit holders. (I haven’t seen more recent stats.) I realize there are plenty of careless people as well; I say this to point out one possible reason for some people’s defensiveness on this issue.

    – I’ve also never met anyone more thoughtful about the ethics of self-defense than the concealed-carry permit holders close to me. In their case it is definitely not based in racial prejudice — my spouse and I are avid advocates of racial equality and have tried to get our HOA rules changed (on other topics, not guns) to make sure the HOA isn’t unintentionally discriminating against people of color / speakers of other languages (and so far we’ve been unsuccessful, alas). The ethics of self defense are more complex than I realized before I got to know my spouse, and our conversations have definitely challenged my thinking.

    – I know there are lots of arguments to be had about what the 2nd Amendment means. That said, I believe that we maintain fairness and equality in our society by either following the procedures we’ve laid out, or voting to change them. So I believe the appropriate way to change gun laws, if we’re going to do that, is to repeal the 2nd amendment rather than create other laws that will endlessly be challenged on constitutional grounds.

    – Tragically, there are so many ways for humans to hurt each other, and while I know this is a controversial opinion, I personally believe that would not change if we banned guns. The deadliest mass murder at a school in American history happened in 1927, and guns were barely involved (it was the Bath School Disaster, and I’ll be honest that reading about it is tough). I don’t mean this to be flippant; I mean that turning a culture of violence into a culture of hope and peace is so much more than banning a particular kind of weapon.

    – An interesting and thoughtful take on all this is Jeff Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic titled “The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control).” It’s from 2012 but much of it is still relevant.

    Finally, a personal note: I have lost 2 friends to suicide, and I have been at more funerals than I can count (literally, I once tried to remember them all and I lost count). One of those deaths was from a gun. I don’t share any of these thoughts flippantly; I know what it is to mourn death and loss. I want fewer deaths in this country, no matter what’s causing them, and I’m an advocate of effective and just ways to achieve that.

    1. Great comment. I’ll respond to your second and third thoughts:

      Your second thought: “A common opinion of those who own and carry a gun is “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” I believe that the need for actually using a gun in self-defense is very rare, but I can understand and respect that perspective. Most (not all) mass shootings in the US have occurred in places designated as gun-free zones. There are also situations in which an armed “good guy” prevented violence, and these understandably get less attention than stories of horrible violence being carried out.”

      I truly do understand where this perspective is coming from. And I have heard hero stories of someone with a gun being quick on their feet and saving the day. Which is awesome. But do those relatively rare instances justify doing nothing to prevent 33,000 guns deaths per year?

      I’m sure this isn’t a fair example, but hopefully it will illustrate the point: we don’t have school drills on avoiding getting hit by lightening. It doesn’t happen often enough to be a justifiable concern. In the same vein, I don’t feel like we should build laws and policies around a relatively small number of unpredictable instances (like lightening strikes) where someone may or may not be able to use a gun to help.

      Your third thought: “I have never met anyone more informed about gun laws and careful about gun safety than the concealed-carry permit holders in my family. As of 2012, there were more gun accidents among police officers than among concealed-carry permit holders. (I haven’t seen more recent stats.) I realize there are plenty of careless people as well; I say this to point out one possible reason for some people’s defensiveness on this issue.”

      I 100% believe this. Any conversations I have about guns with concealed carry permit holders are always educational. They take their responsibilities seriously. But how do we square this with the CDC research cited in an earlier comment (quoting it again here):

      “What the research showed was not only did having a firearm in your home not protect you, but it hugely increased the risk that someone in your family would die from a firearm homicide. It increased the risk almost 300 percent, almost three times as high.

      It also showed that the risk that someone in your home would commit suicide went up. It went up five-fold if you had a gun in the home. These are huge, huge risks, and to just put that in perspective, we look at a risk that someone might get a heart attack or that they might get a certain type of cancer, and if that risk might be 20 percent greater, that may be enough to ban a certain drug or a certain product.

      But in this case, we’re talking about a risk not 20 percent, not 100 percent, not 200 percent, but almost 300 percent or 500 percent. These are huge, huge risks.”

      Do these numbers not apply to concealed carry permit homes? Or are there more examples like the one Jess shared above. The dad had a gun secured in a child lock safe, but his 12 year old son was able to access the gun anyway and killed himself over a bad grade. (Jess mentioned the dad has since become a gun control advocate. Which makes sense.)

      No matter how careful people think they are being, from the research we have, we know guns aren’t making families safer.

      I don’t know. I wonder if before seat belt research was available, did Moms feel like they were doing something as good or better than a seatbelt by throwing their arm out across the chest of whichever kid was in the passenger seat when the car had to come to a hard stop? We now know how silly that is, but at the time it probably seemed like the right thing to do.

      Keeping a gun at home might make people feel safe, but if we look at the numbers, is it just as silly as thinking mom’s arm is better than a seatbelt in a car wreck?

      Again, I don’t have the answers, but I appreciate you engaging in the conversation. I loved your thoughts.

  24. Protecting my family, quite honestly, meant asking my husband to talk to his parents about where and how they store their guns before we took our toddler to spend the night with them. We have a great relationship with his parents, but I am *very* anti-gun and terrified at the thought of my son finding and playing with a gun. I’m a Southerner so I’m gearing up for many years of conversations before playdates to find out whether my son’s friends’ parents own guns. I don’t understand why so many of my fellow citizens want to own guns with so few restrictions when the price is so insanely, horrifically high. (A side note: I work for CDC–although not in the area that would be responsible for studying gun violence–and being prevented from doing our jobs through lack of funding is infuriating. Our entire MISSION is to help people have healthier, safer lives.)

    1. Oh dear! In-law relationships can be so tricky even without guns. Hah! I’m glad you worked it out.

      And I’m so sorry you are hindered in your work at the CDC. I am truly stunned that with 33,000 gun deaths a year, we’re preventing gun safety research from being done.

  25. Thank you for your calm, thoughtful post. This is the kind of respectful discussion I appreciate. I agree with you.

  26. I grew up in rural community on a ranch/farm, with many guns and no gun security. I don’t know why the guns were never locked up, perhaps it’s because my siblings and I showed almost no interest in guns. They were just another tool of a rancher. I do occasionally target shoot although I do not own nor do I intend to ever own a gun.

    I grew up and am still surrounded by rabid and extremely conservative NRA supporters, many from my family.

    I really don’t know what it would take to end the gun obsession. The young boys and men, especially my nephews and their friends, seem obsessed with getting guns and as soon as they get a new one, they want another that is more powerful. They are good kids, and take gun safety, but the interest goes far beyond hunting. Dare I say that I seldom even buy the “gun for protection” argument. In my opinion, it is simply fodder to fuel the obsession to own powerful and deadly objects, with little to no regulations. And for such, statistics are only annoying soundbites that will die down in a few weeks.

    I found the chart from Australia powerful, but wish that the statistics were from a country with a comparable population to ours.

    1. I really like your perspective, Dani. And I know it’s not the same thing, but I grew up in a community of hunters (as an example, I was the only person in my high school woodworking class that didn’t make a gun cabinet as their final assignment — I made a console table with queen anne legs. Hah!). We would get days off from school for the deer hunt. We ate venison, gifted from neighbor hunters, every year.

      And I suppose because of that, I end up putting hunting (and probably ranch life) in a different category than gun violence. I’m sure there is overlap, but the classic hunting rifles I grew up around just aren’t the kind of guns I see glorified.

      Your observations about the young men and boys who seem gun obsessed is making me think.

    2. I have to agree with your observations as well. Although I didn’t grow up in a gun owning household, I certainly live in that kind of “community” now, some family, some friends. I can add my “Amen!” to the idea that over my 40 years of marriage I have seen the idea of “I just want protection.” escalate to “I’d like a hunting rifle.” to “We’re heading to Africa to hunt big game., so we needed stronger weaponry.” to “We’re gun enthusiasts.” to “We just got back from Australia, where we got to shoot ‘_______’.” (which animals were and continue to be on the endangered list, and when that was pointed out, FB posts managed to be deleted quickly) to “The government, terrorists, [fill in the bad guy blank here] are all out to get American citizens, so we NEED to protect ourselves and prepare!”… and it goes up a bit higher for some I know who actually have weapons that are illegal because of the origins and or fire power. It becomes an addiction of sorts, only a very dangerous one.

      1. When I was in what we called Industrial Arts I asked about making something other than a gun rack for the woodworking unit. The teacher let me look through the catalog and I chose the Pilgrim Footstool. The other girls in the class followed my lead. All the boys stuck with the gun rack.

        Gabby, I absolutely appreciate your thoughtful approach to this topic (as well as your sarcasm on FB!). I’m not a gun owner, and I don’t come from a gun-owning family. I did grow up in a part of the country (obviously given the story above) where guns are common.

        I don’t think it’s realistic to assume we’d ever get rid of the 2nd Amendment or all the guns in this country. I do think regulations similar to what we have in place for cars makes sense, and I endorse making it more expensive to own a gun.

        I liked the comment earlier about how for a religious country we accept a lot of murder in the name of gun ownership. Something’s wrong with that equation.

  27. This is fantastic. Thank you for putting all these thoughts together in one place. I’m sure to refer friends here.

    Just one thing, near the conclusion you say that “we’ve tried the status quo for a long time and gun violence had only increased.” Yesterday, when I read the Vox article you also linked to here, I was surprised to see that gun violence has actually decreased in the last two decades. This is strange considering they also stated we have a mass shooting nearly every day in America, and I certainly feel less safe than I did ten years ago (which is why I whole-heartedly support stricter gun laws!) I’d love to see a more detailed breakdown of the type of gun violence now versus twenty years ago to see if that explains some of these perceptions.

    Anyway, I just thought you might want to consider that piece of you’re otherwise excellent argument.

      1. It’s from chart #8. Though in re-reading it says, “The good news is that all firearm homicides, like all homicides and crime, have declined over the past two decades. (Although that may have changed in 2015 and 2016, with a recent rise in murders nationwide.)”
        So very, very recently they’re up. And that is NOT a trend I want to see continue.

        1. Heather I saw that too! I think we aren’t really dealing with homicides and sort of felony-level gun crimes (armed robbery, etc.) here, but should be tabulating mass shootings as an isolated phenomenon? A homicide is one person (multiple homicide more than one, right?), but 58+ and 400+ wounded wouldn’t be categorized as a homicide? So the mass shootings have increased enormously, even as other kinds of gun-related crimes have decreased. Which I suppose in some ways makes us both more and less safe. Is it arguably safer now to walk down a city street in New York at dusk than attend a Congressional baseball game? It certainly strikes me as odd where the chips are falling. And I think the weapons in mass murders are a different caliber and hence, more people die, so that’s the focus on regulating the higher order weapons (no vocab here) rather than say your shotguns people are using on ranches in Wyoming. Is this an important distinction to make or am I splitting hairs? It feels important in the wake of the last few years, particularly after Newtown? It wasn’t clear to me if this was all broken out in the statistics– I could have missed it.

          1. I totally agree on the need for more data. For instance, I believe that in most collections of stats on this topic, “mass shooting” is defined as 3 or more people killed. Any time that happens it’s a deeply tragic event, but it’s not what most of us think of when we hear that term, which makes those stats hard to talk about in productive and meaningful ways.

  28. I’m a pretty pessimistic person when it comes to politics, and especially on this topic. Unexpectedly though, I’ve had more glimmers of hope in the last two days than I expected to. I come from a family that owns a lot of guns and live in an area of Utah that is very conservative. But I’ve seen people express on social media support for more gun control since the events Sunday night, and it’s been people who I would have never guessed would support it. It’s a little thing, but I hope so very, very much that it means the tide is turning. ❤️
    I was grateful to see this post from a guitarist who performed at the event, who’s had a total change of heart about gun control after what he went through on Sunday.

    1. I hear you. I found Jimmy Kimmel’s remarks encouraging — especially the reminder that the vast majority of Americans actually agree that more gun control is a good thing.

  29. I’ve posted about this at least a dozen times, but here we go, again. Gun control is only as effective as those who enforce it.*

    I’ve had this conversation with friends, family, strangers, and I feel like I am alone in a sea of people who strongly feel that at some point in the game the government will enforce martial law, go door to door and confiscate any and all registered guns, leaving “only the crazies” with illegal weapons the government doesn’t know about” – which if I do the math correctly, means all of these rational people believe *they* need to somehow procure a weapon without registering it with the government also, so when martial goes into effect, they can hide the illegal guns they’ve purchased, and give up only the registered ones, and level the playing field. Right? So where does it stop? And the bigger question for me is “How do you live in a world with this kind of daily paranoia? Paranoia that forces and or pushes you to believe the government will take away your guns, your neighbors are against you, and/or that we will have civil unrest that requires self armament?” Perhaps they are on to something, perhaps there are officials that would do this, but for *me*, I can’t live in that world. I can’t live in that kind of daily fear.

    For me, I have never understood guns, I don’t like them at all. I don’t care if you have a gun, but ya, make it at least as difficult to purchase as it is to get a driver’s licence, and then make sure the people selling the guns actually follow the laws set in place.

    Otherwise it’s a moot point.

    *And otherwise, people like my daughter, who in a very emotionally dark day, walked into a store and bought a gun, without a background check, without the store owner following one bit of the law, sold her a gun, and ammunition, and she took her own life. Had the store owner made her wait, even 5 hours, she would be alive and in better mental health today. But he didn’t, and at 27, my brilliant daughter took her life.

    1. PC – I was so saddened when I read your post-script about your daughter. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you and your family. The fact that you are able to speak about guns and gun control in such a thoughtful way is inspiring. Thank you for sharing with us.

      1. Oh, PC. I was going to comment anyway, because I hear the same martial law argument from a lot of people also, but then I read about your daughter. I have no words. I am so, so sorry about your precious daughter.

  30. First…I didn’t read the comments, so I’m apologizing if this is redundant anywhere…

    “5) Speaking of responsible gun owners, every single one I asked would be totally fine if semi-automatic firearms were severely limited in availability or not sold at all. That seems like a good unifying thing, a point we could all rally behind. Everyone seems to understand that these are not tools used to protect families, they are used attack and to kill a lot of people at once.”

    I completely agree. I would like one good reason as to why anyone needs that kind of fire power. I was raised in a hunting family where we’ve taken courses and learned about different types of guns. Semi-automatics are not necessary for hunting and I don’t see them as pertinent for home protection (that is just my opinion). I had a hard time yesterday trying to figure out where I was at in this conversation.

    I know in my soul we need gun law reform, these mass shootings should not exist…and for those that say they would exist anyway…for sure not as frequently and at least the government would have tried as much as they could to prevent it.

    As for responsible gun ownership, I can’t tell you what is across the board but I can tell you about what it looked like in my family.

    My dad, an avid hunter (who prefers archery to firearms, but owns various types of hunting firearms…5-shot pump action shotguns, muzzleloader, and a few rifles…although those aren’t used often), had all four of his children take Firearm Safety when we hit the appropriate age. Hunting wasn’t forced upon us, but firearm safety was, of which he was an active participant/volunteer. He constantly reminded us of gun safety issues, like always check to see if the gun is loaded when you receive it from someone, never ever point it at anyone (loaded or unloaded), always make sure you are shooting at something with a sure backdrop (i.e not on top of a hill or across the road because you are never sure of the other variables), and ALWAYS identify your target. Most of those are things all hunters should do to ensure no innocent animals or humans are injured or killed.

    Now for non-hunters…my parents invested in a gun safe…to which none of us know the combination. The guns are kept unloaded and the ammunition is stored in a separate safe, to which none of us know the combination. No guns were kept in night stands and no guns were kept loaded. Now, I don’t know how this would work into the “home protection” because they weren’t quick or easy access…but we had dogs and that wasn’t an active part of our growing up mentality.

    I still get nervous when ever I see guns laying out during the weeks that firearm season is active…even unloaded and in the case. Guns make me nervous, but that is because I acknowledge their power. I think congress needs to acknowledge that power to and fix what is broken.

    I really liked the points you brought up because I was struggling with coming up with compromises that weren’t a part of the “take away all the guns” narrative that I seem to hear from those afraid their guns will disappear. I also think there needs to be a national standard, where as some states could be stricter if they choose, but state by state regulation makes for confusion and so things get lost in the shuffle. (I had to try explaining gun policies to my students abroad where I teach…not easy when I don’t understand it myself.)

    Thank you so much for your post, it meant a lot to me and has calmed me a bit. I had been on emotional/processing overload the last 48 hours and it has been really nice to see your perspective because it brings me hope. It lets me know there are options, options where I couldn’t imagine any because I had never seen them presented before. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When you mentioned being nervous around guns, even though you grew up around them, it struck me. Because I’ve had multiple people tell me that wanting gun reform just means I’m scared of guns and that if I would just buy one and spend more time at gun ranges than I would understand current gun laws are just fine.

      I appreciate you saying guns still make you nervous even though they are familiar to you.

  31. my sister in law defended herself with a gun in her own home from an intruder. She called 911 when she heard someone breaking in and it took 12 minutes for police to get there. The intruder came towards her to attack her and she called out that she had a gun and would defend herself and he kept coming. Once she pointed the gun at him he immediatly turned and ran away. If she didn’t have a gun to defend herself who knows what would have happened in the 12 minutes it took police to get there. That’s why I feel like it’s important to have the right to have a gun to protect myself/family if I choose to.

    1. Having one gun in your house for self protection, or a few for hunting, is completely different than being able to buy 25 assault weapons.

    2. Melissa, I’m very glad to hear your sister-in-law is okay. Would it be too insensitive if we parse out a situation like that a little more? My first thought:

      I just read that people who die from a home invasion make up a sad but minuscule .04% of all gun murders in the US. And over a third of them are killed by their own gun that the criminal has either stolen or wrestled from them.

      Do we really want to build gun laws based on those numbers? Do those numbers justify putting a family or community at risk by keeping a lethal weapon in the house?

      Other thoughts:
      – Would a non-lethal weapon (like a taser or pepper spray) have worked as effectively?
      – Would a toy gun that looked real worked as effectively?
      – Would holding a phone to your ear and yelling, “Police! There is an intruder at X Address!” –
      worked as effectively?
      – Would installing a home alarm cost less than a gun and discourage the intruder just as effectively?
      – Would an additional padlock discourage the intruder? (I’m told the longer it takes to break in to a home, the less likely a break in will occur.)

      Of course, I don’t know the answers to the questions I’m asking, but I think it’s worth talking about other ways people can protect their families without keeping a lethal weapon close at hand. A lethal weapon that’s more likely to hurt family members than an intruder.


    Let us call upon the women of the US to begin this peaceful movement.

    As quoted by Carmen Maria Machado on Cup of Jo yesterday (referencing 20th c. food writer Clementine Paddleford):

    “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”

  33. I agree with everything you wrote here; thank you for taking the time to sit down and articulate it, because it’s a great essay to pass along to people.

  34. These emotional arguments against sensible gun control are 100% NRA propaganda given an even wider audience via right-wing media. “They want to take your guns” and “you are in constant danger” is their sermon, hymn, and prayer. The propaganda machine is what makes me feel so hopeless, even more than the lobbying juggernaut.

    I know you don’t feel like you were at your best on Facebook but your responses were hugely cathartic for me. At this point I actually do want to take everyone’s guns and I don’t have s whole lot of compassion for gun owners.

  35. I believe that gun control is not the problem, it’s gun culture. Establishing anything close to logical gun control is the first step to chip away and remove the toxic, dangerous culture.

    As a Canadian, it is very hard to understand. On Saturday night from a sidewalk patio, I watched a large cube can fly down a crowded downtown street, ultimately striking four pedestrians (this was after attacking a cop). 5 injured, 0 dead. The next day I watched the events in Las Vegas unfold. It’s not hard to imagine how different my Saturday night would have looked if gun culture had the same chokehold on Canada that it does on the states.

    1. I like your take on gun culture. It’s true guns are pretty well worshipped here. Again my thoughts go to the tobacco lobby history. Cigarettes were glamorized, and then somehow a switch was made and they became viewed as something more gross or dirty. Could we do the same with guns? I think so. Moms adopting an attitude like: “Gross. I would never let my kids visit a house with guns,” could jump start an attitude switch.

  36. Gabby, I agree with all of your points so, so much. I truly hope that we can overcome the NRA’s influence in Washington and pass much-needed gun regulations that the majority of Americans support.

    1. Thanks, Megan. I just read this tweet today and I keep thinking about it:

  37. I saw a list of the dollar amount every politician in my state has received from the NRA. I sort of want to call up each politician and ask them if I can raise that amount for them. If I could replace that money for them then maybe they wouldn’t feel indebted to the NRA.

    This daydream is distracting me enough to help me cope and process the recent tragedy.

  38. I was so hoping you would write a post just like this! I think you have built a wonderful platform to foster deep thought and conversation on so many important topics.

    For my 2 cents, I think the process to acquire and keep a gun should be at least as thorough as getting a driver’s license (a written test, a practical test, a current license in an easily searchable state database that you have to prove your identity to get, and special insurance). There are so many externalized costs that the rest of us bear, even apart from our risk of getting killed by your gun.

    1. I agree. And I’m stunned that we’ve gone all these years without implementing something like that. I mean we have one shoe bomb threat and we all take our shoes off at the airport, but we have 33,000 gun deaths and we don’t have a searchable database of who owns what lethal weapons?

      1. Gabby, I appreciate the discussion you’re fostering here — thank you!

        It’s interesting to me that the shoe bomb situation is so resonant for you — it’s something that’s coming up a lot in this thread. I can totally see that it’s a meaningful analogy for you, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think that analogy is likely to persuade folks who disagree with you on this topic. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison, and my hunch is that folks who are against increasing gun control are also likely believe that taking off your shoes in airport security lines is an unreasonable response to a very rare threat. So their response to that analogy is likely to be “yep! that kind of stupid rule is what happens when people overreact!”

  39. I agree with everything you said, and am so impressed by how clearly you articulated it.

    While I agree, I can give you some small town prospective too. Regarding the second amendment (and a bit of protecting family), I know some people see the second amendment as a way our to defend ourselves if the government goes sideways and there’s an uprising (like what they went through with the revolution). I feel like the constitution has been amended SO many times (thankfully), but I can see how people think, “What’s next, freedom of speech!?!?!”

    Also, I know many schools (including elementary) in my hometown now have armed teachers…and the parents LOVE THIS. It blows my mind, but I sometimes wonder if a shooter and teacher bloodbath is the only way some people are going to get it.

    I sometimes think that gun laws are like the last white male power hold (and I hate to generalize…I truly don’t mean that as broadly as it sounds). Like, so many white males have had different lives than their father or grandfather had, and this is the last thing they can still have. Just a thought, and again…I know that’s not the ONLY thing or that it’s ALL white males, because it certainly isn’t.

    Anyway, just my thoughts, and pardon if there are any repeats, because I haven’t made it through all of the amazing comments yet.

  40. I grew up in a town where almost every family owns at least one gun (mostly hunting rifles and maybe a pistol, but I’m sure there are some that have other kinds as well). For the most part, these are for hunting. My dad and both grandpas own guns and hunt with them, but are not in any way obsessed with guns otherwise. There were guns in our house when we were growing up and they were not in locked storage. I think in my town, the thought that could be dangerous was just non-existent, especially when I was younger. However, my dad never kept any ammunition in the house or on our property at all (he kept the ammunition at the business he owned). And yet, he often uses the “we need guns for protection” excuse. One time I pointed out that this was an extremely weak excuse/argument considering the guns and ammunition were kept in entirely different locations, a good 5-minutes apart from one another (and for once, he did tell me I had a point).

    My siblings and I, as well as our mom, believe in creating very strict gun laws. I have no issue with people owning hunting rifles that are properly and safely stored, but beyond that do not believe in owning other types of guns. However, my dad (and grandpas) are members of the NRA and are fiercely pro-gun. Whenever my siblings and I are at home and see that the NRA has sent something to my dad, we sometimes put it in the woodstove/garbage before he can see it. And if they call the house and one of us answers (which is often the case), we’ll pretend he’s not home. I know it doesn’t really make a difference, but it does make me feel a little bit better. I hate the NRA and it’s power over our government, but obviously my dad sees it differently.

    1. I love that you were able to help your dad see that you had a point about protection being a weak excuse.. I think personal one-on-one conversations (versus a blog post like this) are really the thing that changes minds.

  41. I don’t think the founders of our country intended to include those who would think nothing of murdering even one child or adult with a handgun, semi-automatic or automatic weapon to be protected by the 2nd Amendment.

    More importantly, I think the gun issue – and a lot of other issues –
    would be addressed by Congress etc if the NRA or any other lobby or corporation were not able to contribute money to political campaigns. That’s the real problem.

    1. Imagine our society right now, trying to come up with laws about weapons that will still be workable 250 years in the future. It’s laughable to even think of it! The 2nd Amendment is clearly not working well in it’s current form.

      1. I respectfully disagree. I think the founders came up with a Constitution — which was and is incredibly flexible and workable for their present and our present. I am quite sure they would be dumbfounded to see how some Americans interpret it today. I also think they were aware how fragile democracy would be to would-be autocrats and perhaps did not think the country would last this long.

  42. Your post encapsulates everything i’m feeling about this issue (and there are so many good comments here as well). I’m so angry this week – I am done with “thoughts and prayers” – in fact that wording makes me want to scream. I feel so disheartened that nothing will be done by the weak legislators, and that the NRA is so powerful (and really is only looking out for gun manufacturers and profit margins), and that gun culture is so entrenched in our society. When a classroom of kindergartners are murdered and no real gun legislation was enacted, we moved the needle on what we will tolerate in this country. Gun owners’ freedoms for ownership are not worth more than my life or any single human life. I sadly don’t feel that anything at all will change after this, and that we’ll be discussing it again the next time it happens with an even greater number of victims. Thanks for your thoughtful words on this subject.

  43. Can we put ideology aside and collaborate on a solution? Can we all agree that there are too many gun-related deaths and that we need to figure out how to reduce them?

    We have dramatically reduced the number of automobile-related deaths through a combination of policies, regulations, and technology innovations without having to ban cars. We developed safer cars, better traffic rules, DUI laws, speed limits, licenses and tests, air bags, etc.

    Can’t we be equally clever in solving this challenge? We are paralyzed from taking action and saving lives because we are too busy debating ideology.

    We CAN reduce the number for gun-related deaths. Australia figured out how. The Swiss have high rates of gun ownership and a lower rate of deaths. We can do this! The industry can innovate to prevent guns from being mis-used or fired accidentally or to make it easier for law enforcement to track perpetrators. We can devise rules that will keep them out of the hands of those we know are prone to violence or mental illness, we can create a registry so there’s a red flag if someone suddently buys a LOT of guns in a short amount of time and law enforcement can investigate. We can invest improving mental health services … We need more and better ideas.

    I’ve yet to hear those opposing gun control articulate why our gun-related deaths rate are so much higher than in other so-called “developed” nations.

    And I find it hard to believe that Americans are a uniquely violent, immoral, or insane people.

    Can we come together and solve this once and for all?

    1. “And I find it hard to believe that Americans are a uniquely violent, immoral, or insane people.”

      I agree with this and get frustrated when people argue that Americas are somehow more morally bankrupt than the rest of the world.

  44. Great post and great comments. So much to think about. I often wonder why people are so fearful in general and I sometimes blame the media. Could it be that these are people surrounded by others like them, living in a homogenous community and they can’t fathom that those different from them (religion, race etc) could be safe, respectful, lovely neighbors and friends? I wonder if there is research to support or disprove this?

    1. Good question, Kacy. I don’t know if research exists, but anecdotally what you’re describing seems to be somewhat true. Some gun owners refer to needing to protect themselves from “the other” — other religions, other languages, other skin colors.

  45. Good luck, Gabrielle. I have not personally interacted with a single person who opposes gun reform to be willing to read any article, statistic, or dialogue in a constructive way. We have a couple guns and live in a state with very strict gun laws (MA). My husband had to jump through some hoops to get them. It’s so weird….MA has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country. And it lines up with the stats for other states with strict gun rules. Amazing how that happens….must be some kind of fluke, right? (sarcasm).

    1. Of course, I know there must be people who oppose any gun reform who would be willing to listen to the other side. I just haven’t met any. I would very much like too, though, as I would be willing to listen to their side.

      1. For me, it’s been interesting to learn more about the number of Americans who actually own guns. If nearly 90% of Americans want stronger gun control (and wide polling says we do), then that means a small percentage of citizens is essentially holding the rest of us hostage. And that seems like something we could overcome.

        That 90% stat makes me feel stronger.

  46. My dad owns many many guns and we do not see eye to eye on this issue. He feels gun control it is depriving him of his God given right to own a semiautomatic gun. But how can you not be willing to give up a little bit of personal rights to protect other American citizens. What if it was his grandson that was a victim?

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