Regular readers know me as the League’s ‘gun guy’. I am not the only writer at the League experienced with guns, but I am definitely the loudest, and so that means I have some responsibilities. For obvious reasons the past week has caused me countless hours of self-reflection. I have started to write at least ten posts and trashed them because I realized I didn’t have a firm grasp on what I wanted to say. That is starting to come together for me now and I want to try to share those thoughts today.
The truth is that I do love guns. I grew up around guns. My grandfather and my uncle were police officers and their duty weapons were always present. I was also a child of divorce and I missed my father deeply at times even though I saw him nearly every weekend. Guns played an important role in our relationship. They represented his trust in me. They were an opportunity for him to teach me. They meant time we would spend together hunting and target shooting. As I grew older, guns meant time in the field with my friends. Increased responsibility with bigger guns. Moving into adulthood hunting has become an obsession that trumps all others. Guns also mean that I have become the teacher of friends who want to learn to shoot as adults, my wife and my kids.
I guess my point is that my reputation here and elsewhere is well-deserved and I am far from an unbiased voice in the conversation about guns. But I also like to think that doesn’t prevent me from turning a critical eye towards the problem of gun crime. One statistic I would present for consideration is that in the U.S. roughly 90% of all crimes that involve a firearm are committed with handguns. So-called ‘assault weapons’ represent less than 2% of all crimes involving a gun*. This is important to keep in mind when policy prescriptions are offered in the coming weeks.
As plenty of others have noted, gun violence is part of a larger problem. Spree killings often represent failures of gun sellers, the mental health system or the people around these individuals who said nothing. Gun violence related to gangs and drugs has its roots in communities without enough fathers and in the warped need to carry a gun to feel like a man. Shootings like the Treyvon Martin case come from a distrust between groups and an irrational fear that seems to be an eternal feature of humanity.
With regards to our upcoming symposium, some have been critical of the topic and I can tell you that I was concerned about it myself when it was first proposed. What I said then, as I will say now is that I don’t want to fall into the predictable role of defending hunting and target shooting from gun-control advocates. This concern is still true however as I have read comments on the posts we have had so far regarding guns, I don’t see this fear as being a real cause for concern. We have a few regular commenters who are clearly anti-gun but for the most part I have seen a great deal of nuance and attempt to understand from everyone and I expect this to continue. I look forward to reading the pieces offered by my colleagues here who I respect so much and who never cease to amaze me with their abilities as writers and thinkers. I think the theme as it has been offered gives us all enough elbow room to go in our own directions as needed.
Sometime in the next week I am going to offer a post as a ‘primer’ on guns. My hope is that it will provide some basic information that others can draw on for reference and to help form opinions. It will be intended to be neutral and simply provide facts before the symposium starts. In the meantime I would encourage everyone to look at the coming debate over guns and violence in the context of our larger society. What are the driving forces behind spree killings and gang violence? Is the root cause guns or are they a symptom of something else? These are the hard questions we have to ask and I look forward to hearing the answers.
* Edited from 10% based on information in this report.