Gun Rights... and Responsibilities

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I read an article on Vox where a guy tries to explain why so many Americans like him own assault rifles. The article assumes that those opposed to these weapons of war think anyone who would own one is “inhuman or insane.”

This is a straw man argument. Of course I don’t think that. No reasonable person would. I don't think you are a criminal or a nut. I get the appeal of owning a big gun like that. It’s like wanting a fast car. They are both kind of awesome. I want one, too.

The problem here is one of people needing to show moral responsibility. Driving fast is fun, but that does not mean you can race your car 90-miles-an-hour down a little suburban street. The reason is obvious, your fun endangers the lives of lots of people.

The same is true with people who want to own a weapon made for mass shooting people in war. I get why they want it. It’s cool. It's a power tool. But what is lacking here is moral responsibility and social conscience.

A long time ago Amitai Etzioni said that what we need in this country is to learn to balance rights and responsibilities. Having an assault rifle is not a right. No one needs it. It is a cool toy, like a smart phone. The question is: are you willing to be mature and responsible enough to give up your fun toy for the sake of others, for the sake of public safety?

I think a lot of people probably would be. Once we take fear out of the picture, people are often able to be considerate and social. But creating fear has become a major factor in the gun debate. People are constantly told that they need to fear having their guns taken away. They tell people they need to fear home invasion, terrorism, rape, a violent government, and every horror scenario you can think of, all calculated to play to people’s deepest fears.

This focus on fear is no accident. Fear engages your brain’s amygdala, which makes you defensive, reactive, and physiologically unwilling to compromise. It literally overrides your brain’s prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that is thoughtful and concerned about the needs of others – your social brain.

As long as a person’s brain is in that reactive threat-state, there is a huge physiological pull that keeps people from thinking of the needs of others, and of doing something good and unselfish – like giving up their dangerous toys.

So what we need is to move away from fear, away from demonizing the other, and -- this last one is maybe the hardest for us Americans -- away from unbridled me-focused consumerism. We need more people who can show self-restraint, and who can care more about other people’s safety than they do about their possessions.

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At 3:39 AM, Blogger Geoff Robinson said...

So what do we do with inner city gun violence? Will you ask them to also lay down their arms? 300 dead in chicago since January 1st. I see a lot of selective outrage regarding guns these days.
I enjoy your writing; I just don't see you addressing gangs the way you do folks that may own a "weapon of war". The AR-15 folks aren't shooting up Chicago. Has the President ever held a news conference about gang violence? Have you ever blogged about it?
Maybe so, but I've yet to hear the names of the Chicago shootings read on tv. I think 41 were shot last weekend.
My point: we have bigger problems than AR-15s. (FYI, I don't own a gun, and likely never will)

At 5:19 AM, Blogger Joel said...

Derek, I'm not going to go down the "the only protection from a crook with a gun is a gun" argument, mostly because I don't buy it.

That said, I do want to address a couple of things in your post that I would class as mis-informed...

1) You classify the AR-15 as a "big gun". It is a carbine rifle (16" barrel) that shoots 22 caliber bullets but at a very high velocity. The round can be and is used for hunting and people do hunt with the gun, although most states do not allow more than 5 rounds in the gun. Just for completeness, the gun is accurate out to 300 yards but is normally "sighted in" for somewhere around 100-300 because of the bullet trajectory. Although you can buy AR style rifles with larger diameter bullets, the AR-15 is the most popular because of things like cost of ammo and availability of parts. In California, and Colorado, magazine size is restricted. In California, there is a requirement to have a tool activated magazine release to slow down magazine changes.

Back to the "big gun" comment for a second. The round was chosen by NATO because it was more likely to wound than kill, unlike the larger bullets found in the Russian AK-47.

One other misconception about the AR-15 is it is not an "Assault Rifle" by manufacturers definition. An assault rifle would more likely be a continuous fire (the AR-15 requires a trigger pull for each round fired) and these days, more of what is called a "bull pup" design. For comparison, look at the IWI Tavor.

2) You equate shooting the AR like driving a fast car. I'm not sure I'd go there. At least the argument is a bit pejorative. Years back I had a friend who was a Fiat guy. He liked them because of acceleration, cost and handling. He used to tell me "You can go as fast as you want up to the speed limit". I look at the AR-15 that way. It's a well engineered gun with plenty of options... Some just useless, some to help it operate more to my liking. It's a gun often referred to as "Barbie for Guys" because of all the things that can be done with it. Because of the design, it is a pleasure to shoot (assuming you like shooting).

3) You've mentioned before that gun education is severely lacking. I would agree. Guns don't fire themselves. The NRA has developed a series on gun safety for young kids that tells the kids NOT to touch guns... Many school boards have rejected it, for various reasons. It is, however, a free program.

4) Lastly, fear is a driver on both sides of this issue. Politicians (and I think the NRA falls into this category as well as it's opponents) are great at hyping their sids using fear. As Derek We in one of his songs, however... "You can always trust the devil or a politician to be the devil or a politician". My neighbor, in law enforcement knows much of what I have availale. I asked about his feeling on civilians owning firearms. He echoed my gun safety instructor, also in law enforcement who said "My mission in life is to get guns into the hands of good people."

Ultimately, there were so many failures both in the systems and in law enforcement with regards to the Orlando shootings. There are holes that need to be plugged but I also wonder if the 2nd Amendment is neutered or disposed of, which one is next? Free speech? Slavery?

At 5:23 AM, Blogger Joel said...

In point 4 above. "Derek We" should be "Derek Webb". The song is "A Savior on Capital Hill"

At 7:53 AM, Anonymous Derek said...

Geoff and Joel,

Before we start into this conversation, let me ask you this: Is there any part of you that related to anything I have said thus far? If so, what would that be?

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Joel said...

You made some claims concerning the guns, I was commenting on those things.

You made claims about the gun, about driving fast, I addressed those. If either of us prefer not to continue a dialog, that is fine. On the other hand you have a viewpoint, I have a viewpoint. I think we disagree on what, when it comes to this particular gun model.

While I may not have landed on the point you were trying to make, being dismissive is not very respectful.

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I was not being dismissive, I was asking an honest question in order to see if there was some point of agreement upon which we might build further dialog. If there is literally nothing that you can agree with, then I do not know what the basis for our conversation would be.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Joel said...

I think the one thing we agree upon is the use of fear for both sides of the political stage to achieve their agendas.

I also suspect that we would agree that the ban of a particular weapon will ultimately do nothing until peoples hearts change.

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

I'm sure there are many things we may agree on, but I was inquiring specifically as to points of agreement in regards to this particular blog post.

For example, are you a follower of Jesus, and do you support the idea of self-sacrificing love which the Lord Jesus taught us? Are you willing to extend the kind of loving sacrifices that you would make for your own family, and show that same kind of care and unselfishness towards others outside of your circle to the extent that you are able?

Are these core values you would affirm and seek to have shape your life?
If not, please explain why you do not affirm these values.

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

It seems logical enough. Principle 1: giving up your rights, laying down your life, following Jesus example is the biblical pattern. Principle 2: I remember doing a word study on sensible which was used a bunch of times by Paul to exhort in his letters. It meant to voluntarily limit your freedoms for the sake of others. Like I said it seems a logical argument. Principle 3: the strong ought to bear with the weak. Again it seems logical enough that the way to help the weak is by sacrificing things that we enjoy but are a stumbling block. Principle 4: we ought to weep with those that weep. If we truly believe we are one body than we should allow the hurt of others in the body to effect us. Again these are all major biblical themes and seem to suggest the Christian's trajectory.

So my question is this? How far do we apply that? Can we take that too far? Can we guilt people or coerce people to sacrifice more when they aren't there? What other issues do we apply this to or is it across the board for every issue, lay aside my right my privilege for the sake of the greater good?

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Derek said...

"How far do we apply that? Can we take that too far? Can we guilt people or coerce people to sacrifice more when they aren't there? What other issues do we apply this to or is it across the board for every issue, lay aside my right my privilege for the sake of the greater good?"

What I really like about this question Brad, is that it appears that you are asking "how can we find a way to grow in this area?" rather than looking to justify not doing it. In other words, it is a question that will lead us forward morally.

"Can we take things too far?" Yes. It's always possible, and so we need to be careful. Most important here is that we need to seek to understand and have insight into what we are doing, so that we can do it right.

"Can we guilt people or coerce people" yes, but I'd say that we should recognize that guilt an coersion are means that are very limited in their effectiveness, not to mention potentially harmful. In particular they tend to lead to short term change, but not deep-seated long-term behavior. So I think we need to look for means of motivating people in deep and long-lasting ways.

"is it across the board for every issue, lay aside my right my privilege for the sake of the greater good?"

It's important to differentiate between a general principle, and specific application which would be appropriate in certain contexts and not others. I argue in Disarming Scripture, for instance, that love of enemies is a general principle, but turning the other cheek is a specific application that it right in some circumstances, but can be wrong in others.

Similarly, the dynamics are important to consider when speaking of laying aside privilege for the sake of others. One important factor is that this kind of self-sacrifice should be done from a position of strength. For example if a parent stays up all night to care for a sick child. That is the parent who is giving, sacrificing, out of strength with the goal of caring for the one who is weaker, the child. If you reverse the dynamic and have the weaker one sacrificing to care for and serve the one with more power, that is just you classic slave-master relationship. It's important to recognize that Jesus was not affirming this oppressive relationship, but reversing it when he said stuff like "if you want to be the greatest, you must be the slave of everyone." The purpose here is reversing the dynamic, not so everyone is denied justice and everyone is mistreated, but so as to work towards everyone getting what is good and loving and just.


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