[Note: This post was written on the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.]
I’m not a gun control extremist. I grew up in a rural area, and know that there are lots of legitimate reasons to own guns, and that many gun owners use their weapons responsibly. I would love to protect kids from gun violence in ways that do not restrict the freedom of law-abiding gun owners.
But here’s the deal: 20 little kids just got killed. If, in the face of that tragedy, I get the sense that you care more about your right to bear arms than you care about those kids, you have lost your credibility. I’m not interested in your arguments for gun ownership. I’m only interested in the fact that you appear to care more for your guns than for kids.
When I first heard news of the tragedy in Connecticut today, the first thought that crossed my mind was not gun control. It was to assume that the shooter was mentally ill (like several previous mass shooters), and to think we need to do more to make sure that people like that get treated before they hurt people.
But then I began to see comments from gun owners that seemed to show more concern for protecting the right to bear arms than for the kids who have died, the kids who have survived, the families affected. If I were to receive a call right now from a gun control organization asking for donations, I’d be tempted to clean out my bank account to support them.
I’m a pretty rational guy, and I don’t make impulsive emotional decisions. I also don’t have kids. I don’t see those images, and think, “What if that was my kid who had just been shot?” So if I feel this way, I can guarantee that there are a bunch of parents out there who are reacting far more strongly, with far deeper personal emotional investment, than I am.
So, if you’re a gun owner, or a defender of gun rights, do yourself a favor. Remember that the lives of those kids are worth infinitely more than your guns. Make sure that, before you say anything, you take the time to think of those kids. Think what it’s like for the families. And make sure that anything you say in defense of your guns is not going to alienate the folks who care for those kids.
I presume that, in the aftermath of this tragedy, there’s going to be some political debate over gun control. Like I said, I know lots of responsible gun owners. I’m more than willing to support the right of responsible gun owners to keep and bear arms. But you’ll be a lot more likely to get my vote in that debate if I’m convinced you care as much about the kids as I do.
If I worry you care more about your guns than about the kids, I’m gonna be 10x as likely to support proposals that would further restrict gun ownership.
So, over the next few days, I suggest that you think carefully before you speak. A lot of people are upset over this kind of tragedy. Don’t stick your foot in your mouth.