A former classmate wrote to me on Facebook this morning asking, “‘Given all that has happened in our country recently, when is the time when it will be okay for gun enthusiasts to put pictures of weapons on their Facebook walls (or otherwise promote gun ownership) without being considered offensive?” Good question. Here was my response.
That’s a great question. It’s probably THE question. I can’t exactly answer it because I don’t own a gun and don’t interpret the second amendment the same way gun owners tend to. On the other hand I am not against guns per se. I, like most of the American people, have no problem with guns for hunting, skeet shooting, etc.
So I’m probably not the guy to answer that question. But here are some thoughts.
1. Certainly not all who might wish to fly the Confederate flag are racists and people who wish we still had slavery. Some might just love the way it looks, or have sentimental feelings passed down to them by their grandparents about it, or feel it captures that special something about the south that northerners still experience today when we go down there. But that flag, permanently, is a divisive and hurtful symbol in American consciousness. People either acknowledge that, or they don’t, and continue to upset and irritate everyone around them. Every time a particular weapon is used to kill children, I think we will have that phenomenon. Assault rifles in general, and particularly the AR-15, are in that position. I think defending assault rifles in America is a losing proposition and anyone who tries to do it will be branded as pretty insensitive and maybe even a bit “out there,” no matter how sincere their convictions about the second amendment. Notice — this sentiment comes from the American people, not necessarily from government trying to take away your second amendment rights.
2. If you take assault weapons (and other weapons meant specifically to murder and maim human beings) out of the picture, then what’s the point? I don’t know hardly anybody who wants every single gun removed from every American household. (I wouldn’t CARE if this happened, but I do respect the basic rights of Americans to hunt, etc.) To say on Facebook, “I support the right of American citizens to keep a pistol in their home for self-defense” is pointless. The majority of the American people support that. The majority accept ownership of hunting rifles. So I guess this question becomes “What exactly are we supporting?” No one is making any attempt to take away guns from Americans, so what is the uproar about?
3. Back to perceptions. Most people see themselves as reasonable. Most people (including most gun owners, from what I understand) in America support “sensible” legislation that bans the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and closes loopholes on background checks. Most people see those opposed to what they believe are sensible and reasonable reforms as unreasonable and insensitive. Therefore, many see posts featuring assault weapons on Facebook as pretty offensive, perhaps paranoid (“they’re out to get all our weapons”), pretty unreasonable. Can this be changed, and is there any reason it SHOULD be, when most Americans already respect the second amendment and believe in the right to defend one’s self and own guns in one’s home? So this ties back into both #1 and #2. I don’t think there will ever be a time where a gun enthusiast can promote weapons intended to kill human beings, that have actually been used to murder little children at school. I think anyone wanting to protect and promote those guns will have to get used to being a black sheep. But it’s important they realize it’s not a “government is out to get your guns” thing — it’s that the American people themselves feel this way. And that sentiment is growing.
So the question, “When is a good time” is a huge question, a great one, and one I think more gun enthusiasts should think harder about.