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Why do you like and/or own a gun?

Guns Politics Emily Henderson Yes Or No Gun Laws Should Guns Be Regulated

Living in a bubble can be comforting. There is no tension at dinner parties and no arguments on vacations. You are constantly fed “proof” that supports the way you think, which makes you feel smart and good and “right”. But when your whole world is an echo chamber it makes certain subjects absolutely incomprehensible – and I’m not being superlative, there are things that I just don’t understand and I have no one to ask because everyone in my bubble is asking the same question or regurgitating judgmental answers that aren’t necessarily progressive, nor do they feel accurate.

The day after the election, when I asked you why you voted for Trump it was out of utter curiosity because I was desperate to learn more about why one would check his box. And I learned SO much. Your responses and the dialogue that ensued really changed my view on America – it didn’t change my politics, mind you – but it made me really respect the the experiences of many of you who think differently than I do. “Oh, That’s why…”  I felt that at least mentally I could wrap my head around the whys and relate more to other Americans. Newsflash, folks: listening to different viewpoints is enlightening. Duh.

So today’s question is another one in which I’m desperate for your input:

Why do you own and/or like guns?

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I’m sincerely hoping that those of you who love and appreciate guns can help those of us who don’t understand your views.

If you are curious about my stance on guns, here you go:

I’ve shot a 22 at pop cans with my family in Wyoming and it was fun. I’ve shot a machine gun at a firing range in Vietnam where my adrenaline spiked faster than those bullets (its a weird tourist thing). I realize these are not everyday gun shooting scenarios but they are all I’ve got. Despite being a less than great shot (but i’m not bad), the energy was intense, the destruction of the target was immediate, and the power in my hand was palpable. Holding a gun feels awesome.

It’s precisely that power which scares me the most. If everyone in America was mentally balanced, had strong moral compasses, and an appreciation for humanity I’d be less worried. If everyone in America had a healthy childhood, never suffered from violence, and had the mental tools to deal with conflict in a non-violent way, I wouldn’t be worried.

But that’s obviously not the reality.

When you hold a gun you feel powerful and I think it’s because you know that what you are holding in your hand can, in fact, destroy something or someone else in a second. Not that you want to, but you are very aware of the possibility. Because let’s be clear, that is the point of a gun. Guns are meant to kill, destroy, and remove life from something else. It’s not always premeditated, obviously. It might be for personal defense, sport or hunting game, but it is meant to KILL and there is is a shit ton of power in that. I mean, on a base level what is actually more “powerful” than the ability to destroy something near you?

There are a lot of people who feel powerless in life for a myriad of extremely sad reasons.  As hard as it is to remind ourselves, mass killers were once innocent babies too and for whatever reason they likely had a void of love, stability, attention or weren’t given the tools (or help) to heal, succeed or be happy. And that baby, now grown, given the chance to feel some power, or maybe to feel anything at all, might take it. If triggered they might, in fact, pull that trigger. When we call it ‘sense-less’ it often really means just that – they feel nothing. The latest shooter went to Wal-Mart to grab deoderant and then to Macdonald’s to grab a filet-o-fish after killing 17 high school kids (we don’t know what he really bought). That void of sense isn’t the result of having a normal, healthy life. It’s just not. And yet there is no multiple choice questionnaire or blood-test to find out how broken someone is or what their potential threat might be to society before they buy an AR15 or M16.

But that’s probably not you or most of us. And to be clear I don’t want to take away your guns.

But I understand and appreciate your need to feel safe – I want to feel safe, too, which is why I have a fancy home security system. To each their own. I understand that having a handgun provides you some comfort for personal defense. Just because I don’t want to own a gun doesn’t mean that I want to take away the right of responsible, highly checked and trained adults to buy a handgun for personal protection or a rifle for sport (assuming you store them in safes where no child could ever find or accidentally obtain access). The main reason I’m not campaigning to take your guns is because its clear that being totally anti-gun is futile and will further no progress. I am am personally very anti-gun, but I just want compromise with the hopes of more safety and less tragedy. I want stricter gun laws. More regulations. Less access to military style rifles that can kill so many so fast.

But man, I feel hopeless and helpless.

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Photo Credit: Katie Zhu

We all  know why politicians won’t change the laws – they are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the NRA to essentially not regulate guns and vote pro-gun policy. I get that. Frankly, I think they are cowards, but I don’t think they are necessarily bad people. They also just do not have the same fears and vulnerabilities of normal people because they and their children or grandchildren are more protected and privileged. It’s the same reason why they don’t advocate for public schools or universal health care – it’s not like they sent their kids to public school (or would now) so they can’t relate at all and therefore they don’t see its value or necessity.

But they would have voted differently on that AR15 ban if one of those children had been at Sandy Hook or Parkland.

I know why politicians aren’t trying to ban military style weapons, but I don’t understand why normal citizens are opposed to more gun restrictions and banning the AR15 or M16. I don’t understand why people think strangers should be able to buy guns online via the gun show loophole, without an effective background check. I don’t know why someone would be opposed to strict background checks and wait times for any gun store. Or maybe you do and most of you who own a gun really do want more restrictions. I know that a lot of moms read this blog and I can’t fathom that anyone with a child thinks that this weeks shooter should have been able to easily buy that AR-15 at a local gun shop, mentally ill or not.

I know, truly, that there are two sides to every story and I NEED to hear the other side because I’m sad and feeling so helpless and hopeless.

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So in the name of gaining knowledge, understanding and to create an important dialogue, I’d love to invite comments from those of you outside of my liberal bubble – those of you who own or like guns.  You can be anonymous and enter a fake email (people do it all the time),  I want you to be as honest as possible.

The main questions are:

-Why do you own a gun?

-As a gun owner do you think that there should be more restrictions and tighter gun laws? If not, why?

 – Do you think that AR-15s should be legal for purchase? 

Let me be clear – this is NOT a political conversation. Obviously, this is a very passionate subject and it’s easy to get angry and words might fly out of your fingers that can take the conversation in an ugly direction. But this space will remain void of trolls and bullies (aka we’ll delete anything that feels disrespectful). My general rule is that if you wouldn’t verbally say it to an eight year old, find a way to rephrase it. We have an opportunity to listen to each other and learn and we shouldn’t squander it with generic rhetoric, judgment or digression.

Because if knowledge is power then maybe learning from each other is the only way we can become more knowledgable and more powerful than the piece of dangerous metal called a GUN.

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  1. I live in Texas. When I was growing up, the boys came to school with guns in the gun racks in their trucks! We do not own a gun in our household, because I had three sons, and I was always worried about the boy/gun connection, and didn’t want to have to worry about that. However, I and my husband were both in the military, and we know how to use/care for guns properly. (To be honest, I’d like to have a shotgun, now, for home security.) I do NOT believe that military-style weapons, such as assault rifles should be available for purchase to non-law enforcement individuals, period! We do need to change the laws regarding assault rifles. But, kids’ games, movies, cartoons, etc., are all way too violent, and when kids look at that on a daily basis, they get immune to the violence. Parents need to do their jobs as parents – teach the kids that violence is not the way to deal with things. And, we need to get back together as a country. We are all way too divided, and all the anger is trickling down to our kids. My son, who is a policeman/reserve officer in the Coast Guard, believes we are in the early stages of an all out Civil War! This really needs to stop! (I am an older woman, who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, and I just keep thinking of that silly phrase, ‘Can’t we all just get along’? But, it’s the truth!)
    (Love you, and your work, by the way!)

    1. Thank you, Terra for being the first commenter. And I totally agree about the games/movies and cartoons. We are CRAZY conservative at our house which I really didn’t know I would be as a parent. We once let Charlie watch kung fu panda and afterwards, guess what he wanted to do? FIGHT, fight fight. Obviously thats not a huge deal, but it was like, well duh, of course he wants to physically fight now. Lesson learned. When they watch the gentle cartoon series ‘give a mouse a cookie’ they literally want to make muffins afterwards. ANYWAY, i could talk about how important it is to send the right messages to our kids all day every day, but I honestly think that the video games where people are using machine guns to gun down other people can’t be good. Maybe jus car racing games? 🙂

      1. I agree about the violent video games too!!! I think that they’re addicting and some have a hard time separating video games from reality. If I ever have boys – those games will NOT be allowed in my home.

        1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-video-games-inspire-violent-behavior/

          Video games and their link to violence have long been debunked since their first major debate in the 90s. Many people rightfully criticised and ridiculed the fear mongering crusade Fox News had on violent video games.

          I would agree they aren’t good for behaviour especially in large doses, but more often than not the nature of someone who develops or is born with psychopathy has neglible link to their experiences with video games(well into the multiple thousands of hours of cumulative play)

          1. This is absurd! Clearly, you’re a gamer 🤦🏼‍♀️. Violence begets violence. Video games are scary and graphic and have absoltely been shown to cause violent tendancies.

          2. Yep. Blaming video games completely diminishes a much more complex issue. It’s a lazy, simple-minded excuse. And no, I so not play video games, and neither do my kids.

          3. Guys, they have videos games in Canada too and this shit does NOT happen here. I can’t name ONE school that children died at from a gun.

            We have strict gun laws but it doesn’t mean you can’t own one.

          4. This is simply not true. Violent video games were developed by the military to train soldiers prior to being deployed in order to desensitize them to the violence. It HAS been proven that these games make the player less empathetic as that was the intent. Reference the documentary Screenagers. Video games where the player has to rescue someone, or work as a team can be beneficial to the learning process but games with violence and shooting normalize that behavior and negatively effect the way the player relates to the world.

          5. While in the 1990s there was some research that did not find a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior, more recent research (and there is a ton of it since the 1990s) has shown that there is a clear association between playing violent video games and increased violent and aggressive behavior. The evidence that this leads to violent crimes is weaker, but it’s pretty well accepted that violent video games do increase aggressive behavior, even if that doesn’t lead to crime.

            If you want to know more, here is a report of a recent major study (2015) by the American Psychological Association.

            https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/08/violent-video-games.aspx

        2. I am concerned about the impacts of screen time because there simply hasn’t been long term longitudinal studies on the effects. I totally respect a mom’s decision to limit video games or exposure to violence. But I do want to caution that there HAVE been many long term peer reviewed studies that have shown that even first person shooting style violent video games do not impact teens/adults negatively. My husband’s therapist actually said that for men in modern society, violent video games can be a really healthy way to let off steam in modern society.

          I do wonder though if these sickos get their ideas from the games…but I just don’t know. We don’t have the data yet. I wish there weren’t enough shootings to ever merit a study sample. Sigh.

          Frankly, my kids are really drawn to the war type video games, and though I would prefer they be doing other things like basket weaving, I have given up the battle and have used the games to start a lot of really good conversations about good/evil, history, the horrors of wars, “collateral damage”, the value of all human life, and probably most important, the difference between reality and glamorized media violence.

          1. Just to add, remember that those kinds of video games and movies are available to kids all over the world, yet mass shootings rarely happen outside of America.

          2. The violent video games are for adults. That’s what the M rating is for. Not sure why people aren’t taking responsibility for exposing their kids to this violence in the first place. An M rating literally means they can’t buy it for themselves.

          3. Hi Emily, I live in Queensland, Australia where I’m sure you’re aware has very strict gun regulations. My husband owns a .22 rifle (I don’t know what its called technically but its not at all automatic, you have to manually do something with the gun after each and every bullet fired before you can fire the next) which is only used for some fun target practice, though he did used to go hunting & grew up on a farm. I’ve used the rifle to shoot targets & it is fun.

            Do I think hand guns/semi-automatics/fully auto-matics should remain/be legal? Hell no!!!! I find the notion that these assault rifles are able to be bought over there absolutely absurd!!! I cannot even fathom it!!

            We need rifles here for farming use/feral animal control etc, but there is NO need for a person who isn’t working in law enforcement to have an automatic weapon. As my husband says, if these shooters were not using automatic weapons, the death toll would be so so much less, as people would have more time to react, as everything is slowed down. There would be no shower of bullets mowing down victims. I once met a friend of my husband years ago who had a hand gun (illegally obviously & we haven’t seen him for over 20yrs) & just the sight of it scared the hell out of me. They just look completely lethal.

            There is no denying that our gun laws work! Anyone these days in Australia has to have a damn good reason to even be approved for a gun licence let alone own a gun.

            As far as video games go, I don’t agree at all that they add to the issue. We played shoot ’em up games as kids and we are very kind people to human and animal. We also played pretend fight games, played with home made wooden gun toys and plastic guns and we did not & do not have any want to kill anything. My kids play shoot ’em up video games and they are very empathatic boys to human and animal (even the very small insects!!) They have nerf guns and play typical play fighting boy games but there is no want to actually hurt anything. I believe the parents role is more in teaching/encouraging children how to be kind and empathetic, & teach the difference between make believe & reality, as opposed to sheltering them. My oldest once purposely squashed a caterpillar when he was quite young and was on the verge of understanding but not quite, & I intentionally made him feel extremely bad for what he’d done & made him u derstand the enormity of the situation for the caterpillar. He cried and felt very distraught towards that caterpillar, & has not killed another living thing since. Obviously video games need time limits etc, but I cannot see that a normal child who has no psychological issues can play a video game & then decide they want to hurt someone.
            Sometimes, I do believe sheltering can cause the issue as it makes them more curious as to WHY they can’t play them and builds from there. My kids know Dads got a rifle. They’ve shot target with it. Once it goes back into the gun case do they try to get it back out? NO. Do they think it’s a toy & ask to play wIth it? NOPE! Infact, do they have any interest whatsoever in it once it is put away? NOT AT ALL. Playing a shoot ’em up video game does not even temp them to want to play with the gun. They just know! Between common sense and us teaching them, they just know! There has to be a psychological issue with these people who’s desire it is to hurt others which has more to do with the values they’ve been taught & their non-ability to empathise.

        3. Girls play video games, too.

      2. I won’t comment separately as I too am in the LA liberal bubble and I identify as a liberal-but I wanted to say that your post was so well written and I feel will spark a informative and clean conversation here that us in the bubble can def learn from. I do want to say that i agree with the video games and if I was a Mom I would prob be pretty conservative as all that goes too. I mean back in my day video games just weren’t violent-I mean was Pac Man violent? 🙂 Even the space ship games were they shot other ships was still pretty tame stuff. It was just FUN. To me shooting other people with machine guns just isn’t fun. In real life like you I tried shooting some guns-I felt the exact same way you did/described about my experience. I too don’t want to take the guns away from sane, trained, careful gun owners who know how to store them properly (safe from any children), etc. I just want stricter laws and for them to actually be enforced. BUT why the hell would anyone NEED an automatic weapon in their daily life?!!!! That is insane. I sincerely want to thank all of you who are gun owners or who are pro-gun who will share their opinions here with us. I want to understand also.

      3. Emily, as the mom of a boy, who is concerned about violent video games (and screen time in general), I highly suggest the book “Boys Adrift”. It has had such a huge impact on my parenting of my son. I don’t want my son to be one of those boys who moves home after college with no direction and no plan to grow up. That book has given me tools to prevent it.

        1. Thank you, Hillary, for the book recommendation. It is in my Amazon cart now. I have a 12 yr old and he loves video games and its worrisome.

    2. Terra, thank you, your husband and son for your service. I grew up an “army brat” my father did have a gun but along with that gun EXTENSIVE gun training. I think it’s ridiculous for people who have not been through extensive background checks and training to be able to have a gun. Our kids are young (same age as Emily’s) we try to focus on just what you said, getting along!
      I do have to admit though, I let my husband keep a pellet gun, our house is in Arizona, we back up to the desert and occasionally want to scare an animal off because of the small kids and our dog…but I don’t think that counts as a gun. However I think we could scare off a burglar with it!

    3. In October I found this comment on EHDs comment section and there is nothing to add:

      “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. “

      1. All true, but once again other countries like Australia and the U.K. with strict gun control have all of the same influences yet MUCH lower gun deaths. 3.6 deaths per 100.000 in the US. The next closest is 0.5 in Canada. Clearly access to guns makes a difference.

        1. Yes, I’m Australian so I can vouch that our kids are subject to all the same issues – video games, screen time etc. The difference is that in Australia, not only do most people have absolutely no interest in owning a gun (the thought wouldn’t event cross our minds), but if we did then govt regulations make it very difficult achieve. Every time another American gun shooting make news, it’s harder and harder to accept that such a simply solved issue can be so difficult to achieve and the fact that the blockade is money is infuriating.

          1. Another Aussie here. We definitely have the same worries about violence and screen time that there are in the US. The concept of owning a gun is strange and very foreign to most of us here.

            I have one friend who owns a gun (for sporting purposes) and the amount of background checking etc that had to happen before he had permission to purchase one was extensive. There are also very strict regulations on the storage of weapons. This makes me rest easy, knowing that it is hard to legally purchase a weapon.

            Yes, if you really want to, you can get a gun through illegal means, but I think the numbers prove that our strict gun laws make a real difference.

            Check out John Oliver’s piece on gun control from a few years back for a brilliant, witty look at gun control in Australian versus US (http://www.comedycentral.com.au/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart/videos/john-oliver-on-gun-control-in-the-us-vs-australia).

          2. Canadian here (French-Canadian actually so, sorry for any spelling mistakes). I feel we think the same way. The though of someone owning a gun (or many guns for that matter) is just so… unusual? Almost weird.

            I mean, I know people who hunts but they do not have automatic weapons and they really need to go through an intensive background check. Maybe not as severe as in Australia especialy since the end of the Gun Registry (thanks Harper)