Nathan Sass

Open Letter from the Right to the Left on Gun Control

In Gun Control, Politics on December 19, 2012 at 2:07 PM

The following was originally sent to a friend on the left in response to a conversation over Facebook regarding gun control proposals in response to the despicable crime in CT.  I felt it was worthy to use as a larger message to the left from a conservative on the subject.


I think you and I are talking past each other.  Please DO NOT take the following as a personal attack, because it is most definitely NOT.  It’s an observation.  It is really long, because these discussions cannot be had in 4 or 5 sentences, and I have a lot to express.  I apologize in advance for the length. 

From your previous comments, it seems clear that your motivation is largely emotional.  My motivation is largely phlegmatic. This is not a judgment of the motivation, just recognition of it.

We are both saddened and disgusted at what happened in CT.  We are both aligned in the belief that such events should be prevented whenever possible.

Where we depart is how we approach these types of events, and it may speak to the larger inability of the left and the right to find much common ground anymore on almost any issue.

One side is driven by a desire to do something, ANYTHING, driven by their passions and emotions.  Results then take a backseat to just doing something.  It is the “doing” that generates satisfaction because it makes them feel better about themselves and the thing that made them emotional.

The other side is driven by achieving desired results, even if that means the actions, or results, are delayed, sometimes significantly.  It also may ultimately mean nothing can be done at all.  Emotions then take a backseat to logic.  It is the “results” that generates satisfaction because it fixes the stated problem, even if that took a long time.

Your “team” sees my “team” as cold, unfeeling, and disconnected people who do not care about other people.  You see us as selfish, and only interested in our own personal gain. 

My “team” sees your “team” as impulsive, irrational, emotional people more interested in personal absolution and emotional satisfaction than actually fixing anything.

These views of the other side are repeated in the endless silos of echo-chambers in which we all inhabit. (i.e. MSNBC/Fox News, Hollywood/Talk Radio, etc.)

With this said, let me respond to the larger points once again. 

Let me first state the obvious:  The shooting in CT is tragic and heartbreaking.  On this we fully agree.

From there we start to part ways.

As much as I would like to believe that any regulation or law could prevent events like this from occurring, my logical core will not allow me to.  Criminals are criminals because they disregard laws and regulations.  Therefore no law or regulation you can create will stop them from committing crimes, including illegal possession and use of weapons of all types.

We see this all the time in our daily lives.  Pot is illegal, yet it stops no one who disregards the law and wants to sell, purchase, or use it.  Speeding is illegal, yet it stops no one who disregards the law and drives as fast as they want.

What the law CAN do is punish these behaviors when they become known and then only after the fact.

Gun laws are no different in this regard.

Consider:  The CT killer was willing to break laws far more “serious” in the commission of his crimes, not the least of which was first degree murder of his own mother and innocent children.  How then could anyone reasonably argue that he, or anyone so similarly motivated, would have been deterred one bit by a “less important” gun law?

The logic fails, and that is why I cannot join you in calling for more regulations of firearms to prevent such incidents or ones even less severe.  My motivation is results, and there are none to be found there.

You call for laws that would prevent gun violence, but in so doing forget or ignore that the violence itself is already against the law, gun or no gun, and those laws do nothing to stop the violence.

The laws around firearm ownership in place now are, in my opinion, reasonable. 

I am not opposed to background checks before a purchase is made.

I think the waiting period is fine on handguns, and actually find it odd there is no such waiting period on long guns.  I would support extending the waiting period to include long guns.  (Recall, the waiting period is not for the purpose of processing the check, but just a measure to prevent impulse purchase and use.)

I think that requiring private sellers to use a licensed dealer to sell a gun to another private party is a good improvement, provided the license holder cannot charge the parties for the background checks and their involvement.

If it can be shown that it can be done in a timely manner, background checks at trade shows (typically referred to as “gun shows”) should be required, also.  Waiting periods in this case are difficult or impossible to impose in a like manner as store purchases, simply because the nature of the show does not allow a seller to wait the required period of time before delivery. 

Perhaps the best accommodation would be to have a private party such as the NRA local representatives (present at such events, usually) act as the “holder” for the waiting period duration.

This would be reasonable to me, allows for the required checks and “cooling off” time, and does not impose further government controls or involvement in the purchase of firearms.

But even these changes are not going to have even the smallest impact on criminal access to firearms.  Criminals do not generally buy their guns at Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, or the Bob and Rocco Gun Expos.  They buy them largely on the street from other criminals.

What I see in your response to this is to do “something” as big as the anger and pain you feel.  The crime was huge, and so then must your response be.  Measures like the ones I describe above are not nearly enough to satisfy your desire to match the scale of the crime.

It appears that you are less motivated by whether or not your response is effective, as long as it is big enough to satisfy your emotional response to the crime.  My responses as detailed above are probably in your opinion too emotionless, too cold, to analytical to be worthy of consideration.  In short, they are not “big enough”.

We must also agree that there are a multitude of issues beyond firearms involved in this crime. 

Mental health treatment issues are present in this situation that need to be addressed, not the least of which is the difficulty in getting confinement for a person with serious issues who may pose a threat.  It is a legal nightmare to do so, and probably shouldn’t be quite so difficult.  Having said that, it shouldn’t be easy to do so, either.

The mother of the assailant (who’s name I will not use in my own effort to not glamorize his crimes) is guilty, in my mind, of being a highly irresponsible gun owner.  She should have kept her weapons in a locked safe, unloaded, and the ammunition kept in a separate secured location.  Had this simple measure been taken, these event would never have occurred.

I own several firearms (including the much maligned AR 15 that I use for hunting and recreational target shooting) and if I had a child so unstable, I would never allow anyone in the house but myself access to them.  I may even consider not owning a gun at all, if that were necessary. 

In my personal case, the weapons I own are secured and my wife and I have the only direct access.  We do this even though all our children are highly trained in the use of firearms (they all hunt, as do I), have been schooled on proper use and handling since an early age, and are not in the least bit threats to anyone.

My weapons are a threat to no one, save those who mean me or my family harm.  They are tools that I (and my family) respect the power of, and have been trained to use responsibly, just like an automobile or any other item.

I believe you and I must also agree that, sadly, we cannot stop “stupid” with any law.  Even if you were to mandate safes and storage requirements, it would be impossible to enforce until after a tragic event, unless you are willing to allow police the power to conduct unwarranted searches of homes to verify proper storage.  That is a line I believe we cannot cross, and power the government should never have.

In the end, I ask you to consider that perhaps we are not as far apart as you may believe.  I also ask you to step back from the emotional response a bit and grant me that any laws we pass must be grounded in concrete results, not just a need to “try something”.

To that end, I point out that there was a ban on assault rifles for 10 years, and in that period of time there was no significant change, especially a reduction, in gun violence or crime.  We did try in that case, and there are no results to point to as a success for the effort.

If, in the end, all you seek is to “do something”, and care little if that something bears any real fruit, we will never find common ground.  There is no middle to meet in if you are not looking for results.

I, maybe as much as you, want to do something.  I have children, and can not imagine the pain those parents are in right now.  I grieve with them, like you do.

But my emotion is tempered by a lot of reason, and I start from the position that whatever we do must be a) constitutional, b) reasonable and workable, and c) effective.

I am open to armed officers at schools, even if that requires more funding.  That would have a great deterrent effect, in my estimation.

Perhaps training members of the school staff in tactical situations, and issuing them a concealed weapon is something to consider.  We trust them with our children every day, so I believe we can trust them with a weapon to defend them should they have to.  It has proven effective in places more violent than the US (Israeli teachers are all armed and trained, for instance).

You and I must agree that evil will always surround us.  The only way to blunt it is to confront it directly, either with ideas (i.e. the civil rights movement) or with force (i.e. WWII).   We cannot just legislate evil away, however.

The gun will never be “un-invented”, which means we will be forced to deal with their illegal use for the rest of time.  Taking them away from the “good guys” will not make the “bad guys” put theirs down.

  1. […] from The Dinner Table Blog The following was originally sent to a friend on the left in response to a conversation over […]

  2. Another brilliant, balanced and well-argued piece, Nathan. I again applaud your considerable skills as a communicator.

    I, myself, am neither a gun owner nor a gun advocate, yet I recognize the need for today’s citizens to trace the wisdom of our 18th century counterparts. While it may seem that despotism is not an imminent threat in our age, the reality is that – should it occur – the citizens, themselves, would have absolutely no recourse but to yield, just as those caught up in totalitarian and militant religious coups throughout our world. Prudence, not to mention our brave and wise predecessors, implores us to never let that happen to the United States.

    Note the following re-quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms … make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” This makes sense to me and I believe the evidence you cited demonstrates its efficacy.

    Many years ago, then-Milwaukee County Executive Dave Schultz noted in a speech at MATC that his top three challenges were (1) gangs, (2) rampant teen pregnancies and (3) drug use among youths. I asked him how he expected to solve these problems, all stemming from a moral basis, when it had become unacceptable to publicly debate morality since “we cannot find common ground.” He had no answer.

    Destructive gun use, like all other criminal decisions, is – first and foremost – a moral choice. Until we, as a nation and a culture, proactively agree to return to a greater respect for, defense of and commitment to, the highest collective moral standards, no gun control, behavioral sciences or criminal legislation will relieve us of assaults such as those in Fort Hood, the Sikh Temple or the Sandy Hook massacre.

  3. Please see John Howard’s (Australia’s former Prime Minister, 1996-2007) submission to the New York Times regarding gun control and what he did for Australia.

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