Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So I Married A Gun Enthusiast

Act #30:  Pull up a chair.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been avoiding the topic of gun control.  Greatly.  Sure I’ve mentioned it in the larger context of eliminating violence in our overall culture, but I’ve yet mustered up the courage to directly address my personal views on gun control reform. 

You see, I’m married to a gun enthusiast. Yes, you heard that right.  A man who is actually “enthused” about guns.  Fascinated might be the proper word.  If you are married to, or are a techie/gadget lover yourself, you may understand.  I certainly don't.  While this man’s chosen profession is to take apart and assemble computers, he also has the same propensity and curiosity in doing so with all sorts of other machinery.  You name it - cars, small and large appliances, televisions, model airplanes…and guns.  And before he met me, that is exactly what he did, he built antique guns, hand guns, and yes, even semi-automatic assault rifles.  He has also been target shooting for over a decade – long before he met his peace-loving, anti-violence preaching wife.

You should also know that I have not met a kinder, gentler soul than my husband, Adam.  While he would never admit it, he’s mush inside. No seriously, he is.  He doesn't hunt - he could never shoot an animal.  He can’t take our son for his immunizations, because it pains him to see him cry.  He takes in stray animals; he houses students; buys gas cards for strangers.  He doesn't believe in spanking.  He kisses my sweet 4'9" mama on the head and charms every woman over the age of 85.  He sometimes cries during sad movies.

As you can imagine, the topic of "guns" was a huge source of debate during our courtship, and again when our son came along, and most recently during the Sandy Hook shootings.  During each of those moments, we found ourselves sitting in chairs facing one another, talking for hours about the power of guns, the power of humans, and how powerless we both felt when we saw the faces of 20 children our son's age on the television screen that day.

So as the nation seems to be getting increasingly divisive, polarized, and even combative on this issue, we thought it was important for us to share our journey - how we have come to terms with our different perspectives,  how we have come to terms with raising our son in a world where guns exist alongside people who are broken enough to use them to hurt others.

1.  On the culture of violence.

Mae:  I abhor the normalization of violence in video games, the entertainment industry, the toy industry, the media, and I believe that it all greatly contributes to systemic violence against women, children, and other marginalized groups. It recently occured to me that 90% of the jobs I've held have been to eliminate violence and injustice. I don't watch violent movies and most recently have been purposefully refraining from reading details of violence in news stories.

Adam:  I grew up on G.I. Joe and have some pretty fond memories of imaginative play that involved good v. evil.   During those formative years when I didn't really have any significant role models, that kind of play helped give me a sense of order in the world.   It helped me figure out that I wanted to definitely grow up to be one the "good" guys.  I still play video games that are rated for adults, but I would never let our five-year old anywhere near them.   I think that it is my job as a parent to raise our son to respect human life, to respect all life. I have to admit however, it frightens me to think of living in a society where freedom of expression is limited or controlled.   But I can definitely see how the over-emphasis on violence can contribute to its normalization.

Resolution: We value freedom of expression. We recognize that there is a place and time for the portrayal of violence in films, books, and other mediums. We will not expose our son to these while he is still unable to understand consequences. When we do expose him to them, as age-appropriate, we will have engaged conversations with him about the impact of violence in the world, and his role in minimizing it.  We will continue to remove weapons that come with his action figures.   Although we will continue to permit "good v. evil" play in moderation, we will also make sure that we encourage alternative imaginative play options that do not promote competition or adversarial behaviors.

2.  On personal freedom and constitutional rights.

Mae: While I would never own one personally, I believe that individuals should have the right to own a gun for protection and recreation, responsibly. I don't really see a place in our society for assault weapons or high-capacity magazines of any kind. I think that, like owning a vehicle, gun owners should be trained on proper use, tested for ability and understanding, and registered.

Adam: Having grown up in rural Kentucky, I do feel a sense of security knowing that I could choose to protect myself and my loved ones if I had to. My wife makes fun of me about the sci-fi and zombie apocalypse books I read, but all joking aside, I see the vulnerable and ugly side of human beings all too much - the looting that took place after Hurricane Katrina, the anti-Islam sentiment following 9/11, and the mob mentality that broke out when that defenseless woman was sexually assaulted in the middle of a street parade in New York City.  I recognize that looking at the world from a place of fear is not the healthiest, and I certainly don't want to raise our son with that mentality. Of course I would support more extensive background checks, safety training, and registrations of firearms. When target practicing, high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic guns are preferred for skill training, but I certainly wouldn't want those to get in the hands of the wrong people.

3.  On senseless deaths and violence.

In Agreement: Violence is senseless. Death or harm from violence is senseless.  We are committed to raising our son to practice peaceful means for conflict resolution, but understand that in very rare circumstances (like self-defense), violence is sometimes a regretful, but necessary response.

4.  On finding an answer.

In Agreement: There is no easy answer.  Gun control, like most issues, is not black and white.  There are a myriad of complex issues surrounding gun ownership – individual rights, self-protection, rates of violence, a culture of violence, mental capacities and qualifications of gun owners, registration of guns, personal freedom.  And the list goes on.  You’ve read about it – other countries have struggled greatly with gun control as well.  For every Switzerland (where guns are accessible and crime is low), there is a Japan (where guns are restricted and crime is low), and a Brazil (where guns are restricted and crime is high). There does not seem to be an easy solution to stop the violence. 

5.  On how we can help.

In Agreement: We believe that the problems of the world can sometimes be overwhelming but that true change happens one person at a time, at a local level. We recognize that their are layers and layers of issues that impact violence like poverty and injustice and barriers to mental health access. We hope to be more mindful of ways we can individually contribute to reducing those things, whether it is through charity, volunteerism, or simply by making time for someone in need.

6.  On where to go from here.

In Agreement: We want to raise our son in a world that isn't framed by fear. In a world of compassion and kindness. We recognize that as humans, we are probably all going to have to set aside some of our differences for the overall common good. At the end of the day, we know that we don't want guns in the hands of the wrong people. And we certainly don't want guns to be used to further violence.

Check that out folks. An anti-violence advocate and a gun enthusiast are in agreement with 4 out of the 6 above points.  And on one of the points that we disagreed, we found resolution.  We know this is ridiculously simplified, and that our journey to seek common ground continues, but we believe it's a start in a direction that feels so much more hopeful than the current sentiment. It's quite ironic that as a country, in the midst of a conversation about violence, we seem to be acting more antagonistically than ever.   I hope you consider joining us in pulling up a chair with someone that you disagree with.  Sit eye-to-eye, let down your guard a little and really listen.  You may be surprised at how much you might accomplish if you work together, rather than against each other.  Perhaps before we can figure out guns, we might need to first try to figure out one another.


  1. Mae--- What a WONDERFUL 'blog' you have written today!!

    My sentiments to you-- Because I, myself, really have about Z-E-R-O interest in guns and, honestly, think they are MUCH more of a problem-causer in society than a help!

    And, I'm ALL for people 'protecting' themselves and their families!! But, going on 'rampages' and firing 'hundreds' of bullets at a time-- Those are COMPLETELY different issue in MY mind!!!

    However-- As I read your write-up, I found your Point #4 the MOST 'interesting'!-- And, it was because of what you noted about those three countries with the different gun legislation policies,--- and their different results in the country!

    Well, it JUST so happens that I have BEEN to Switzerland, had three REALLY CLOSE friends in college from Japan, and one of my BEST friends is married to a LOVELY person from Brazil... So, this got me 'thinking'!-- LOL!

    #1-- Switzerland may be the MOST PEACEFUL place I have EVER stepped foot in in my life! The place is about as 'relaxed' as a group of High School-aged teenagers getting ready to sleep through their 'Science' lecture!!!-- Lol!

    DON'T know what you've read/been taught about World War II,-- But, Switzerland was basically the ONLY major industrialized country that REFUSED to join with EITHER side in the melee'--- And WHY?!?!-- Because they wanted to be 'peaceful'!!!

    So, Could THIS be a REASON for their LOW crime rate?!?!

    #2--- My three friends I had in college from Japan were ALSO quite laid-back,--- and really NEVER took offense to people or, that I saw, tried to retaliate against anyone OR return something with violence!

    So, if that country LARGELY takes their cues from this kind of attitude and lifestyle, should we be surprised by their lack of crime?!?!

    #3-- Brazil, largely from what I understand, is a Western-style society that has 'LARGELY' modeled itself after their North American brothers!!

    This can be seen with their love of North American sports, pop culture, and 'night life', which, as we ALL know,--- Was on 'display' THIS week with the TERRIBLE news from the ill-equipped night club.

    Also, North American attitude has LONG been centered largely on, 'WHO is ANYONE to MESS with 'US?!?!?!'---

    See, we have been taught for DECADES that if ANYONE 'messes with', challenges, or questions our ways of life that we are to 'retaliate'--

    With 'violence', 'hate speech', 'put downs', or 'threats'! As if our 'Popular Culture's' way of life is the ONLY way!! As if we, as a 'society', are supposed to 'dominate' the world and kind of make EVERYONE else 'bow down' to us!

    Thus, WHAT country has one of the HIGHEST crime rates and rates of violence against one another in the entire WORLD?!?!--

    You GUESSED it!--- The ONE we 'live' in!!

    (Just some 'thangs' to 'think' about!!! -- LOL!!!)

    1. Evan, you make an interesting point and now have me pondering cultural norms and attitudes towards agression. Thanks for all the wonderful insight my friend!