(Opinion) It’s the other side’s fault.
That’s what people say.
One side says gun violence is caused by the excessive number and magnitude of guns. They say the needed gun reforms will never pass because of the power of the gun lobby, led by the NRA.
The other side says violence is all about evil people running loose while not enough good guys are armed. They say nothing will be accomplished by attacking the Second Amendment.
Both sides firmly believe they are right.
The gun violence debate is a perfect example of the problem with our political discourse today. Whenever a problem arises, the very first thing we do is take a side.
Our sides make us feel more secure, sure.
But they also make us retreat into our corners, alienating us from one another, preventing the kind of open conversation that is necessary for addressing a complex issue.
Here’s what I’d like to propose: Instead of taking sides, let’s look for common ground. Let’s give each side the benefit of the doubt that they are disgusted by gun violence and want to end it. Let’s trust that both sides believe in responsible gun ownership and gun safety. Let’s practice the common sense bipartisanship that led to policies like social security, the Civil Rights Act, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Let’s start by agreeing on a few basics:
— It is true that some guns are more powerful, more lightweight, and therefore more dangerous than ever before.
— It is true that there are bad people out there who want to use guns to hurt or kill others, and there are good people who want to use guns to protect themselves and to save lives.
— It is true that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean that every American is entitled to free access to every kind of firearm. We already ban access to certain kinds of weapons and accessories through the National Firearms Act of 1934.
— It is true that it’s not easy to draw lines in the sand about which guns should and shouldn’t be allowed. The technology is constantly evolving, and attachments and modifications further complicate the story.
It’s going to take serious, thoughtful, and difficult conversation to draft and pass new legislation, but there are several common-sense solutions that already have overwhelming support among the American people.
Let the good guys have guns. But make them jump through a few more hoops to show that they really are good guys.
That means background checks on every sale and transfer, gun safety courses, gun safety equipment like locks and insurance, and registering yourself (and your guns) as a certified good guy (with certified good-guy guns).
We can also consider red flag laws, that empower law enforcement to prevent people who pose a danger to themselves or others from having firearms prior to the commission of a crime.
I’m a realist. I know these proposals won’t prevent 100% of gun deaths. There are bad guys who will pose as good guys and slip through the cracks. There are bad guys who will steal guns or buy them on the black market. Unintentional shootings will still happen.
But we know these policies will save lives.
States that have closed the loophole in the background check system by requiring a check on every sale see 47% fewer women killed by intimate partners, 47% fewer gun suicides, 48% less illegal gun trafficking, and 53% fewer law enforcement officers shot and killed in the line of duty.
States with strong gun laws have significantly lower rates of gun death per capita than states with lax gun laws.
The point is, neither side can make progress if we all stay huddled in our corners.
But by recognizing the wisdom of each side, we can take a step in the right direction.
So the next time someone tells you that a problem simply cannot be solved because of the jerks on the other side, shake the dust off your feet as you walk away. Go find someone with a bit more imagination, maturity, and courage.
Heck, do it yourself.
Be the person who calls BS on all the partisan rhetoric.
Seek solutions, not sides.
(Tabitha Isner of Montgomery is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination to represent Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.)