Site traffic has gone up, and so I want to take a moment to spell some things out explicitly. This blog and my writing on guns and American culture more broadly are about reflection rather than policy advocacy. I want to explore the place firearms occupy in our cultural and political landscape, and to evaluate critically how they are involved in distinctively American experiences of historical violence and ongoing social conflict. This is a daunting enough task without wading into policy prescriptions. That said, today’s debates about guns and gun control are so polarizing and so frequently lacking in nuance that it’s almost impossible to talk about these things without being pigeonholed – and so I want to make my positions, such as they are, very clear.
(1) I believe the State legally cannot and practically will not take any law-abiding citizens’ guns away from them, full stop. The Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and the Supreme Court’s decisions in DC versus Heller and McDonald versus Chicago enshrine that as an individual right more securely than ever before in American history. I suspect that this interpretation will only be cemented further if the Court decides to hear Drake versus Jerejian. The original intent and context of the “well regulated militia” clause are, at this point, entirely moot.
(2) I do not support a renewed or revamped Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). I have a variety of reasons for this, which I’ll outline at some other point, but suffice it to say that I feel that many AWB proponents are operating under a mistaken set of assumptions, that numerous politicians who advocate an AWB are misguided, and that the entire issue is a red herring. The more fundamental problem in America today is that life in general is cheap, with some folks’ lives valued even less than others. Fixing that – to the extent to which it is even possible – demands changing consciousness and deepening our capacity for compassion, not regulating barrel length or stock configuration. The issue of mass shootings, which at this point I think have become a fixture of life in contemporary America, complicates things (since you can kill a lot more folks a lot more quickly with a drum magazine as opposed to a ten-round clip) but that’s a topic for another time and there, too, I still don’t think a new AWB is the answer.
(3) Like 91% of Americans, I think we need a Universal Background check system. I’m glad to talk more about this, and about the potential complications and pitfalls (particularly when issues of mental health privacy are involved) but I firmly believe that this is one issue where we have to do better, and where we can.
(4) I find extremism – both pro- and anti-gun – repugnant. A defining feature of America is our Constitutionally protected right to engage in meaningful conversation with one another. At its best, this means dialogue – talking with one another, not at or over each other. Being made uncomfortable by an opinion different than one’s own is not the same as suffering a literal assault, and encountering people who live and understand the world differently is not an affront to one’s way of life. Confronting these challenges with tolerance and openness is a basic part of what it means to live together in a democracy, and here, again, we have to do better.
OK, that’s it. Thanks for visiting – I hope you’ll stick around.