Bob Denny: What should we do about guns?


Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 10:44 a.m.

Innocent children have been shot down in their classrooms, and good people are threatened at gunpoint, and killed or raped in their own homes. Some of our best leaders have been shot. Couples and families have been gunned down by their own family members. Kids get hold of guns and kill others. Do you sometimes feel helpless to do anything about it? Aren’t there wild accusations and hot arguments on both sides of the issue?

How can we deal with a very emotionally charged issue, and respond with good judgment, make good decisions, and do the right thing? Can we move through the controversy, and do something positive and useful? Everyone has strong feelings about the dangers and risks of deadly weapons. Is there a best way to minimize danger to the public, and minimize all the useless loss of life?

Each violent act is unique and different from every other violent act. There’s no easy solution. Who will be the next perpetrator, or who will be the next victim? Any of us could be in danger, and we may not even see it coming. Uncertainty gives rise to the fear of the unknown. Fear causes stress, helplessness, frustration and anger. Feeling strong emotions can cloud our reasonable thinking skills and good judgment. When we grope for answers and reassurance, we’re frustrated that there’s no one easy answer. We take a stand and will argue vigorously to defend it. We join a group with similar points of view, and feel that it’s “us against them.”

The media loves conflict. In a recent interview on CNN, the interviewer responds to a gun advocate, “You're an unbelievably stupid man, aren't you? (Great argument, huh?) Another gun advocate told the interviewer, “You’re full of ....,” and accused him of being ignorant.

When someone offers a strong argument that conflicts with your opinion, do you feel a need to argue back? Instead of trying to defend your point of view in an argument, wouldn’t it be better to focus on finding solutions to the real problem instead of trying to win an argument?

Maybe the issue isn’t guns at all, but finding how we can help our country continue to develop reasonable laws that protect both our safety and our rights. It’s not the same thing, I know, but haven’t we done pretty well with regulating the automobile? In the hands of some evil or crazy folks can’t cars be deadly weapons?

We don’t ban and destroy all cars because of a few nuts. Cars are very useful and necessary in our civilized country. But neither do we abandon all traffic laws and requirements, letting people drive drunk or run down pedestrians. Reasonable laws, developed by thinking citizens and their represented lawmakers, have come up with pretty good laws to protect us, while preserving our basic rights to own and use a vehicle. Can’t we do the same for gun laws? We can’t do it by being that demonstrator that accuses gun rights advocates of being conspirators and murders, and who needs to be dragged out of a public meeting. On the other hand, we can’t do it by being that wild west cowboy who is just looking for a chance to use a gun to settle issues or release anger with, or who keeps an arsenal for when the government attacks his home. If we can come up with decent automobile legislation, can’t we do the same for weapons?

What can you do? Listen with an open mind to the issues and try to find workable solutions. Support legislators and legislation that will stand the test of time. Don’t be guided by fear, or polarized in one camp or the other.

We can do it. That’s what the founding fathers had in mind, and it’s worked pretty well for some 250 years.

Bob Denny teaches psychology and human growth and development at Florida Gateway College.

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