As you scroll through the images of last week’s anti-gun protests around the country, it’s never been easier to clearly identify the bias inherent to your favorite media sites. Conservative leaning sites run images of angry faces and poorly written signs, liberal sites proudly tout shots of empowered seeming women with pithy anti-gun catch phrases, and somewhere in between, some actionable change was supposed to be the result.
“Change the laws or we’ll vote you out,” CNN ran the quote as a headline, along with pretty conspicuously biased coverage of the whole event.
Young Americans demanding change in the streets: it’s democracy in its messiest form and, whether you support their cause or not, there’s no denying the beauty of passion, belief, and intent driving Americans to take action, to play a part in the process. As a gun-loving American, however, I can’t help but see some issues with the way America’s youth in revolt is approaching the gun issue… and while anti-gun sites like to call us firearms enthusiasts nit-picky about this sort of thing, new legislation, new laws, actually needs to be all about picking those nits.
New laws need to be well thought out and based on an informed position… which means they rarely fit neatly on a sign.
Here on the internet, anti-gun folks and pro-gun folks have been squaring off in the public forums of social media for years, and a common come back from those on my side of the fence can usually be summed up as the “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” argument.
“What IS an assault rifle?”
“How many rounds per second did you say the Glock shoots?”
“Do you know the difference between a clip and a magazine?”
These arguments look and seem semantic, like having your grammar corrected when you were trying to make an emotional point… so folks in the anti-gun crowd have started dismissing these responses wholesale. The thing is, writing laws requires a thorough understanding of these sorts of concepts… so ignoring those pesky technical details of what makes some firearms “more dangerous” than others (according to your position) effectively de-legitimizes the position as a whole.
Pushing for an “assault weapon ban” to make the country safer, for instance, is a lot like pushing for a ban on “social media.” The term is nebulous, and although we can work to nail down specific language associated with function, the nature of the internet means we’ll have to draw a formal line somewhere regarding what constitutes social media: does a blog count? If it does, what about websites that function with the same framework as a blog? What the difference between a “blog” and CNN? We have to know and agree on what we’re all yelling about before we can establish a set of rules governing it.
Instead, many anti-gun activists revel in their ignorance, seeing the mere act of learning about the guns they hope to have regulated out of stores as giving up ground for some reason.
If being well informed makes you a part of the “other side,” then your side might not be the right one, no matter how good its intentions.
This leads directly into my second concern:
As you peruse the things people were demanding in last week’s protests, you can see some similarities between this movement and the short lived “Occupy” protests we’ve seen in recent years: namely, that there is no actual call for action… instead, there’s a unified but vague call for someone else to take action, to take responsibility, to make things better. As far as many protesters are concerned, the protest was them taking action, and now that their voices have been heard, it’s up to the lawmakers to vote the way they demand, otherwise the protesters are going to… going to what? Actually vote in the next election?
Seeing as just 36.4 percent of voters cast a ballot in the last midterm elections, and just north of 60% of voters could be bothered to leave their homes to vote for president in 2016 (in an election that also prompted a number of protests with no clear or coherent movement beyond “I didn’t want him to be the president”), that would be fantastic guys. Please do go vote. If you’re so passionate about politics, maybe you can find out who your local elected leaders are, maybe push for state level legislation or campaign on behalf of candidates that share your views or principles.
No? You just wanted to carry signs around for one day and figured the rest would work itself out?
Laws are complex and take time to put together and push through the system – that means work. That work isn’t going to get done by the nameless politicians you’re threatening with a vote unless there’s continued pressure and a logical reason to pursue the legislation. A protest is like shouting at the country that a job needs to be done … it’s good to draw attention to these things sometimes, but you’ll get a lot more done by volunteering to do the work instead.
But, as so many chants over the weekend pointed out, if that work doesn’t get done, you plan to blame someone else: lawmakers, the NRA, despicable human beings like me that applied for my concealed carry license, received training, and legally purchased my firearms. If you’re so uninvolved that you don’t even know the names of your state and local representatives, just how passionate are you about your cause?
If you’re willfully ignorant about the subject you want legislated, and you’re not willing to do anything beyond demand that someone else do the work… all you really are is the defamatory caricatures of yourselves we see floating around conservative websites. Actual change requires actual, prolonged, non-dramatic effort. People tend to think of Martin Luther King Jr. changing the world with a handful of fiery speeches… and while those speeches certainly did fuel the movement, it was the work Dr. King and his supporters did, day in and day out, that actually made things happen. Protests, speeches… all simply tools used to support the endeavor, rather than assuming the protest was endeavor enough.
Listen gun-control folks, I may not agree with most of what you have to say, but I am proud of you for believing you can make the world a better place and trying to do something about it. I’m proud of America for being the self-correcting experiment in democracy that it is, and I’m proud of our nation’s youth getting involved in the process… but change in a democracy requires more than catchy slogans written on a poster board. It requires conversation, compromise, a willingness to find a common ground – and perhaps most of all – a thorough understanding of the topic we’re all here to discuss.
And because so many on the anti-gun side of this debate aren’t willing to participate in, well, any of those parts of the process, I can’t help but feel like the intent of this movement isn’t to elicit change, it’s just to get some great profile pictures for your Facebook account.
If you’re willing to stomp all over the Second Amendment, but think wearing a clear backpack violates your First Amendment freedoms; if you think “assault rifles” are somehow deadlier than semi-automatic hunting rifles; if you think gun owners want to see another child killed in school… you’re not looking for solutions, you’re looking for a scapegoat.
The goal needs to be making things better, not just different and to your liking, and the only way to reach that summit is together.
Feature image courtesy of the Associated Press