This article originally appeared in Newsweek.
I’m a former U.S. Navy SEAL sniper who served in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq. On my last tour in the SEAL Teams, I managed the Naval Special Warfare Sniper course as a 28 year-old. I’ve fired hundreds of thousands of rounds in training and have been a gun owner. I also believe we need to address gun violence in America, especially against kids.
As a father myself it’s terrible to think about my kids having to deal with a school shooting. I was sick to my stomach when I sent them bulletproof backpack inserts to shield themselves in case some crazy person came to school with a gun.
I also recognize there are legitimate concerns on both sides of the gun debate, and these should be part of the conversation.
I tried to make this point years ago, and again after the Sandy Hook shootings, but my timing was off. Back then, someone with my background expressing opinions on gun control and challenging NRA policy (the NRA does a lot of good FYI) was the equivalent of me jumping into a Walking Dead Zombie hoard unarmed. Nobody was interested in hearing me out (how could they, they were a bunch of zombies!), and both sides just wanted to tear me apart.
Maybe now Americans are reaching the point addicts call a moment of clarity. Maybe now we are finally ready to recognize that it’s time to address the gun violence issue in this country and put protective measures in place that will drastically reduce the chances small, innocent children will be shot to death after social studies class.
This isn’t the only major issue we have to address in America. We still struggle with equality for all, health care, education, food quality, a political system that resembles an old Ford gas-guzzling pickup truck when we need to be more Tesla. But the gun issue is on the PGA leaderboard, for sure.
As an entrepreneur, Harvard Business School OPM Alumni, and a member of the Young Presidents Organization, I’ve become very aware that the government is not going to solve these problems for us. It’s up to all of us to take a stand, especially those of us with influence.
There are simple things we can do to address gun violence in this country and still respect law-abiding citizens’ rights to own and carry firearms. Mental health is the largest factor and a good place to start. But we need to have this conversation and include all sides. It can’t be a one-sided conversation.
Just because you live in New York, have one passport stamp, and write for a major news outlet does not make you an expert on guns in American. You need to travel to Wyoming or Texas (the fly over states, as people in San Francisco joke) to really understand gun culture and the valid concerns people have in these states. Every important decision requires listening, respect, understanding, and compromise.
And emotionally charged decisions and “laws” don’t produce great results. We need to be careful to not make hasty decisions on gun control without taking the time to fully understand all angles and sides, all parties involved.
Yet it feels like we have lost our ability to have rational discourse in America. This needs to change because we have an urgent need to address gun violence, especially in schools across America, while also understanding the law-abiding gun owners’ wants and needs where the Second Amendment is concerned.
Ignoring or canceling someone (or an entire group) because you don’t like what they say is not the way forward. This just leads to confirmation bias and bad decision-making.
Our complex problems in America need to be vigorously debated to resolution for the sake of America and humanity.
Brandon Webb is a former Navy SEAL, New York Times bestselling author, and CEO of SOFREP.com, a Defense and Foreign Policy News site run by military veterans.