[Sunday afternoon, in the kitchen]
B: What are you so agitated about?
J: It’s the guns. It’s the fucking guns.
B: Jennifer, it’s not the guns. I know you want it to be the guns, but it’s not the guns.
J: Actually, it IS the guns. Because when you take out every other controllable variable but leave the gun, you still get dead people. Remove the gun, and things change.
B: I’m going upstairs.
[24 hours pass]
[we are sitting on the porch]
B: You should have heard all the talk at work today; everyone was talking about the guns, and the anti-gun nuts, and how people like you want to take away all the guns because they don’t want to deal with all the other stuff that’s hard.
J: Actually, it’s the guns. I understand you don’t want it to be the guns, but it’s the guns.
B: It’s not. And besides, there are already measures in place. Like a guy at work tried to buy a gun, because he’s got a place in the country and he likes to shoot guns on the weekend, and he’s taught his kids all about guns, and gun safety, and all that. And he couldn’t get a gun because he had a traffic ticket and couldn’t pass the background check. They run background checks on everyone, you know.
J: No, actually they don’t.
B: Yes, they do.
J: No, actually they don’t.
B: Well, it doesn’t matter, because when he couldn’t get a gun at the gun show, he bought one from a friend.
J: Right, because it’s really easy to buy a gun in the U.S. Too easy, every day. Also, you just disproved your own point.
B: So what would you do?
B: … right, so kids don’t accidentally shoot themselves or their friends. That’s just basic. That’s common sense.
J: Well, it should be, yes. Because the bigger issue with guns is everyday accidents and suicides. Mass shootings get all the attention, but the problem is bigger.
B: You can’t stop people from wanting to commit suicide.
J: No. But you can make it harder for them to succeed. And then there’s the issue of seizing guns from people who have expressed the intent to harm themselves or others – veterans, for example, or people with dementia who tell their family members what they’re going to do before they do it. Right now, it’s almost impossible to confiscate guns in that situation – even though the person has said, plainly, what he/she intends to do. If family members take the guns, then they – the family members, not the person who’s threatening violence – can be arrested.
B: That’s crazy.
J: Right. And then there are background checks, which are spotty and not well coordinated. You can make it harder to get a gun, starting with a universal, seamless background check system – mandatory – that connects local law enforcement with the FBI, to protect against situations like the guy in Texas who had a DV charge in Colorado, and…
B: Yeah, yeah, he shouldn’t have had a gun. They totally should have caught that.
J: Right, but they didn’t. Because there isn’t a coordinated, funded, functioning system. But there should be.
B: I mean, it’s like all the rape kits – there’s just such a backlog of that stuff that you’ll never get through it.
J: Actually, as they’re processing the rape kits, they’re able to solve cases because there is shared data for DNA comparison. The problem with background checks for guns is that there isn’t a coordinated, unified system, and there’s no legislative will to enact one, because so many elected officials are afraid of the NRA. And there are different rules from state to state and place to place – gun shops, gun shows, and private sales – not to mention thefts and guns in custody, that aren’t accounted for.
B: Well, yeah, then I guess there should be background checks. Listen, I’m not a Democrat, I’m not a Republican, I’m just the guy in the middle. I think everyone should just get to do their own thing, mind their own business.
J: So, you’re a libertarian; you support individual liberties.
J: Are your individual liberties more important than the common good? Here’s an example: Measles vaccinations protect the general public from measles. It’s a common-good measure that helps everyone. And, for example, banning assault-style rifles is a common-good measure that would keep some people from getting their dopamine fix on the farm on a Saturday afternoon, shooting cans, but it would help protect the general public from mass shootings.
B: Measles and guns are not the same thing.
J: Actually, they kind of are.
B: So what else would you do?
J: Well, here’s a question for you: what’s the difference between a car and a gun?
B: What do you mean?
J: A car is a weapon; and a gun is a weapon. To own a car you have to have register it (every year), carry insurance, and operate it within laws that are designed to protect everybody. And you have to have a license to drive a car, and to get a license you have to pass a test.
B: Right. So people who want to own guns should have to register them and have insurance and have licenses, is that what you mean?
B: Seems fair. But you know there would still be criminals and people who wouldn’t play by the rules.
J: Of course. But just because you can’t fix everything doesn’t mean you don’t try to fix something. The real problem is that the gun lobby and all the hard-line Second Amendment people oppose everything we’ve just discussed. They believe any restriction at all, any regulation, is a violation of their Constitutional rights.
B: That’s nuts.
B: So, you’re not advocating for getting rid of all the guns, or saying people shouldn’t be able to own guns at all.
J: Of course not. We are gun owners, remember?
B: Yes. But we made sure the gun was safe and unloaded, and we didn’t tell the kids where it was, because little kids don’t know what they’re doing, and teenage kids are all hormones and do crazy stuff. And you can’t stop that, you know – teenage hormones, I mean, it’s just human.
J: No, you can’t stop that. But you can limit access to guns in a variety of ways – including all the ones we just talked about, and a mandatory waiting period between deciding to buy a gun and actually getting the gun. Because hormones and impulses almost always make for bad decisions.
B: So, you’re not saying get rid of all the guns.
B: You just want to put some limits in place.
B: Why does everybody think people like you want to take away their guns?
J: Because they aren’t listening.