More Dangerous Than Guns

The US Supreme Court just declined to hear three cases having to do with gun laws (read more) and Obama made little or no mention of gun control in the State of the Union a month ago (here). We’re not talking again, the public debate over gun control is so alienating and offensive.

So it was that I found myself feeling alienated from my community and deeply offended in the presence of my friends. An intelligent man, with whom I have enjoyed other conversations, raged unsolicited about how “ignorant” gun and 2nd Amendment advocates were. We’ll call him Jack… for short. I was the only gun toting,  2nd Amendment lover in the room, so I declined to respond while growing more angry the longer he continued. And he continue awhile.

What incited his rant was our local Clarksville, AR school district training and arming teachers to defend students from hostile intruders (watch video), a solution that is now being sought in other school districts (read more). Jack berated the Clarksville School District Superintendent as an ignorant man who didn’t really care about his students. Nothing is further from the truth. For the record, Dr. David Hopkins, has a reputation as both an educated and caring person.

What was especially upsetting to me is that my community wherein Jack found an ear for his soapbox is normally nonjudgmental and non-confrontational in their communication.

I, like everyone else in the nation, mourned the news from Newtown, CT and have remained troubled by the many shooting incidents that have followed. My reason for both owning firearms and supporting the 2nd Amendment is that our public welfare and our democracy utterly depends upon our ability as citizens to take personal responsibility for our wellbeing. Risk management and first response training informs my view that we cannot farm out preparedness and response to government alone and expect reasonable care. The 2nd Amendment does more than assert a basic right, it asserts our responsibility to participate in both our own safety and that of  our community.

Mine is not an ignorant or uninformed assertion.

Neither is it ignorant nor uninformed to assert there are legitimate risks to possessing firearms.

In the last week there have been at least two significant studies published in this regard. The first were the projections that gun related deaths of young people are going to number more than car related deaths (article here). The second was the finding that women are more likely to experience gun related violence with a gun in their home (article here).

All of this should be given equal merit as evidence in our public discourse toward gun control that is constitutional. One flagship is that of Switzerland, which has a militia, requires service of most men, and broadly allows public gun ownership with one of the lowest rates of gun-related crimes in the world (Wikipedia).

What the NRA does not understand is that their response to gun violence with unemotional dogmatism (like Wayne LaPierre’s public remarks after Newtown) marginalizes American gun owners. What gun control advocates do not understand is that risk is mitigated by public preparedness and reasonable response, not by prohibition. 

A technique used with children who are angry that gives them alternatives to violence is to teach them how to effectively communicate. Name calling is itself a violence, and it is no more productive than just not talking. Perhaps the only thing more profoundly disturbing than gun related violence is the vehement antagonism with which people in our country respond toward each other to the extent that we can no longer communicate respectfully.

Our liberty and quality of life is at risk, not because we own a gun or don’t, but because we’ve lost the ability as a country to effectively communicate with each other.

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My mother’s family is mostly Appalachian Irish from Eastern Kentucky who fought in the mining-union wars. My great-great-grandfather was known for carrying a .38 special in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other. The other half of my mother’s family are Quakers. Pacifists. That may say a bit about my own personal conflicts. My father’s family, for their part, were Methodists, Ministers, and Missionaries about as far back as you can go. My grandfather recently died with a legacy of over 20 years living and working in Burundi, Africa. My childhood was rooted in a “hideout” with my cousins in the fencerow thicket behind our homes. In adolescence, my dad and I would walk through the woods along one of Indiana’s many Sugar Creeks. Moving to town during my adolescence then away to college in Florida pulled me from the outdoors. One day, as I walked on Gulf Islands National Seashore, I wondered: why’d I stop living in the woods? In the years following I took up backpacking then rock climbing and was soon immersed in the adventurous life of outdoor recreation. I pursued this passion into working for the former sports retailer Galyans Trading Co. My supervisor took me under his wing and taught me everything from how to tie knots to management. Most importantly, he encouraged me to pursue my dreams. So I returned to college, the Outdoor Recreation emphasis in the Recreation and Sports Management Department at Indiana State University. After backpacking with a friend in Oregon, I moved there to work for Friends of Opal Creek, a remote residential facility for environmental education. The experience of teaching old growth ecology while living out of a cabin in the Western Cascade Mountains touched my soul deeply. Exposed to the impacts of industry and recreation on those natural resources, I became interested in further understanding the interaction between people and their environment. I also wanted to gain the skills that could equip me to represent the people involved and their stories. So I enrolled as a graduate student in Department of Anthropology at Oregon State University in 2002. During my program of study I worked with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ language and culture program in addition to photographing and documenting for repatriation Native American materials in the Horner Museum Collection. My resulting Master’s research struggled to find a way to respectfully and accurately represent the experience of Native women with their environments. Today I have traveled across the U. S., North America, and internationally. My experiences have led me to appreciate that people, no matter how different they are, are people and on the most important experiential level, not so different from you and me. In fact, my familiarity with many often antipathetic demographics gives me an appreciation for the challenges faced by diverse communities. So I try to represent the humanity of marginalized groups. My passion is for conservation and humanitarian work. With a background in both socio-cultural and ecological dynamics, I try to keep a fresh perspective on current issues. My training in Art, Creative Writing, Experiential Education, and Psychology helps me look for creative approaches to social and environmental issues. My hope is that our children, yours and mine, and their children will have a free and natural world to experience throughout their lives.