The one thing missing from the Senate yesterday during the series of votes on various gun control proposals – seven in all – that was most important and crucial to the proceedings, the lack of which can be faulted for each bill’s defeat, and that which has indeed been largely missing from the entire gun control debate overall, is this: respect.
From Trevor Burrus, writing yesterday (before the vote) for the Opinion section at FoxNews.com:
This week the Senate is debating gun control, and we’ll see whether calmer heads can prevail. As I said in Fox News Opinion once before, the gun control debate is fundamentally a culture debate, dominated by extreme voices on both sides.
Very true. And both sides are guilty of, to put it politely, conduct unbecoming of, well, anyone:
The dramatic behavior of Gawker and The Journal News hurts the gun-control cause. Shaming gun owners will bolster resistance to all proposals, reasonable or not. As the culture debate rages on, Democrats and their supporters cannot continue to demonize and misunderstand gun owners.
The problem is predictably exacerbated by celebrities and those in the spotlight:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg laughably tried to bridge the culture gap with ads featuring a stereotyped gun enthusiast – identified by his rural setting, pickup truck, and Cabela’s-inspired wardrobe – whose finger is wrapped around the shotgun’s trigger, violating one of the fundamental tenets of gun safety.
Gun owners also feel exasperated when elected officials show their ignorance of guns. Recently, Diane DeGette (D-Co.) seemed not to know that gun magazines are reusable, echoing the famous description by Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) of a barrel shroud as the “shoulder thing that goes up.”
A few weeks ago, actor Jim Carrey released a satirical video called “Cold Dead Hand” on the website Funny or Die. Carrey places himself on the set of “Hee Haw,” resorting once again to the tired cliché that gun-rights supporters are ignorant yokels. He goes on to attack the size of gun-owners’ manhoods, and close the video with a one-finger salute.
Carrey previously established the communication baseline of this debate by taking to Twitter to call gun-rights supporters “heartless” and saying that those who purchased an “assault rifle” after Newtown have “very little left in their body and soul worth protecting.”
Carrey’s stereotyping of gun-rights supporters, and his rage at those who resist suggested reforms are perfect examples of “gun disgust,” the term I used in my previous piece to describe those who give guns the same emotional response as a dirty public restroom. Under this view, guns contaminate society, and thus deaths by guns are somehow worse than deaths by other instruments.
The message here also applies to the larger, more general divisions of the greater political scene – the very first step in getting anything accomplished, through any means, is coming to some level of mutual respect and understanding. We must be willing to believe that the other side may actually have good intentions, and maybe even common ground with us. This is the most important concept in bringing about an agreement.
In the case of guns, the gap is indeed largely cultural, as in rural versus urban, more so than it is rich/poor, black/white, liberal/conservative, or Republican/Democrat.
We cannot bridge the cultural divide until a respectful tone is adopted. That goes for both sides.
Gun-rights supporters need to stop characterizing all gun-control advocates as ultimately wanting to “ban guns.” Most do not. For gun control advocates, it would help to disavow the rhetoric of people like Jim Carrey and to treat gun-rights supporters with respect rather than elitist disdain.
If both sides can do this, some common ground might be possible. Expanding background checks and allowing for better mental health record-keeping could keep guns out of the hands of some dangerous people.
Though most of it is posted here, I recommend going back and reading this post through in its entirety. I, for one, was both glad and relieved to hear a like-minded voice and rational sentiment similar to my own coming from what I would normally perceive to be the “other side.”