By LeAnne Farmer, Facilitator of the Vista CA Chapter
As a woman and a mother, how could I possibly still be pro-2A following Las Vegas? Don’t I care about the innocent lives lost? Am I a cold-blooded, heartless gun-clinger who is out of touch with reality? These are questions that I feel deserve to be addressed.
It is precisely because I am a woman and mother that I still adamantly support gun rights. I care passionately about the innocent which is why I believe so strongly in the importance of supporting the rights of law abiding citizens to own firearms. However, I refuse to allow emotions alone to control and dictate my decisions. I believe in looking at the big picture and weighing the pros and cons before jumping into action based solely on how I “feel”. My feelings should not control the rational decision making process. I learned this lesson as a mother. There were times I made the mistake of blurting out ultimatums to misbehaving children out of anger and frustration. These times resulted in both of us being miserable as I had to stand behind a punishment that was in hindsight ridiculous and ineffective. Did I want to change their behavior? Yes. Did my words and actions in the heat of the moment create the best opportunity to do so. Definitely not.
I don’t disagree with those screaming for gun control that something needs to be done; we just completely disagree on what that something is. Here’s the thing. I don’t believe that putting a Band-Aid on a severed limb will fix the problem. Will it make me feel better about myself that I “did something” to help this injured person? Perhaps, until they bleed out in my arms. We could look at an underweight cancer patient with sallow skin and tell them they just need to eat more because they look so unhealthy. Would that cure their cancer? Obviously not. Identifying a symptom of being underweight and equating it to the “logical” solution of eating more does nothing to help fix the underlying problem. But for some reason, this is what we do when it comes to guns. Part of me gets it; I used to be anti-gun. I grew up to the mantra of, “Guns are bad. Guns hurt people”. How would I know any different? It wasn’t until my husband bribed (yes, literally bribed) me into taking a gun training class, that I was forced to challenge my preconceived notions. I began separating myself from the emotions attached to guns and started looking more at facts.
Here are some of the facts that compel me to fight for gun rights: Hundreds of thousands (to millions depending on who is crunching the numbers) of people use firearms each year in self-defense. I care deeply about those individuals. I guess you could say I am pro-choice; I believe people should have the right to defend themselves in whatever manner they feel is best for their circumstances. I do not want them suffering through the pain of victimization or their families suffering from the loss of their life. Who am I to tell them that they do not have the right to defend themselves because someone with mental health problems may choose to use a gun for evil purposes? We often hear that the blood of the innocents affected by shooters is on the hands of lawmakers who “refuse to act”. What about the blood of the hundreds of thousands of people each year who would be stripped of their ability to defend themselves? Is the life of someone lost to violence more valuable than the life of someone who was protected by a gun? Here’s the problem. We don’t hear about these. Crimes that were stopped before they occur are not “stories”. If each of these 500,000+ events were reported in the news every year, would we view firearms differently? I am convinced (and research supports) that firearms reduce victimization. I have taught numerous individuals with physical limitations as well as elderly individuals, whose best means of protecting themselves comes from a tool that levels the playing field. You see, there are a lot of unintended consequences to restricting firearm access for law abiding citizens. Crime is a very real threat to the weak and vulnerable. Are their lives not worth protecting? Is it fair to strip them of their right to self-preservation and peace of mind? Can guns be used for evil? Of course. However, they are used for good in dramatically higher numbers.
If my daughter was home alone and faced with an armed intruder, I would feel like I had failed her as a mother if I did not provide her with a means to even the force disparity between her and an attacker. I have gone to great lengths in my children’s lives to provide them with all the tools I can for them to be successful and healthy adults. Their safety is just another part of this, but one I take seriously. I have not raised them to be victims.
Of course every life matters. I mourn for families who lose loved ones, no matter what the cause. Yet, the fact remains that guns are used for good much more frequently than for evil, in the same way that our lives are enhanced by pools, automobiles, and hospitals more frequently than they are negatively impacted. I think what makes guns different is that we fear what we do not understand. Herein lies many of the problems with the “common sense” gun laws. They only seem like common sense to people who do not understand firearms and/or the statistics behind violence with firearms.
Does this mean we should do nothing? Of course not. But let’s focus on the cause of the problem, instead of looking at the symptoms. Unfortunately, this is much more difficult because humans are incredibly complex. It is much easier to point our fingers at objects we feel we can control. Honestly, though, I don’t care how hard it is. If we truly want a healthier society, this is where we need to start. Are some people simply, purely evil? Perhaps. I still wrestle with that question. However, part of me thinks this may be trying to take the easy way out as well. If we claim they are innately “evil” it relieves us of responsibility. Does this mean responsibility lies on anyone besides those who commit acts of violence? Absolutely not! We are each responsible for our own actions. Period. But the truth is, people are hurting. People feel isolated. In a time where technology is supposedly making it easier for people to connect with others, we have less meaningful relationships than ever before. People have mental disorders that we are terrible at diagnosing and treating. Families are broken. We are creating divisions and labels that pit “us” against “them”.
If we want to understand why some people turn to violence, I think it is important to look at what is making people consider violence to be an acceptable solution to a problem. How do we identify children (or adults for that matter) who are “outliers”, or those who don’t have a support network and how do we connect with them? How do we help people treat each other with more love and respect? How do we create healthier homes and a return to faith? It starts with each and every one of us. The ripple effects that come from acts of kindness and love can turn into a wave. What if our media sources shared more positive stories than negative? I am under no delusions that this would rid the world of crime and evil. We can’t pretend peace into existence, which is why we need to have the ability to defend ourselves and others.
Do I think everyone should own a firearm? No. Are there proposed bills that would reduce crime without creating potential victims out of the law abiding? Not that I have seen. When we actually examine them in their entirety, many bills that “sound good” have many unintended consequences where the cons outweigh the pros.
“People like me” are often berated for our sentiments of praying for the victims and their families yet offering little else in the way of solutions. Yes, I will continue to pray, but I will also persist in teaching my college students about identifying mental health disorders and providing them with resources for getting help. I will keep teaching firearm safety classes so that individuals can learn how to safely operate their guns should they choose to have them. I will teach my children to respect others and how to carefully evaluate information. I will continue to volunteer with teens in my community to provide them with a support system and mentors. I will look for daily opportunities to connect with other humans in kindness, and I will respectfully listen to other people’s perspectives and ideas.
Anyone care to join me?