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{Facebook post by Ryan S Bonnett, published here with permission}

Since the Orlando massacre, my feed has been a blur. I’m sure yours has, too. Mental health, Islam, issues facing the gay community, and guns. I just wanted to take a moment to talk about the last one. [F]rankly, I’ve been a bit disappointed with how both sides have handled it. Actually, I’m a little disgusted that there are two sides to begin with.

As expected, the NRA crowd went into preemptive attack mode. Claims that an armed citizen could have ended this. Claims that gun owners need to be more vigilant in defending their rights. And the far left, a group that doesn’t really use guns to begin with, flooded the internet with demands to outlaw a specific type of rifle, and in extreme cases, called for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

Please, stop. Both of you. The bodies weren’t even cool when this started from both sides.

But this isn’t all about Orlando specifically. This is about the same argument that gets us nowhere every time one of these things happens.

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m a gun owner. I went through the same hell that everyone else that lives in Erie County goes through to get a pistol permit. I did this because I saw the writing on the wall at my security job, and the armed sector was the only other place I could make comparable money. By the time I’d gotten my permit over a year later, I’d switched careers entirely. And I own a shotgun. I’ve done some hunting, but to be honest, I hate waking up early. I still enjoy shooting both from time to time, and have no plans on getting rid of them.

I’ll start with the anti-gun crowd, because there isn’t a lot to say, other than that the right wing gun nut on your feed is telling the truth about defining assault rifles. “Assault rifle” has no more meaning to it than “private reserve,” “artisan,” or any other phrase that can be easily co-opted to create a perceived value. The AR-15 does, in fact, operate just like any other semiautomatic rifle. You pull the trigger once for each bullet that comes out. But they look intimidating, because they can accommodate a number of different gadgets that do make them quite useful for things like hunting pests at night. Automatic weapons, which are already illegal for the most part, are what you should be afraid of. You hold down the trigger and it shoots until you run out of ammo.

I tell you this because by focusing on a single type of weapon, you’re losing the forest for the trees. If you want to make any real changes, you need to look at the bigger picture. It isn’t about spot cleaning a specific item. It’s about make responsible gun laws, and targeting a specific gun that a large number of law abiding gun owners possess is only going to be divisive. And if you can’t work within that mindset, I can’t help you. More on that later.

For the other side. The gun side. You have more to answer for because you should know more about the issue.

First of all, if you’re going to pull the “good guy with a gun” card in the case of Orlando, please surrender all of your weapons immediately, because you shouldn’t own them. As someone who owns a pistol, you know where the last place is that I’d take a gun into? A night club or bar. The majority of people that are out enjoying the nightlife are, at the very least, drinking. That is absolutely not the environment that I would be bringing a gun into. And if you would, please see my request above. I’m not saying that “good guy with a gun” is a myth, but we should probably accept that it’s a statistical outlier and certainly shouldn’t have applied to the current tragedy.

Second, please understand that the NRA is a lobbyist for the gun industry first and foremost. Guns are a massive business, and every time an event like this happens, people run to gun stores, either because they’re afraid that they’ll need a gun or that their guns are going to be taken away. Fear mongering works, and you shouldn’t let yourself get caught up in demagoguery.

But what, then, is the point? Why own guns at all? I think we can all come together if we break down the place of guns in our culture, here in the United States. The Second Amendment is absolutely about individual ownership. The guys who wrote the Constitution were absolutely thinking ahead when they wrote the document. They knew times would change, and they wrote it to apply, as best they could, to all eras. The muskets they were using were a far cry from the early guns that had been around for literally hundred of years before the formation of the United States, so the argument that they couldn’t foresee an AR-15 is logically unsound. Second, they had just led an armed revolt against the greatest power in the world, so they absolutely had armed insurrection or resistance to foreign powers on their minds. It’s revisionist to think otherwise.

But before I lose all of my anti-gun friends or get the gun nuts too excited, something needs to be explained. And that is personal responsibility.

At the end of the day, you staying alive is entirely up to you. Your freedoms are entirely up to you. If a dictator takes over and you fight back, or someone breaks into your home, or you need to defend yourself during civil unrest, that is all up to you. Ukraine showed us that foreign invasion and civil war can engulf a democratic country overnight.
But in the solution is also its own problem. The NRA and some gun owners have packaged those scenarios as an ideal. A false one at that. The thought of what happened in Ukraine happening here fills me with dread. The thought of losing everything to a hurricane and needing to fend off the vultures with my shotgun fills me with dread. The thought of fighting against a dictator that may have some support from the most powerful military in the world is nearly incomprehensible.

And that’s what neither side sees. One side can’t comprehend a viable scenario where an armed populace is necessary because it’s such an alien concept. The other half has a disproportionate number of people who believe that they will be the hero should that situation arise, and not the person killed in a drone strike or overwhelmed by a mob of angry looters and rioters. And make no mistake, the armed insurrection that so many so-called “patriots” are prepping for, should it ever come to pass, would only end when one side is tired of choking on its own blood, or can’t live with any more blood on their hands. That’s something that I’d like to avoid at all costs, not something to make a defining part of who I think I am. No one pictures themselves as the corpse who never got a shot off, when maybe they should

We need something in the middle. We can limit magazine sizes. We can close loopholes in guy buying. We can ignore the fear mongering. We can accept that we live in a world where bad things happen, and some people will always choose the onus of being prepared. We can make actual change that allows responsible gun owners to remain as such, while making these sorts of acts far more difficult to pull off.

But until we stop arguing over the minutia. Until we can stop buying into the rhetoric and false solutions that fit into a meme. Until we can talk to each other like adults and leave our preconceived notions at the door. Until we can abandon the ideas that gun owners are killers/heroes and that the anti-gun crowd is morally superior/too weak to understand. Until then, nothing is going to happen.

So, until we inevitably have this conversation again because we’re all too intractable to stop the next event that sparks this same conversation, try to be good to one another.