July 2012 Archives

Wed Jul 25 19:37:42 MDT 2012

I am a Gun Nut

I grew up in Puerto Rico. Palm trees; rain forest; tropical breeze; mangoes in my back yard; murder. Yes, murder was (and still is) a daily part of life on the island. My education as a student driver included pausing at red lights after 11pm, looking quickly both ways, then moving on. And if another car bumps into you but your car is still driveable, don't even bother stopping: just drive away quickly. They're just trying to get you out of your car to kill you and take it.

Guns are cheap, easy, and plentiful in Puerto Rico. This despite the fact that they're almost impossible for a law-abiding citizen to buy. And despite the fact that it's 100 miles by 35, surrounded by water and theoretically easier to secure than mainland USA.

I grew up thinking guns were scary, evil. Why did they have to exist? Can't we just prohibit them? Then, like pretty much everyone who gets the opportunity, I left the island. Went to the US, college, job, never looked back. Visited family; but move back? Snort. Never a possibility.

In the US I encountered cognitive dissonance: I met gun owners. Some of them intelligent, rational, kind. How could that be? And how can the US, with all its guns, be infinitely safer than Puerto Rico? It really bothered me; so I asked one of these people. And got back a thoughtful, rational response. And I decided to learn. And learn I did.

Intelligent, compassionate people. Owning guns. Carrying guns. I could've just stuck my head in the sand, ignored the apparent paradox. But I asked, and I learned, and ... well, it's complicated. “Ban guns”, simple and sound-bitey, is a pretty bad idea. Pandora's box resists closing. When you make laws, the only people affected are the law-abiding. I've seen first-hand what happens when criminals have free rein, when they have no fear of a victim fighting back.

Look at Puerto Rico again. 100 by 35 miles. It would fit between Gallup and Albuquerque:

Map showing
Puerto Rico outline between Gallup and Albuquerque, NM

(click on image for an interactive map, and scale it next to your favorite landmark. Try Lake Ontario, the smallest of the Great Lakes. Or VatnajÍ„ökull National Park). You can't secure a place that small, how could you secure the US? 100 miles by 35. I know: you'll mention Japan or Canada. Different cultures, mindsets, trust levels. As I mentioned: it's complicated. And that's not code for “I want my guns”, it's code for “beware of good intentions, because you might make things a lot worse if you don't understand the problem.”

Intelligent, compassionate people own guns. Think about that. Question it. People who believe education and trust and infrastructure are key elements in building a society. People who believe you should be free to love whomever you like. People who think that getting a health checkup or buying groceries should not be an either-or decision. In other words: not Republicans. Think about that. And ask why. And learn. And then, once you've learned, help me solve the problems of violence and ignorance and poverty and desperation.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link