How to talk about gun safety

Step one: Say “gun safety.”

There is no benefit to be having a rights discussion when people can legally get semi-automatic weapons, then shoot adults and children in public places. This is not about gun control. This is about regulation of dangerous things, like cars, drugs, and poisonous food. Use SAFETY. Everyone wants safety. It is a good word.

Second step: Avoid “Gunsplaining.”

I got that rhetorical point from Hecate Demeter’s brilliant blog. Do not fall into the trap of being silenced by someone who knows more technical data about guns. This is “gunsplaining.” There are folk out there (expect those folk to be male) who will speak eloquently about how stupid people are about guns because they do not know what “AR” stands for in “AR-15”. You do not need to know.

Hecate writes: “I don’t need to understand the lifecycle of the Clostridium butyricum bacteria to know that we need food regulations to prevent botulism. I don’t need to understand the precise physics of car crashes to know that we need regulations to prevent car manufacturers from selling flimsy cars. And, as we all know, men apparently don’t need to understand ANYTHING about female reproduction in order to pass all kinds of laws about our bodies.”

You do not need to know what things are called, and why they are called that. If you are against automatic weapons being easily purchased, you can still say so. Someone quizzing you on the specs of a rifle is trying to silence you.

You can answer that an AR-15 is a weapon like that shreds human bodies with 900 high velocity bullets a minute, if it has a bump-stock or hellfire trigger. Either a bump-stock or a hellfire trigger increases the number of bullets per minute to 900 a minute. They can be legally bought with those add-ons. The alleged killer in the Texas elementary school had a Hellfire. Therefore, you know enough to say you want more gun safety so that children are not murdered that way in schools, or anywhere else.

That person who interrupts you with superior knowledge about guns is trying to silence you, using “informational influence.” They are playing on the human tendency to think that if everyone is saying something that doesn’t make sense, maybe they know something that you don’t know. Sociologist Solomon Asch showed that participants in his study will say something obviously false is true, if everyone else in the room is saying the false thing is true. I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

Step three: Watch your elected officials. Let your opinion be known to them.

It is very clear from polling that Americans want more gun safety. If you want more gun safety, you are in the majority. These two measures have particularly strong support:

There is near unanimous support (92 percent) for requiring background checks for all gun buyers, while 7 percent oppose requiring background checks for all gun buyers.

Americans support 83 – 12 percent a so-called “red flag” law allowing police or family members to petition a judge to remove guns from a person that may be at risk for violent behavior. [source]

A data-driven proposal shows that raising the age for gun purchases would be an important step (although it may not be politically possible at this time).

“Americans ages 18 to 20 account for 4 percent of the population but 17 percent of those known to have committed a murder.

In Wyoming, one of the most pro-gun states in America, the minimum age to buy a handgun is 21. Overall, one-third of states limit purchase of a handgun to those 21 or older, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

If we say that teenagers can’t buy a beer, isn’t it worth having a conversation about whether they should be able to buy Glock 19 handguns and AR-15-style rifles? [source]

Congress is compelled to act on this before the summer recess. It is a good time to be active, especially if you live in the districts of the 10 Republicans who are standing up for gun safety.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.)

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

If your members of Congress are accepting money from the National Rifle Association, now is a good time to question them on that.


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