Angry, Frightened and Armed

Several people have asked me why I haven’t blogged about the massacre in Connecticut, or about creepy Wayne LaPierre’s press conference. There are two reasons: first, plenty of other people have commented, analyzed and basically said anything I might have said. And second, what’s the point?

One of the saddest aspects of our contemporary politics is the utter lack of dialogue. We are all preaching to our own choirs. If the NRA’s press statement (hard to call something a press conference when the press isn’t allowed to ask any questions) proved anything, it is that the massacre hasn’t changed that. We are all invested in our own points of view–I certainly am–and for some issues, that investment makes it impossible to understand the opposing perspective.

I know it is fashionable to bewail this state of affairs and to lecture anyone within earshot about the virtues of “going halfway,” of making the effort to see the perspective of the other. And there are definitely areas where extremists on both sides of the ideological spectrum need to get over themselves and do just that. But let’s be honest: right now, there are some positions that reasonable people ought not engage, or take¬†seriously.

Arming America is one of them.

I understand that there are a lot of people–make that a lot of white guys, mostly middle-aged and older–who are angry because life hasn’t turned out the way they thought it would. There are a lot of people who are frightened and disoriented by the pace of change. When President Obama made his “gaffe” about those people clinging to their guns and religions, the remark was politically damaging, but no less true. And those people are not going to enter into a conversation about what reasonable restrictions on gun ownership might look like.

Fortunately, not all armed Americans are fanatics. In fact, if polls are to be believed, most members of the NRA do not inhabit LaPierre’s alternate universe. There are plenty of gun owners who do¬†favor background checks, who agree that American sportsmen do not need Uzis and assault weapons capable of mowing down dozens of people without reloading. Those are the people we should seek out; the people we can and should talk to.

The others–the ones screaming that Obama is coming for their guns, the ones stocking up on ammunition, the ones demanding that we arm teachers or post armed guards at every classroom door–are quite simply beyond the ability to reason.