Listening, hopefully understanding gun supporters

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Meeting number three of the Gun Rights and Responsibilities Group on March 28 went much more smoothly, I'm happy to report. For most of the session, the members who emphasize firearm rights presented their side of the issue while those of us who emphasize responsibilities respectfully listened.

As you can see, I'm still dancing with the language. "Those who emphasize rights" is meant to convey that they do not completely dismiss the responsibilities that go with those rights, just as the other side doesn't completely dismiss the rights that come with responsibilities. The difference between the two sides is not either/or. It's a matter of emphasis.

Listening to people you don't entirely agree with (dancing again) is a valuable exercise. In fact, it's almost a relief. They already know we don't agree with a lot of what they're saying, but we're spared the moral imperative of defending, contradicting, correcting, rebutting — in other words, going into rhetorical combat. The goal is to understand the other side's position as much as your biases allow.

Here's what I "understand" based on what I "heard" (dancing, dancing):

First, everyone deserves a respectful hearing. Those arguing for gun rights consider their point of view valid and want to/need to share it. They don't want their views to be summarily dismissed. We start from common ground, therefore, because everyone feels that way.

This is about more than guns, which, I suppose, we all knew to some extent. It's largely about feeling safe in a dangerous world. Some see the world as quite dangerous and the "good guys" as quite vulnerable. Guns translate into self-defense — more to the point, the ability, and even the moral imperative, to defend themselves and loved ones in a dangerous world.

In that dangerous world, where much is beyond our control, possession of guns translates into a greater sense of personal power, and you really can't overestimate the importance of personal power. Everyone talks about "empowerment" these days. We just have different ways of pursuing it.

No one said all this directly. I'm reading plenty between the lines.

It's not that the self-defenders disrespect the police so much as they trust themselves more. It's a form of old-fashioned self-reliance, deeply ingrained in the American psyche and frontier mythology. No matter how quickly the police response time is (an average of 3 minutes, 34 seconds, according to one former Oak Park cop), it isn't quick enough if an intruder confronts them in their home.

They regard the U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment with deep reverence. Keeping and bearing arms is an inalienable right, equal to, and possibly greater than, freedom of speech, worship, assembly and all the rest. They do not believe the wording is unclear and do not see it as open to conflicting interpretations.

They fear that, underlying all the talk about gun control, there may lurk a desire, even a determination, to deprive them of this sacred right. They fear that, ultimately, government may try to take away their guns and attempt to disarm the population.

They believe gun control measures have been a failure and doubt that more legislation would improve the situation. They do acknowledge that some people (criminals, children, the mentally ill) should not have access to firearms, but they doubt it's possible to come up with a foolproof way to deny them. Anyone who wants a gun badly enough will find a way to get one.

Gun possession is synonymous with freedom — from fear and from government tyranny. Keeping and bearing arms has come to mean taking freedom into their own hands — literally and figuratively.

They believe there will be less crime and that people will be safer if there are more guns because they serve as a deterrent. A criminal will think twice about committing a crime if he or she is worried that an intended victim might be armed. They have loads of statistics to back this up and an unlimited supply of anecdotal evidence to support their contentions.

They take pride in being trained and safety-conscious. They don't want to be branded as "nuts," and they see themselves as "the good guys." They do not believe gun rights should be unlimited or absolute, but they think gun regulation should be minimized.

They said a lot more than I have related here, and some of what I have related is my interpretation or "sense" of what they were saying, backed up by things I've read and heard elsewhere. This is my current "understanding," based partly on what they said. I'm sure my fellow group members will let me know whether I hit or missed the target (so to speak).

Tomorrow night, 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Veterans Room of the Main Library (a change of venue and time), those who emphasize responsibilities will have their turn to present and receive a respectful hearing. Here's a preview of my portion:

"I know of no one who emphasizes responsibilities and supports regulation who wants to take away your guns, even if that were a realistic option, which it isn't. …"

If you're interested in hearing more, feel free to stop by and listen.


Reader Comments

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Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 22nd, 2013 12:11 PM

Welcome to Oak Park and I hope you enjoy our schools, parks and tree lined streets. Stay away from these political cat fights since they consume time and no minds are ever swayed.

New2OP from OP  

Posted: April 22nd, 2013 7:03 AM

@RS and others. I just moved here from DC, lived there through Heller and can tell you the foolishness of gun bans AND the foolishness of bitter politicians on the wrong side of history trying to skirt the law. OP now has one more vote AGAINST this nonsense.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2013 2:17 PM

@ New 2OP - for thirty years the village forbid handguns in Oak Park. Last year that ordinance was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. Many here are bitter and want their handgun prohibition back. This community isn't a high crime area and the gun violence we see is usually imported from our neighbors to the east. Since a large majority of town is liberal/progressive they want to bring back the ordinance, reworded to trick the Supreme court. Some of us feel that we are being pressured by the majority to accept a compromise of our rights while they offer nothing in return.

New2OP from Oak Park  

Posted: April 21st, 2013 12:52 PM

New Oak Parker here. What is the purpose of this? To put in place regulations in addition to those of the state and the county? This makes no sense at all.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 10:16 AM

Gallup poll out today - 1000+ phone interviews. Gun control ranked 9th in importance with only 4% ( 40 out of 1,000) saying it is important. Why are we continuing to tilt this windmill?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2013 6:19 PM

@Ken - The fourth meeting is 'in the can' and our side was just as respectful as your side in meeting three. You claim that the pro regulation group is just pushing for resposibility, yet you have failed to demonstrate any irresponsible actions by Oak Park gun owners. We respectfully listened to you relate your underlaying fear of entering a house where there might be guns. You still seem to think that those of us who own or owned guns are irrational, fire breathing monsters who are out to create carnage in our village . You offer nothing in return for our forfeiture of our second amendment rights and compromise is not possible.The vocal majority in Oak Park agree with you, however the more reserved pro second amendment group are nearly equal in numbers to your side and always have statistical horsepower on their side..

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: April 16th, 2013 9:56 AM

Dylan, I was being sarcastic. Of course it is easier to do damage with a gun than a knife. However, a determined nut job can still injure a lot of people without a gun which was my point. About five times as many people are killed by knives than rifles OF ANY KIND every year. So why the focus on "assault weapons" by lawmakers when the facts show they are an almost non-factor in overall murder numbers?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2013 7:25 AM

@ CW All of your "Best Intentions" still allowed one group to deny constitutional rights to another. We are now seeing an attempt to travel that road again to put salve on fears that are not based on any facts but just "make me feel better" The ordinance was wrong 30 years ago, just as it would be wrong today.

Chris Walsh from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2013 12:54 AM

joe from south oak park: I should also point out that the original ban had a nine-month deferred effective date so that Oak Park handgun owners could, if they wished, make arrangements to store their guns outside the community or in an Oak Park gun club exempt from the ban. But no gun club ever got created though I heard there was some discussion about creating one. So we did try to accommodate the interests of existing handgun owners in those respects.

Chris Walsh from Oak Park  

Posted: April 16th, 2013 12:38 AM

joe from south op: Yes, those who pushed for the handgun ban wanted to BAN the private possession of handguns and leave them to police, military, etc. However, there was a "three strikes and you're out" policy written into the original ban: you could not face any jail time until the third violation. That later was removed, and only fines were permitted for violation of the ordinance at the time the Supreme Court decided McDonald.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 14th, 2013 12:28 PM

@ Dylan - Those laws exist today - just rarely enforced and most often plea bargained down. Your pleas for universal background checks also exist in most states - just not the federal gun registry that you think will solve everything. If none of the existing laws are being enforced what will resolve anything? On Thursday we heard a lot of regulation justification because of people being "afraid" How will regulating good citizens remove your fear of bad things by bad people?

Dylan Bellisle from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 10:06 AM

Uncommon, The difference is how many deaths resulted from the stabbings. None. If a gun was used we could be talking about 14 deaths, as opposed to 14 injured people. You can hurt people with many objects, but guns are better designed to kill than a knife, sword, baseball bat, computer monitor, etc. lol. I will continue to say, I , as well as many others, are more concerned about guns in the hands of the wrong people. To prevent those guns getting into their hands, we need responsible regulation - ie. universal background checks, and high penalties for those who illegally sell arms. I could careless if you, as a mentally stable law-abiding citizen, have an "assault weapon" or a hand-gun.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 4:59 PM

Curious if there will be an article advocating the banning of "semi-auto assault knives" given the 14 people stabbed by that nut at that school in Texas. People shouldn't be able to stab so many people so quickly.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 4:10 PM

I think you did a decent job summarizing the issues. However, in light of you actually thinking through the points you wrote in the column, how do you then turn around and argue for the other side? You seemed to make a pretty clear argument against further gun control to me...

joe from south oak park  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 2:53 PM

a little condescending but a fair summary of the views of many proponents of the 2A. My question for those that support regulation is that if I own a firearm that this regulated to be illegal to own and now I must sell or destroy it or risk becoming a felon and facing prison time, how is this not taking away my gun? Let's not forget history here. I wonder if folks during the 1984 ban said that they didn't want to take away anyone's guns either...


Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:04 AM

It's important to remember that the alleged 3:34 second police response time is measured from the time that a 911 call is made; if it can be made. Anyone with a boxing or martial arts background could tell you that 3 minutes can seem like an eternity, especially when you're being pounded on.

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