Opinion: Gun politics need less shouting, more persuasion

On one of our trips to Atlanta while living overseas, my wife and I were waiting to re-check our bags after clearing customs. The line was held up by a older man of Asian descent who clearly didn’t speak or read English, and didn’t understand he was supposed to remove his laptop computer from its bag before placing it on the belt to go through the metal detector.

A security officer was trying to make him understand — but not by attempting another language he might recognize, pantomiming what he needed to do, or even gesturing to the bag itself. She simply stood there, arms at her side, saying the same thing over and over again, only more loudly each time, until she was practically shouting at the still-perplexed and thus still-noncompliant traveler.

I think about that scene often as I observe politics in our country.

Consider our gun-control politics. Despite the shrillest accusations we hear, no one actually wants to see another mass shooting. No one wants to see a school, church, nightclub, movie theater, or any other kind of space, in their community or anyone else’s, turned into the familiar, chilling scenes in Parkland, Charleston, Orlando, Aurora and elsewhere.

But after each of these atrocities, there seems to be little reflection from either side — those who seek restrictions on firearms, and those who resist — as to how to persuade someone who doesn’t already agree with them. Just more standing still, repeating the same things they’ve said over and over, only more loudly. Our opponents are to be defeated, not persuaded.

To wit: A group of gun-control activists came to the state Capitol on Wednesday to renew their calls for action after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Persuasion was surely on the minds of many but not all: A friend who’s a lobbyist told me one of the activists walked up to him and asked, “Are you a Republican? Because I’m looking for Republicans to stab with my umbrella.”

The umbrella was already in stabbing position as she spoke. I can’t imagine why she hasm’t gotten anywhere.

On my blog on Politically Georgia, I waited five days before writing about the Parkland shooting. A few commenters complained that I was dodging an inconvenient issue, that I knew “my side” was indefensible.

But my delay was really of a piece with my other policy about these shootings, which is not to name the killer: My intent in both cases is to remove something counter-productive from the discussion. In the case of naming the killer, it’s whatever infamy he might get — or inspiration a copycat might gain — from even that little bit of publicity. In the case of waiting to comment, it’s the reflexive, retreat-to-your-corners mentality that almost always prevails in the early hours after such a terrible thing happens and no one actually knows much about how and why it happened.

I am convinced it would take some of the venom and vilification out of these “national discussions” if more people did the same.

The problem of mass shootings, which has increased even as gun violence remains in decades-long decline, will probably require a much more nuanced and multi-faceted response than anything that starts with “ban” or “repeal” — or, for that matter, “more.” Anything less than that kind of response is less than our loved ones deserve, and too much like that shouting security officer in the airport.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Singapore summit was a historic snooker

The headline writers adore the word “historic.” It was ubiquitous in reporting on the April meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in. Kim shook Moon’s hand and then guided him over the military demarcation line to step onto North Korean territory. This prompted swoons. If that was a bona fide gesture of peaceful intent, time will...
Opinion: A quisling and his enablers

This is not a column about whether Donald Trump is a quisling — a politician who serves the interests of foreign masters at his own country’s expense. Any reasonable doubts about that reality were put to rest by the events of the past few days, when he defended Russia while attacking our closest allies. We don’t know Trump’s...

Liberals only see one type of lack of diversity Uh oh! Call the PC police on the South Fulton police! The AJC story (” ‘Black Girl Magic’ rules in South Fulton courts,” June 13, Metro) extols the positive impact of having zero racial and gender diversity in the leadership of South Fulton’s police department and court system...
Opinion: High school learns censorship doesn’t work

Here’s an axiomatic truth: If you want to make sure people see or hear something, ban people from seeing or hearing something. That predates the internet, as any former teenager who ever hid under the covers listening to “Louie Louie” with the volume down can surely attest. We are talking about a long time ago in a galaxy far, far...
Opinion: ERA began as a farce but has ended in tragedy

Karl Marx was no more mistaken than usual when he said that historic people and events appear twice, first as tragedy, then as farce. Today’s advocates of a musty fragment of the 1970s, the Equal Rights Amendment, are demonstrating that something that begins as farce can reappear as tragedy, because abuse of the Constitution is tragic. With Illinois...
More Stories