When it comes to gun control in America, opinions typically fall somewhere on a spectrum, with no distinct middle ground. There is a lot to consider when “choosing a side,” if one must. In fact, an article from The Economist highlights the variety of issues within the gun control controversy and claims “[i]n general, support for gun control is split across party lines, but there are a number of areas where all Americans find common ground.”
But what if you and your spouse are split on the issue? What do you do when the gun issue blows up at home? What if you can’t reach a common ground?
My husband and I are somewhere on two sides of this gun control spectrum. He is a military man. Having shot a variety of weapons, including bombs and bullets from an F-16, you can imagine where he stands. Currently stationed in the UK, we are not allowed to have guns here, but that’s not to say he doesn’t own them.
Like my husband, I grew up in the Midwest where many people own guns, but my mom did not want them in the house; so we didn’t have them. Even though my husband is a fighter pilot, veteran of a foreign war and gun advocate, I uphold the ideals of openness and tolerance as alternatives to war and violence. Being married to a military man who enjoys sport shooting, I must reconcile those distinct differences internally, especially when it comes to advocating for a certain amount of gun control.
I don’t necessarily fear guns, so much as I fear guns in the hands of the wrong person.
As an older teen, I remember choosing a path of peace, diversity and tolerance; I commend those young adults who have had enough “thoughts and prayers” and organized the March for Our Lives to demand action. Some might be opposed to these non-voters having an opinion, but I disagree and am grateful for political activists who have ensured our freedom since the birth of our nation.
While some choose to fight wars against terrorism on foreign soil, others choose to fight for civil rights here at home; preserving and enhancing the freedoms we have in America.
We all have different ideals and definitions of gun control. While one side clings to antiquated amendments without considering an upgrade for the modern age, the other is advocating for a change that may restrict our basic liberties. And that’s what creates the political divide; our differences, our inability to understand/respect a variety of viewpoints and our rigidity to change. Realizing that is the foundation of mutual-understanding.
THE GREAT DIVIDE
On the far left, some might argue we should ban guns altogether, which let’s be honest, probably isn’t going to ever happen. While on the far right, any mention of “gun control” registers like a warning sign: The government will take away all guns! It signals a Pavlov’s dogs-type response to buy and hoard guns and ammo as if Obama will come out of retirement, knock down the door and steal them away.
Case in point: Immediately after the Sandy Hook school shooting, my husband bought an AR-15. He admits this was based on his fear that the rifle would soon be banned. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that I was blindsided and angered by the fact such a weapon would be purchased without my knowledge or consent.
He wasn’t alone in his thinking, though. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are roughly more than 300 million guns in America. Gun sales increased and production actually doubled after Sandy Hook.
So where is the compromise? If guns aren’t going to be banned all together, how do we “control” who has them or decide what guns a person can own? If we outlaw certain types, isn’t that basically “infringing” on someone’s right to bear arms?
THE MURKY MIDDLE GROUND
Many people, who think independently from these extremes, are afraid to pick a side for fear they will be labeled a “liberal snowflake” or “callous redneck” or “insert any other name” here; because once people run out of facts or insight, they resort to name calling and clever digs to diminish your voice.
When rational arguments can no longer be heard, it is difficult for people to have civil, productive conversations.
The NRA, having very deep pockets, is able to pay for the majority vote on any decision related to gun control. It also can prevent the scientific research (like that by the CDC) that would study gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon. Politicians are silenced by the money being fed into them. Unfortunately, the ones with the most money have the largest voice and opportunity to skew the facts.
BATTLING IT OUT ON THE HOME FRONT
While gun control has been politicized and polarized publicly, it also can affect relationships personally. My husband and I have had many disputes over this issue, because we are both so passionate about it and lean in different directions. Here’s why:
On December 14, 2012, I walked two blocks to our closest elementary school, dropped off my 6-year-old and came home to see the news about Sandy Hook Elementary. I imagined being one of those parents who sent his or her child to school and was left with nothing but an unopened lunch box at the end of the day. After weeping on the floor of my living room for murdered elementary school students, my husband purchased the same type of weapon used in the incident without asking or even telling me.
As if hiding something, the purchase of the gun was never mentioned to me until I saw it weeks later. He knew I wouldn’t approve, so he never asked.
This was not my husband’s first gun. We didn’t have a discussion about guns before marriage because he already owned them. They were his. During our first year of marriage, he took me out for target practice. In attempt to better understand the enjoyment of target shooting, I shot one of his smaller hand guns. It did not appeal to me, and I haven’t shot another in over 10 years. Over time, my distaste for guns has only grown with each mass shooting.
After Sandy Hook and the Orlando nightclub shooting (2016), I was only more resolute in my belief that certain guns (bump stocks and other modifications) simply should not be made accessible to the general public.
When I learned about my husband’s most recent purchase, I was heartbroken. To avoid an argument, I turned a blind eye. He already knew how I felt—or so I thought—and disregarded my feelings on the matter. He has since apologized, but the fact still remains; we own a gun I disapprove of and did not consent to.
It wasn’t until after the Las Vegas massacre and the discussions that followed that it really hit me. It hit me just what he had done and how much it bothered me.
The Las Vegas shooting hit close to home because for three years Las Vegas was home. Exactly seven months after we moved from Las Vegas, a gunman opened fire from the window of the Mandalay Bay, killing 58 people and leaving 851 injured. Not only was Las Vegas home, but we had previously stayed in a Mandalay Bay hotel suite, roughly on or around the same floor, with the same view and vantage point that the shooter used. In November 2015, my husband and I along with some family members ran in the Rock-n-Roll half marathon. My mother-in-law watched our children for us in a corner suite looking down at all the marathon runners. We thought it would be neat for them to watch from a safe spot away from the crowd. Even then, I was suspicious of a terrorist attack. Las Vegas is a large city that draws large crowds. After the bombing at the Boston marathon in 2013, one starts to think, It truly could happen anywhere.
I wanted to speak out against the weapon used in that mass murder, but failed to find my voice.
In tears, I laid it out for him. I felt like a hypocrite for advocating against semi-automatic rifles, bump stocks, etc. knowing what we owned. My words made him feel “villainized” for what he felt was a personal choice; his “right.” He explained that shooting guns elicits pleasant childhood memories—time spent with family, and somehow I made those feelings wrong or evil.
I can empathize with that. The unintended consequence of my honesty hurt him profoundly, but I can only hope he was equally receptive to my concerns. The Las Vegas shooting and more recently the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, have given not only our country, but my husband and I, more opportunities to discuss and re-evaluate our feelings and beliefs about gun control. That’s a good thing.
A friend of mine said on the issue, “Like any good marriage, the answer is compromise, not division on one extreme or the other.”
He and I—two people with different opinions on gun control— through hours of discussion managed to reach one basic understanding. We agree there are two extremes, but we—like the majority of Americans—are drowning in a sea of voices trapped between both. While no clear compromise can be heard among the multitude of passionate pleas screaming about the issue publicly, at least we can compromise at home and occasionally “agree to disagree.”
THE CHASM OF VOICES IN THE MIDDLE
Should there be a shift in our collective consciousness about gun control? It seems there already is due to the recent mass shootings. Subsequent political demonstrations, revised corporate policies (Dick’s, Walmart, etc.) and ties broken with the NRA (Delta, Hertz, etc.) are happening around the country, reshaping our national perception of guns and gun control. Even though our lawmakers are incapable of making change, our free market is demanding we do.
It is documented that MOST American’s believe that something needs to be done about gun control and fall somewhere in the middle of this politicized issue.
According to Politico, roughly two-thirds of registered voters, 68% in fact, believe gun control laws should be made stricter. An overwhelming majority support the prevention of ALL firearm sales to people who have been reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental-health provider. So if the majority of these voters, a large number of soon-to-be voters and the free market feel something needs to be done, then your spouse—whether left leaning or right leaning—is still likely somewhere in the middle, just like most of the American population.
I suspect that this silenced majority truly believes gun control is about more common sense laws that include provisions on licensing to prevent those with mental health issues from obtaining guns and limiting the use of certain weapons from falling into the hands of people with malicious intent. It is about ensuring that anyone who owns a weapon has been trained/educated and is mentally fit to do so.
Reforming gun laws does not equate to taking away guns/rights in America; it is refining what we have to pertain to today’s society.
The commonality among mass shootings is the mental stability of an individual and that individual’s access to weapons with great destructive power. It’s in America’s best interest to ensure gun owners are in good mental health. Shouldn’t this information be made clear on background checks?
Should gun owners be required to take regular mental health screenings? Who should be responsible for those screenings?
Curiosity and accidents can be minimized with the right exposure. Just as you must take driver’s education, register your car, obtain insurance and have periodic evaluations to make sure you are capable of driving a car, shouldn’t gun owners follow similar provisions? Should private sales be allowed (and only allowed) if the transfer is made under the guidance of a licensed dealer or court house?
I don’t have all the answers, but I like that we have more questions to the problem. It means a dialogue is forming! We have more people willing to discuss gun control reform with a level head and an open agenda.
Honest, open, civil discussion paves the way toward more critical-thinking and objective decision making.
If you find that you and your spouse disagree about gun control, it is important to listen to one other. Don’t listen to the mouthpiece on either side spewing nonsense with no facts and just snarky rhetoric.
Listen to your friends to gain insight on a different perspective. Listen to the victims who have been traumatized. Listen to REAL statistics. Listen to the loners who desperately NEED a rational adult in their life. Yes, we can walk “out” and walk “up” at the same time. When we do that, we will soon realize that our feelings and beliefs aren’t so different from one another.
To preserve the peace at home, consider this:
It seems everyone has an opinion on guns. Chances are your spouse does, too. You may not agree 100% but you should respect your spouse’s feelings and opinions. Talk openly about your beliefs on guns in the home. Try to understand why they feel/believe the way they do. Don’t suggest or assume that they should submit to your opinion.
Don’t Try to Solve The World’s Problems
Unless you or your spouse is a Congressman/woman or a figurehead of the NRA, the likelihood that you both will solve the world’s problems over a bottle of wine during a well-researched, heated debate is slim to none. If your spouse has a different opinion than yours on gun control, don’t demand that they have all the answers or suggest their opinion isn’t valid unless they do.
That’s unrealistic and dismissive. Remember: the brightest minds in Washington still have yet to figure it out.
Compromise Your Actions, Not Your Beliefs
At some point you have to meet in the middle. My husband has had guns his whole life. He is trained and responsible, so I can’t rightfully demand that he drop and destroy all he owns. He is a grown man, and I respect his desire to own guns. Our compromise is that they do not stay in our home without a gun safe. They must remain put away and out of reach of the children.
While it is his right to own guns, it is also our responsibility to keep them safely out of our children’s reach or from those who might do harm. Many responsible gun owners stress importance of a gun safe. Whether large (for many) or small (fingerprint accessible), you can find one to suit your family’s needs.
Come to an agreement on who can access your weapons (younger children/older teens/extended family) and if they are mentally fit or physically trained to operate one.
Consult Before You Carry
Don’t. Just. Don’t. Just as you would consult your spouse regarding any other major purchase, speak to he or she first. Unless you know that your spouse is completely OK with it, you should have a discussion beforehand. While your spouse may be OK with a concealed gun for personal protection, he or she may not be OK with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S. Buying such a weapon without consulting your spouse undermines him/her and shows a complete disregard for his or her fundamental beliefs.
If you really want to protect your family, start by respecting them first.
Honey, We have Bigger Problems
Understand that gun violence in America is not necessarily our number one threat. Socioeconomic problems affect overall human functioning, including our physical and mental health which can lead to violence. And while heart disease, obesity, respiratory disease, cancer and other diseases may consume more lives than gun violence, nothing is more concerning to me than the degradation of mental health in the United States. We can’t allow lobbyists to prevent our government and private sector from examining and evaluating these problems alongside the statistics of gun violence in America. The NRA, just like Big Tobacco, can eventually succumb to the truth with just the right amount of public pressure. You can’t fix socioeconomic problems with one large paintbrush called “gun control,” but you might find ways to prevent lost lives due to gun violence.
People Change. Guns Change. America can change.
Know that as people get older, their beliefs may change due to circumstances. They may be more firm where they stand, or they may gravitate more toward the center. Talk openly and often over time. If you think sport shooting might enhance your relationship (as any other hobby), then maybe give it a solid try. Much fear and anxiety about guns is due to ignorance and inexperience. With understanding and exposure, these negative emotions can be alleviated.
Though I might never go to a shooting range with my husband, I respect his decision to do so. Meanwhile, I’ll stick with my crossbow. If you don’t want to shoot a real gun, but want to indulge your spouse by sharing in his/her hobby, try your hand at paintball, archery, Nerf gun wars or light-gun arcade games.
Essentially, gun control starts in the home. Although you may have different backgrounds and beliefs, I do believe that rational solutions can be agreed upon at home and in America.