This is one of the more insightful essays from a non-conservative writer about conservative gun owners we’ve seen all year. A refreshing sight. It’s unfortunate that the irrational, anti-democratic, reactionary urge for massive government control by the increasingly radical anti-gun left–and the increasingly irritable impatience of the strident pro-gun right (of which I proudly belong) predictably leaves little room for any hope of mutual respect. Sophia Raday’s article is a step in the right direction, exposing and addressing the false accusation of heartlessness. For this alone, conservatives should be grateful.
Perhaps Raday unnecessarily mythologizes the protective instincts of conservative gun owners. And needlessly refers to Hollywood stereotypes about Good and Evil that trivialize the subject. But her main points are well-reasoned, and valid. I’d prefer the word ‘realist‘, than pessimist, myself. But these are minor disagreements. Maybe pessimist is the right word. To her credit, Sophia Raday’s effort hints at an under-explored potential for honest dialogue between opposing camps.
Parting question: does a person actually have to be married to a member of the opposing camp, in order to reach these conclusions, and this level of understanding? I hope not!
Sophia Raday writes:
“How can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer?” President Barack Obama asked on Friday.
I can answer that question. I’m in the progressive camp, but I’m married to my political opposite, a Republican police officer and soldier. We’ve had eighteen years to compare notes on many political issues, and out of all those arguments, I have gained an understanding and a measure of respect for the conservative worldview.
When something as horrible as the shooting in Oregon happens, progressives want to pull some shred of meaning from it. So let’s do something already, we say, in increasingly exasperated and angry tones. Let’s learn. Let’s change things. But we might be more effective in getting something done about mass shootings if we actually understood the opposition. Researchers studying conflict and extremism believe you can get a lot further in negotiation with an adversary if you acknowledge what is sacred to them. And believe it or not, gun-rights advocates—at least by virtue of their politics—are not heartless.
It must be understood that gun-rights advocates, like many conservatives, tell a very different story about the world than we progressives do. In their narrative, the earth is an inherently dangerous, often hostile, and definitely competitive place. Unlike us, they do not take as given that deep down, all people are basically good. They believe there is evil in the world, that there will always be evil in the world and that evil must be consistently and stalwartly confronted. In their story, it’s up to every one of the good people to stand up against malice. Otherwise, evil gets the upper hand. So, when a mass shooting occurs, their view of American society as overly permissive, and therefore an insufficient bulwark against ever-threatening evil, is only confirmed.
Liberals scratch their heads at the NRA member’s passion for firearms. People like Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin—whose post-Sandy Hook letter refusing to enforce any additional gun regulations is now going viral—seem like callous monsters to us. We find it odd and twisted to be so attached, so passionate about an amalgamation of metal and explosives whose raison d’tre is destruction. What we don’t get is that for conservatives, and Second Amendment defenders especially, the supreme virtue is self-reliance. The unconscious story underlying much conservative thought is a tale of good versus evil. Think of movies such as the Dark Knight, or Braveheart, or Star Wars. The virtuous individual must draw on his own talent and courage to defeat evil within and without. Read the rest of this entry »