I just don't get it. I mean, I get it, but I don't. Incoming Republican state Rep. Kyle Kacal (District 12 which stretches from northern McLennan County down to Brazos) was quoted this week in the Bryan/College Station Eagle.
In the article on possible gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, there was this:
For example, Kacal, who lives on a 2,400-acre ranch in Brazos County, said he wouldn't support a proposed bill instructing residents how to secure their assault weapons.
"People know what they need to do to be safe. We don't need to legislate that -- it's common sense," he said. "Once everyone's gun is locked up, then the bad guys know everyone's gun is locked up."
Kacal echoed a common nationwide argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people.
"I've heard of people being killed playing ping-pong -- ping-pongs are more dangerous than guns," he said. "Flat-screen TVs are injuring more kids today than anything."
Deep sigh. Seriously? If I squint hard enough I can see the point I think he was trying to make. But ping pong and falling TVs? Those are the comparison you choose? And herein lies the problem with our side (gun rights) in the gun control debate: we seem callous. Comments like that, whether intended or not, make it appear as if we just don't care that 20 kids and seven adults were slaughtered. I'm not saying that's how Kacal feels, but that's how it comes across to many.
For his part, Kacal issued a clarification (see below). But not before the comments were picked up by lefty news organizations and blogs the world over. And the clarification didn't do very much, if anything, to control the damage done.
Every Sunday Tom Gresham hosts Gun Talk here on News Talk 1230. I like Tom's program. And up until the Newtown shooting I would have disagreed with his comments:
If we get caught up in trying to correct the misinformation about calibers, rifles, the name of a magazine versus a clip, and other such technical details, we waste the chance to affect the outcome.
Additionally, if we do nothing but say "Well, nothing can prevent these attacks," we will be pushed to the side, and others will tell us what laws they will pass. We simply will lose all credibility, we will lose our voice, we will lose our seat at the table.
What can you do? Talk to every person you know about this. BUT... please don't use the tired (and failed) arguments I hear so often. "If guns create crime, then spoons make people fat." If you say that, you are lost. Such silly statements make you sound 1. callous, 2. insensitive, 3. shallow, 4. dull-witted, and 5. irrelevant.
Remember that most people are not into guns as much as you are. They simply don't know. They don't know the difference between semi-auto and full-auto. They believe it when the media says there is no legitimate purpose for a semi-auto "military style" rifle. You have to bring them along gently. There is a mile of distance between what they believe (actually, if you asked, it would be what they "know") and what the facts really are.
I've made some of the same arguments and comments on the air before. They were appropriate at the time. It's much more difficult to argue your point when the other side is rightly filled with emotion and grief. While I don't have to agree with them or support them, I won't dismiss gun control proposals out of hand. If we come across as being open to absolutely nothing then we run the risk of further alienation. That doesn't mean we give in to every gun control proposal or even any of them. But hear the other side out and respond in kind. For every Eric Holder or Barack Obama whose policies are politically motivated, there are thousands more mothers, fathers and regular concerned citizens who just want to protect their children.
I'll say one more thing while we're dealing with the gun control debate. Statistics are your friend and enemy - please use them carefully.
Take this article from Foreign Policy (some of her facts are debatable, and it's worth your time to read all the comments that call her facts into question, but it illustrates the problem here). The author cites widely respected conservative columnist Thomas Sowell (whom I like). Sowell was using Israel and Switzerland as examples of countries that have lots of guns but low incidents of gun violence. As an economist he should know better than to jump to the conclusions he does. Israel and Switzerland, while they technically have a lot of guns, also have very stringent gun laws by American Standards. I don't know too many gun rights people here in the United States that would want to live under a set of gun laws like the ones in Israel or Switzerland. While helpful, statistics from both sides may not tell the whole story and can be twisted into forming a narrative that may not hold up under further scrutiny. Many gun control advocates act as if it's as simple as banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines. Those are emotional yet simplistic argument. We should not be making the same mistakes.
Don't take any of this to mean I'm abandoning my support for the 2nd Amendment. I'm not. I am, however, going to change the way I talk to non-gun rights people about guns.