It was a windy and warm Sunday afternoon and my interest involved doing some basic landscaping in the front yard. What could go wrong?
A few minutes after getting situated with weeding my garden, my neighbor, Bill, walked by and appeared to want to talk with me. Once I made eye contact with him, I knew we'd at least have somewhat of a discussion. (Just to be clear, Bill has recently become quite entrenched in his political positions so I was bracing for the worst.)
One of the first things out of his mouth was “We don’t need any stinking gun control. I was startled at such a comment and I just wanted to dig a hole in my front yard and hide. (Too bad my shovel was not sharp enough.) Instead, Bill just persisted to say those clowns in Washington should not overreact to the latest shooting in Uvalde. I think he knows my views on gun control although I don't think he'd excel in a listening class -- perhaps his major goal was to annoy me. Needless to say, he was at this point succeeding.
His first parroted comment; don’t target guns, we should target mental illness. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard mindless repeating about mental illness and gun safety. Just to be clear, I’m not an expert on mental illness except to say that it’s a complex subject, one that I’d rather leave to the professionals. I said, “There are about 300 million guns in the United States, you don’t think that’s a problem?” He said, "The issue isn’t too many guns, just too many people in need of professional assistance." I certainly agree with the idea that those in need get the necessary mental health support. However, even if we target and help those who are mentally ill or are in need of assistance will not guarantee some of these individuals will at some point do something horrific. In other words, just tackling mental health isn't the only measure our society and government should take. Also, a little perspective here, most people who have a mental illness are not violent. However, we often equate the two, especially after a horrific mass shooting.
The other comment within this context may convince the majority that there are way too many guns in our society. We by far have the most homicides and suicides from handguns and rifles of any other Westernized country. I don't think many in Western Europe have the ability to completely understand the fact that we have so many mass shootings here without improving the safety and security of all Americans.
At this point, I had enough but perhaps Bill felt the need to explain his stance further. He said, “You liberals always point to gun control, especially after a mass shooting.” He continued, “You want to take away our guns.” First, many open-minded individuals desperately want significant gun control; many of them say this regardless of the most recent shooting. You sometimes may live in fear not knowing if a fellow driver or neighbor is packing. Fear alone of potential violence points to the sad state of our current society. In terms of taking away everyone's guns, this is simply a smokescreen -- many sensible Americans want sensible gun control to help address our current crisis. They don't want to take away all the guns. It's a ridiculous claim they make knowing full well that's not what the gun control advocates mean.
People like Bill certainly don’t get the hint – I was just trying to relax and beautify my front yard a bit but it appeared he didn’t get my social cues. His next comment, “Guns don't kill people -- people kill people. This means, in Bill's view, gun control is not the solution. I completely disagree. Nuclear weapons on their own accord don’t kill people either; neither does much of the military hardware our country manufactures. However, there are controls and safeguards we have in place to help ensure nuclear weapons or other dangerous weapons don’t end up in the wrong hands. The same principle applies to sensible gun control. He appeared to not have a plausible response so he said, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead hand."
I think if you have sensible gun control, you are indicating to society that politicians are serious about this social problem. I read recently that the United States has now surpassed 200 mass shootings since the beginning of 2022 (it's defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, excluding the shooter). If that statistic doesn't change the mind of those against additional gun control, I'm not sure what would.
At this point, I was no longer warm and fuzzy about our interaction. He claimed that if we outlaw guns (no one mentioned outlawing guns), we’re still going to have individuals who kill people with knives or baseball bats. He said, “I agree with that one politician who said a crazy person could conceivably kill 19 people with a baseball bat.” My jaw dropped and I just wished at the time I wouldn't have another interaction with my ignorant neighbor. Indeed, that comment about the baseball bat doesn't deserve a response. Knives indeed are dangerous but if you have a mentally disturbed adolescent male who is angry at someone or at a given institution, there’s a lot less lethal damage that could be done.
During this exchange, I wondered if I might be a target if I pissed him off enough. Enough was enough and at this point, I politely excused myself saying that I needed to help my wife with dinner. Otherwise, she might hurt or kill me (with a fork or knife, we no longer have baseball bats, LOL).
Addendum: Memorial Day 2022 is today, as a reminder, it's one day we honor those who have died in the nation's wars. If mass shootings continue in our society for the foreseeable future, will Congress create another holiday honoring those innocent people killed in mass shootings?