1. This blog will change no one’s mind. It’s true – Brain research shows that no matter how hard we try to be open minded, everything comes through our preconceived filters. So this blog will only help solidify your stance on the gun issue. But I’m writing it anyway, because surely we can agree on SOME things, right? (maybe not, but here goes)
2. Guns are getting into the wrong people’s hands. As I drove home from worship yesterday, NPR’s news break reeled off 3 different gun violence deaths, starting with last Wednesday’s AME church shooting; (Is that now going to be a thing? Like “school shooting,” we’ll have “church shooting?”) then one at a block party, and finished with one at a park. Clearly those guns were in the wrong hands.
3. If we can agree that guns are getting into the wrong people’s hands, can we agree that maybe the current laws are not working? That seems logical to me, but I have to be honest about my own firsthand experience. Studies of our brains also show that firsthand and anecdotal experiences hold much more weight in our opinions than say, science, or research, or facts. So, because my cousin-in-law was able to lawfully buy another handgun the day before he was to be arrested for murdering his mother with the first handgun, (and in a twisted blessing, used it to kill himself) you’ll be hard pressed to talk me out of #2 or #3.
4. Part of our inability to find common ground is that evidenced-based public policy on guns suffers from lack of extensive research. We all know something needs to change. (Please, please tell me we all agree on that!) Some say more guns, others say less, but what does evidenced based research, aka the scientific method suggest? That’s a hard sell right there, because we can’t agree that science should have a voice at the table, let alone a voice that outweighs our beliefs and personal experience. Our brains naturally prefer story – It’s how we’re wired to learn. Plus, our brains naturally divide the world into “us” and “them,” and the gun problem is with “them,” (read, poor, inner city, black, drug dealers, gangs, etc.) Throw a little reframing fueled by the “us-them” divide – – “Guns aren’t the problem – Violence is the problem,” (and it’s them – those violent people – who have a problem.) and you can see how our brains aren’t always our best friends.
4. We read the Constitution (selectively) literally. Okay, you might not initially agree with this statement, but hear me out: Some folk insist they read the Christian Bible as God intended, literally, factually, every single word true, but no one – NO ONE follows ANY whole holy scripture entirely literally (For a great laugh-out-loud example of what it might look like to do so – check out A.J. Jacobs book, “My Year of Living Biblically.”) When we worry about changing our interpretation of the Second Amendment, it might do us well to remember this world is not what the founding fathers imagined. After all, they wrote the constitution to apply ONLY TO : Free. White. Over-21. Men. Landowners. We now understand their words apply in a wholly different context, in ways they never foresaw. Let me just say as a women, I’m grateful, although in my more paranoid flashes, I am capable of wondering if someone will decide to lead a crusade to exclude women from the “All men are created equal” phrase. The constitution as it stands does not prohibit that.
5. Given how our brains work, guns work way too fast. Our brains are not (you can argue, yet) designed, equipped, evolved, capable, of using guns responsibly in a threatening situation, unless we’ve gone through extensive re-training or practicing over-riding our brain’s natural tendencies to “shoot first, ask questions later.” An active responsible amygdala runs the show, and fear makes decisions much faster than logic, leading to tragic results. That’s not me speaking, that’s science. That’s how God made our brains, if you like: To keep us alive first, ask questions later.
Those are my thoughts, with a little neuroscience thrown in, in the “for what they are worth” column. But let’s agree on this: You won’t change my mind, and I won’t change yours. We have to find a different approach.