256 Shades of Gray and the Politics of Guns

Multiple people killed by gunman. It is nearly every day that we see that particular news story…sometimes it is part of a blaring Breaking News headline, other times it is a quiet story, tucked in the local section of the paper or on a website’s “other stories we are following” tab.  But the stories come just the same and they are never-ending.

This week two stand out.  In Annetta South, Texas a 17-year-old boy killed his mother and sister.  He said that he had been planning on killing for a while…“pretty much anybody.”  His surprise was that they didn’t just die quick and easy like he expected.  The upscale gated community was “shocked”.

In another story, a Herndon, Virginia man killed his wife, two sons and then himself because “He felt that our God-given rights were being taken away he didn’t like where the country was going.”.  According to friends he was obsessed with talk radio and held a level of paranoia that pushed him to take the lives of his entire family so they would not have to “inherit that kind of world”.

I point out these two incidences for a couple of reasons.  First, they are upper middle class Caucasian.  Second, they were quickly described by friends as “ill”.  When the conversation of gun violence occurs if the participants are African American…seldom do you hear the words “ill” or “mental illness” associated with the incident…it is all about blaming it on violence.  But as we move to upper class Caucasians…there has to be a reason.  It is just not as easy to explain away for many folks.

When society has the debates on gun violence [and we really do seem to try to avoid them], it generally breaks into two black and white discussions.  One is centered on the 2nd Amendment argument and [seen from  the opposing view] that there is an absolute right to bear arms, with no restrictions whatsoever or, the other side  that the “antis” are out to take all guns by any and all means possible.   The second discussion is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.  Both are black and white arguments in a 256 Shades of Gray world.  In that we have both the challenge of defining the problem and  with honestly framing the debates so that a goal can even be expressed, we exacerbate the complexities of the national conversation.

I had a conversation with some systems folks last night…our lament was that in systems work one of the hardest things is defining the problem.  We can’t begin to formulate a plan, determine the variables, concern ourselves with the project scope until we have honestly defined the problem and, as a follow on to that, expressed an honest goal.  What is wrong, what we want when it is fixed.  In this discussion we most surely want a safer society but we also want to respect the very legitimate expectations of those who support the 2nd Amendment.  I come from a state whose motto is United We Stand, Divided We Fall.  That demands compromise…a country cannot continue without it and we as a country cannot continue to look the other way as violence by gun, whether by accident, gangs, drugs, mental illness or just plain stupidity continues to erase lives.

As these missives continue look for more on the big-ticket items of this subject…the 256 Shades of the 2nd Amendment, People Kill People, Rosie’s Spoon, Muskets and Barrettas, the Drug War and Lawyers, Guns and Money.

For those who drop in that want to quickly categorize me as anti-gun…I have been shooting since I was about five years old, that’s over 50 years.  While I do not hunt, I have killed my fair share of paper and cans and I learned to shoot at a garbage dump on the side of Pine Mountain, so the rat population there is much less than it might have been thanks to my father’s $14 Mossberg 22.

The goal is very simple…open up the dialog…that means CONSTRUCTIVE dialog from every corner.

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