April 20th 2013

The Toxic Conversation About Guns


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By Rob Morse, April 14, 2013

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It is a well worn cliché that sex and religion are forbidden subjects at dinner parties. Well, add gun-rights to that list! Why is self-defense such a toxic subject that people usually talk past each other when they try to discuss it? I think I know, and now I can recognize when to stop talking. Here is one reason we can't communicate about firearms and self-defense.

On one hand, violence is hard to ignore. It draws our attention from a young age as demonstrated by anyboys fight fight on the school yard, and it still turns heads with a fight at a hockey game. We feel compelled to watch.. and we should. There is an enormous survival benefit in our attention being drawn to violence because it helps us avoid becoming the next unsuspecting victim! So, why is some violence too hard to watch?

On the other hand, violence is psychologically toxic to all of us. Soldiers in combat have proven that prolonged exposure to violence is debilitating. Witnesses to a single violent crime can be devastated if they are emotionally close to the victim. Each of us reacts differently. We react more strongly to deliberate malevolence when we identify with the victim. We turn away and cannot bear to watch if our empathy with the victim is strong enough. Some people will go so far as to deny that violence occurred if their psychological aversion to violence is overpowering. They will pretend they did not see what happened. It is no use arguing the facts if the other person can't see them.

That is where the dinner party conversation about self-defense breaks down. The gun is an inanimate tool to most of us, but not everyone sees it that way. The violent sociopath and the overly sensitive empath invest this object with meaning. They both see the gun as a tool of violence, though the sociopath is drawn to it and the empath can barely stand to look at it. Only the person in the middle ground can see firearms as a tool of self-defense. The average person can see that violence exists and that tools might make us safer.

We like to think of ourselves as a reasonable person who sees things clearly, but the toxicity of violence affects all of us. Here is an example (1). Imagine you and your family are sitting in your home some quiet evening. Without warning, the doors burst open and four armed gang member beat you and your family as they trash the house looking for valuables. They are gone in 30 seconds. In the hospital you feel devastated. Though you were outmanned and outgunned, you ask yourself over and over what you could have done to protect your family. It is hard to look at your injured family. You're firmly convinced you should have done more. We all sympathize with the victims and we understand that self-doubt.

Now ask yourself this question; would the victims feel the same if identical injuries were caused by a tornado or a lightning strike hitting their home? Of course not! No one thinks they should fight off a tornado. Do you see what changed? It is the deliberate malevolence from another person that makes the physical attack feel so psychologically toxic. The attack was personal. It was aimed at you and leaves you filled with doubt and self-recrimination. Even a clear headed victim is filled with doubt after a violent attack by another human being. That is the other side of the aversion reaction. We torture our self with doubt rather than accept our ongoing vulnerability.

The aversion and refusal to accept violence comes in varying degrees.

♦ At one end of the spectrum, we pretend that interpersonal violence doesn't exist.
♦ Then, violence happens, but it is caused by objects rather than people who look and act just like us.
♦ OK, violence happens and people cause it, but it only happens to other people, not to you and me.
♦ Maybe, upon long reflection, violence might happen to anyone.
♦ We accept that violence could happen to us and those we love at any place and any time.
♦ We refuse to be a victim and plan to avoid violence.
♦ We accept the responsibility of self-defense when violence is unavoidable.
♦ We physically train to defend ourselves and our family.
♦ We psychologically prepare for self-defense.

That is quite a distance from one perspective to the other. That is why the casual conversation about guns is often so unproductive. You need not avoid the conversation, but you can and should do more than exchange talking points on each extreme. Maybe the other guest at the party isn't even convinced they should park their car under a bright street light to avoid being robbed. In that case, you are coming from different universes and are speaking different languages. There is a huge chasm of assumptions lying between you.

Personal violence is so toxic, so emotionally charged, that no one moves from denial to preparation in a single step. No one! It probably took you a long time, and others need to change one step at a time as well. You will simply produce an argument and convince those around you that you're a ranting gun nut if you try. Maybe the other guest doesn't want to go beyond talking points. If they want a discussion, then find out what they believe and see if you can take them one step further. Anything more is a debate contest rather than trying to change hearts and minds. One step is far enough. Sure you wonder whether the book case is concealment or cover, but save that conversation for another time.

The longest journey begins with a single step, and the hors d'oeuvres over on that table are great! Enjoy the party.

Refer to the "Sandy Hook Index" for an archive collection of valuable material we have shown since the events at the Newtown Elementary School.

Check out Gun/Murder Statistics: A set of tabulated and graphical data showing relationships between gun numbers and murders - categorized by alphabetical countries listing. Useful research material.

"… their real goal isn't disarming the criminals but disarming everyone they view as potential political opposition. Some segments of gun control are aimed at producing a local electoral majority, the prime example being the Colorado bills that would cause enough pro-gun people to move out of the state to ensure a long-term Democrat majority. Others are aimed at disarming the "most probably enemy" population groups, and both political parties are guilty of that to some extent, though the Democratic party does it far more."

Yours in Freedom, The Liberty Crew at JPFO
Protecting you by creating solutions to destroy "gun control"

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