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A centrist position on gun control

We cannot rightfully claim to be the greatest nation on earth until we fix the cultural problems that divide us. Fix the cultural problems, and the gun problems go away.

An AR-15 is displayed at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, Texas.
An AR-15 is displayed at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, Texas.
REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

In recent years we have been so myopically focused on the extremist positions of the political far right and the political far left, (views that divide us), that sensible centrist views that should unite us tend to go unnoticed. Sensible centrist positions tend to draw the ire of both political extremes, and when that happens, the extremes race to the center of the room to see who gets to play whack-a-mole with the centrist position first. Let the game begin.

Pro- and anti-gun advocates shouldn’t be fighting against each other. Both sides stand in opposition to the common enemy of violent crime, and the enemy of my enemy should be a friend. Both sides need to come to the realization that our grand scale national political divide on the issues of the day cannot be solved without a dramatic change in the status quo. A dramatic change in the status quo does not mean a highly divisive and destructive “civil war” as unimaginative, backward thinking, far right extremists have been suggesting. “A dramatic change in the status quo” means a grand scale move to the sensible center, a move that would require compromise.

The anti-gun advocates need to actively acknowledge the right of people to “bear arms” for hunting and self-defense. They need to acknowledge and support the rights of others to own guns in pursuit of their happiness, just as people collect old cars, build and fly airplanes and collect antiques in their chosen pursuit of happiness.

The pro-gun advocates should in return, accept that by law, public ownership of weapons of war and their accessories, should only be allowed to exist, to be operated and to be sold, at highly secured federally certified, armory/gun ranges. Own as many AR-15’s as you want. Blast away under the watchful eye of armory/gun range security personnel, who also have AR-15’s. The environmental side benefit for doing this would be that the harmful by-products of these weapons (like lead) would be “harvested” in accordance with a federal statute. The staggering amount of lead that is being introduced into our environment by ammunition is largely going unnoticed.

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Soldiers living on and off military bases, including our “well regulated militia” of “citizen soldiers” (the national guard and the reserves), don’t keep their weapons of war in their homes. They store them in armories for safety. The soldiers are highly trained, supervised, and regulated. Background checks? Extensive background checks. Monitored for mental illnesses? Yes. Must follow orders? Yes. But if you are 18 in Texas, you can just go into a store, know nothing about guns at all, legally buy weapons of war, and then just do whatever you feel like doing with them. The clock is ticking. It will take decades to get weapons of war off of our streets.

Pro-gun advocates are correct. Guns in and of themselves don’t kill people, and most violent crimes are committed with hand guns. However, guns are now the leading cause of death in children. Come on pro-gun advocates. The status quo needs to change. The status quo is going to change, with or without your permission.

John A. Mattsen
John A. Mattsen
At the very core of our gun problems are some critically important questions. Is the need for a person to have a gun with them essentially everywhere they go, a sign of real courageous personal strength (that is often at the core of gun advertising), or, is it a sign of insecurity and weakness? To what extent are the gun manufacturers creating, supporting and fostering the paranoia that sells their product, and as a profitable consequence, politically dividing us as a nation? How realistic is the far left expectation that we can somehow ban guns, gathering them up for destruction as was done with books in Germany during WW2? Newsflash. That won’t stop the production of guns.

Gun violence in the United States is just an indicator of a much bigger problem. It is as if we are shocked to find a pool of oil under the car, and we now think that the real problem needing to be fixed is finding a way to clean it up.

In Barcelona, Spain, every night, very large groups of people gather together on the streets to socialize. No one is worried about gun violence. They just get together to enjoy each other’s company. They may not be united, but they are happy. Their culture is healthy. They have a culture of happiness that we don’t have here in the U.S., and as such, we cannot rightfully claim to be the greatest nation on earth until we fix the cultural problems that divide us. Fix the cultural problems, and the gun problems go away. The game of whack-a-mole is now open in the comments section.

John A. Mattsen is a retired federal law enforcement officer (federal prison) and a self-defense instructor.