Any time our country finds itself at a place that holds the potential to define all our futures, honest, open, respectful, emphasis on listening based dialogue is critical.
When I here people begin their comments with “Any reasonable person…” alarms me. When I here “No responsible person would disagree…” I am disturbed. Regardless of where a person may stand on the issues of gun control, a conversation that most certainly needs to lead to meaningful action, there must be a commitment to work tirelessly to understand the positions, values, beliefs, and passions of the people opposite to our own ideas. If conversations begin with “No reasonable person…” or “No responsible person would disagree…” then no effort is being made to listen, only insult. No conversation where a person attempts to strengthen their position by framing the other person as unreasonable and irresponsible will be productive. This is one of our greatest political impediments as a nation. This impediment is at the root of our inability to pass legislation that results in meaningful action in response to the lack of access to healthcare by too many citizens, legislation that will return this country’s fiscal stewardship to the very principles that made us the wealthiest nation on earth, legislation that will continue to advance ethnic equality, gender equality, and social equality, and legislation that results in meaningful action to have a comprehensive plan for how we as a nation can responsibly arm our citizenry, for personal defense, wildlife management, and sporting recreation.
In February of this year my own personal beliefs about the ownership of guns evolved. I had never considered owning a handgun, much less carrying one concealed on a daily basis. My view changed as I listened to others with whom I would have previously disagreed. I listened. That is not to say that listening to someone will always alter our beliefs and values. But if our beliefs and values are in need of changing, tempering, evolving… then listening to others is the only hope. And if in our listening we still disagree, why do we need others to be wrong in order to make ourselves feel more right? That is not strength of character but rather grossly misguided insecurity. One of the great strengths of any society is to champion the coexistence of diverging values.
For me, I came to the conclusion that I was not living at my fullest possible potential. I believe that if an opportunity arose where I found myself in a crisis where the lives of others were threatened, that my courage would not fail me and I would act. This is how my father raised me, God bless him for always teaching me by his very example of the selflessness that manhood demands. I realized that my actions, if ever required, would be grossly inadequate unless I was better prepared. I obtained my concealed carry permit, took a class, copious research, committed to hours at the range, concentrated on developing muscle memory responses for various scenarios…I decided that any possible future crisis deserved an effort from me that was far greater than what presently existed. My potential as a citizen of this Commonwealth that stirs my heart, of which my children are the tenth direct generation to walk upon the sacred soil of Virginia from when Abraham and Suzanne Michaux first arrived here the 1700’s, needed to climb. My ability to serve others in a time of need that may demand lethal force existed at an elevation that placed me as a victim when I had the potential to be a responder, to aid, to rescue, to sacrifice.
Already a conversation has begun here in Virginia regarding allowing teachers to be armed. To those who oppose this course of action, I would only ask that a conversation be allowed to advance, towards an outcome that is not yet determined but one that can and must be the result of a conversation that is characterized as being honest, open, respectful, and an emphasis on listening.
For me, I think the idea is to let people live at their full potential...for example, if a teacher is a former police officer and can pass a rigorous qualification process by the Virginia State Police, why wouldn't we consider allowing that person to live up to their potential in every possible setting, especially if that potential holds the possibility of saving lives. I would humbly suggest that part of the discussion in our society presently needs to also be how to limit the perceived vulnerability of people, how to project the ability to offer a sturdy response to any threat scenario, as opposed to our present situation of being too easily identified as victims.
The complexity of what lies ahead is immense. But I am convinced that whatever decisions that will best serve humanity for decades to come must be born out of all the divergent values presently competing for influence. May we all pray for those in authority over us as Scripture compels as these decisions are reached, “…that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:2)