Today’s top story is the national school “walkout” and protests by high school kids, in response to the Parkland, Florida mass shooting. They are calling for more restrictive gun laws.
In 1980, I was 15 years old. I lived in Austin, Texas, and I lived, ate and breathed music. Rolling Stone magazine and the local Austin Chronicle paper were my primary sources of information. All my opinions about what was hip and cool and what “correct thinking” was came from those sources and the musicians those publications glamorized.
I had no strong opinions about guns. My father had passed away when I was young, his guns were in a closet (unsecured) in our house. I had been shooting once, with my sister’s boyfriend, when I was 12. We shot .22’s and muzzleloading rifles. I was more interested in electric guitars than guns at that point in life.
In December 1980, John Lennon was killed. The impact of that incident on the rock world and the remnants of the 1960’s counter-culture was significant. Jann Wenner, the owner of Rolling Stone magazine, went all-in supporting an organization called Handgun Control. Rolling Stone subscribers received letters from HCI, playing on our emotional reaction to Lennon’s death, encouraging us to join and support their efforts to pass all kinds of gun laws. Banning “Saturday Night Specials” (a.k.a. practical carry guns) were one of their primary goals at that time. I joined.
Having no significant firsthand knowledge with guns and no close interaction with anyone that was a regular shooter, hunter or other armed citizen, and being in habit of taking my opinions and cues from left-leaning pop culture figures, I believed all the material they sent and bought into the anti-gun talking points.
Just like the high school kids all marching today, I was mostly uninformed, reacting emotionally to a tragic event, with no relevant life experience, heavily influenced by the left-leaning opinions of cultural icons and institutions I considered hip and cool. I didn’t know enough about firearms, nevermind the Constitution or data on gun ownership and crime statistics, to do more than spout slogans. Like most the kids marching today, I had the completely naive belief that if particular kinds of scary guns were banned and somehow magically removed from the country, that the particular violent event that caused my reaction would not have happened, and many other violent events would be prevented.
Over the next decade, I would gain a lot of life experience, performing music in bars, including being mugged in an alley after a gig, and being challenged to “go learn something about guns before spouting off” by pro-gun co-workers, actually learning about guns, buying my own guns, taking possession of my father’s guns and becoming a competent shooter. By the time I was 25 my opinions on gun control had completely changed.
In 10 years, it’s very likely that the opinions of some of those marching today will have changed too.
Having been that uninformed and emotional once myself, I know firsthand how deep their ignorance is, and wrong their opinions are, no matter how earnest and well meaning their feelings are today. They are right to care about reducing violence, but they are wrong to think that a few more administrative gun laws or random bans on particular gun models or magazine sizes are going to stop any mass killer. It’s not enough to care. Policy decisions need to be based on facts, and be likely to produce useful results. Gun control policies, for the most part, fail both criteria, no matter how much they appeal to those ignorant about firearms, tactics, and crime.
My opinion on gun control and gun laws aren’t going to be swayed by the emotional reactions of uninformed high school kids, heavily influenced by left-leaning pop culture figures and politicians.
Yours shouldn’t be either.