It’s possible you attributed specific policy statements to my article because that’s what you want to argue about. But I made no such statements. That’s why I asked you for that quote. The piece was also couched in very snarky and satirical language, and that’s not the best way to express serious policy arguments — which is part of why I made none.

At best, I was alluding to the fact that gun violence in the United States, in all its varied forms, worsens with every passing year, and what we do about it, which is not very much, does nothing to curtail the trends. I was also ridiculing the general assertion that the solution to guns is more guns, because I believe that to be at best, counterproductive, and at worst ludicrous. But it is only ludicrous if we agree that one of the key duties of a society is to create the conditions for a a peaceful civic life, with violence relegated to a minor role in the lives of its people. If what we want is more violence, well then, of course more guns is the answer. As I wrote:

If that is all we want, then praise the nihilism and pass the ammunition.

If anything, my article asked a question — How do we want to live together in the US? I then implied that to go on as we have would mean we want more violence, because that is what we are getting. If we want something different, especially if we want a less violent life, then we have to think about it more carefully, and come to a consensus as to what would achieve that goal. I believe it would take a radical and deep revisiting of what we mean by “The United States of America”, with implications that go far beyond the question of guns, or mental health, or law, or any of the things we bring up after every mass shooting. It is not something we can achieve by talking only about guns, but we also can’t achieve it by not talking about guns.

You are, in your replies, making specific recommendations and asking if I concede them. I’m not conceding nor dismissing. But I think the conversation to arrive at specific policies has to be a great deal more in-depth, soul-searching, and painful than we have ever had as a nation. If we want something different, something better, we can’t just keep applying relatively meaningless band-aids. If we can come to agreement on the goal, then we will all need to make painful concessions to achieve that goal. Nobody can get everything they want.

You call for common ground by making assertions that are easy to concede, but not without equivocation.

1 Bad guys shouldn’t have guns, but always will;

Of course this is true. But it is incomplete. Anyone who wants a safer, more peaceful life would then go on to determine how that could be minimized. How can we make it so that fewer guns are in the hands of “bad guys”? It can’t be eliminated entirely, but that’s no reason to give up and say nothing can be done to curtail this obvious fact.

2 Good guys should always have the right to have the tools required to defend themselves from bad guys with guns.

Of course this is true, but again, incomplete. You seem to default to the idea that the “tools” in question are guns. Why couldn’t those tools be the implementation of such restrictions on gun ownership and use that the monopoly on the use of force is returned to the state, as it is intended in a constitutional republic? Why aren’t those “good guys “ with guns only law enforcement? We have to think beyond the gun as the hammer that solves for every nail, because it sure isn’t working now.

My replies above don’t even go into the more basic fallacy of these statements — who are these good and bad guys? The belief that we can demarcate all citizens into these two camps is itself part of the problem, as simplistic as the belief that if more of us were armed there would be less violence, because every potential shooter would re-think his odds. It’s easy to demonstrate that more guns equals more gun violence. I find it difficult to understand why anyone would think otherwise.

You would like to see “Gun free zones” eliminated. Yet there was a time when it was understood, though not objectively expressed, that if you weren’t at a gun range, in a specified hunting ground, or on a military base, you were in a “gun free zone”. The fact that we are even bothering to identify such areas with signs and statements is itself an admission that we have failed at a most basic element of civilization. The streets, the houses, the restaurants, the schools, the churches — everyplace in a civic society that is not set aside for the use of guns should be a “gun free zone”. Yet large swaths of our fellow citizens refuse to accept the idea that surrendering the right to use force to the state is the hallmark of civilization. “Gun free zones” have already been eliminated de facto if not de jure.

You call for “common sense gun rights legislation”. Again, what can anyone say to that but “of course”? But that’s where it all breaks down, doesn’t it? We all think we know what common sense is, but we are convinced that what the other guy thinks is common sense is in fact sheer lunacy. And so we can’t agree on what that legislation would be, and on we go, another round, nothing done. A major reason why nothing is done is the tacit or explicit acceptance of your two prime premises — bad guys will always have guns and good guys need to always have them. Nothing to be done. Cry, pray, repeat.

I am not the caricature you painted in your first post, but you answered snark for snark so who am I to judge? I welcomed your more measured second reply and tried to answer in kind. But if you take anything away from this exchange, please accept this of me: You assert that civilization is created and defended through violence. This is true to an extent. But beyond a certain point, violence is what destroys civilization, even violence from the so-called “good guys”. This is because the violent, fighting each other, always destroy the lives of the non-violent — the citizens, the people, the children. We can simply look at any civil war to see it plainly. And what we have now is a kind of civil war. We have sides that cannot agree on what it will take to stop killing children, and both sides believe we have to fight it out.

But just as bad guys will always have guns, it is also true that bad guys can never be vanquished by violence. We’ll never kill the last bad guy. And we’ll just going on killing the innocent by trying.

Civilization is created by people being civil. That is not a Utopian fantasy. That is the definition. If we can’t — or won’t — come together as a people and find a way to achieve civility, then there is no civilization to save and defend.

“Heaven is a library of every book ever written, eternity to sit and read, and a bottomless cup of the best coffee.”

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