The Angry Teenagers: The Heroes We Don’t Deserve.

A review of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and news outlets illustrates the Gun Debate madness: doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. The conversations are the same; the talking points are the same, the outcome is the same, which is what extreme gun advocates want. And we give them what they want. Politicians follow suit, by also failing to take action. Liberals and conservatives jump on various bandwagons and fall into the trap of thinking that there is no middle ground. And on either side of the aisle, adults fail to take the lead.

I don’t claim to make comprehensive policy suggestions in Facebook posts, Instagram hashtags, or 240-character Tweets. And I certainly don’t claim to offer comprehensive policy changes in an 1154-word blog post. However, I do suggest some retorts to soundbites which were meant to and were able to, halt all sound governance on the subject of gun control.

First, let’s take the big one: “Banning all guns violates the Second Amendment.” The most logical response is, “Excellent. That’s not what’s on the table. Next idea?”

Second, banning Assault Rifles won’t make a difference because “bad guys will always find a way.” Then, I say, let the “bad guys” kick off the greatest period of creativity of their existence. Let them try to find legal ways of obtaining a weapon that can kill more than four people in a single incident (the definition of “Mass Shooting.”). Let them try use handguns and rifles to murder children and teenagers and concert-goers. Let this be the “Renaissance” of mass shooters, and let’s revisit in ten years.

Third, “Guns are not the problem.” This one tickles me the most, in a bad way. The idea that the only things worth legislating are human beings, and not inanimate objects, because bad people misbehave while inanimate objects don’t is disingenuous. Saying that gun violence is not about guns is the same as saying that the opioid epidemic is not “about” opioids and traffic fatalities are not “about” cars. In both cases—and many more—the solution is not to just shrug and “hope” the problem goes away. Rather, laws are put in place to address how the use of those inanimate objects is harming both the users and others. “Guns” may not be the problem but people’s access to and use of them certainly is. This is how laws work: we regulate people to address their use and misuse of inanimate objects. As one meme put it: “When my kids play with sticks, I don’t blame the stick, but I still take it away!”

Fourth, this is a “mental health” issue. Setting aside the mental stigma this places on mentally unstable people and mental illness in general, is it? Is a white man who gets an AR-15 to murder people automatically mentally unstable or touched with a “mental health” issue? I want to think so because causing that much harm must be the result of insanity. But in fact, mental instability or illness—in a legal sense—is a failure to appreciate the nature and consequences of their actions, it is irrational behavior. So far, most mass shooters don’t fit neatly into those definitions. Many mass shooters appreciate the nature of their efforts and steadfastly want the consequences thereof. (more on this in a future post). While I vehemently disagree with their methods, they are not irrational.

The social media one-liners meant to stop the conversation are working! So stop engaging. Instead, flood your leaders and representatives’ inboxes, voicemails, and offices with demands for action, support the right candidates—encourage those who stand up to the NRA by showing up for them, contribute to campaigns, and—most importantly—vote. Vote every time, at every level, every year. Change the face of our government at every level.

And change is coming. While we were busy feeding trolls and going round and round in pointless debates, change came. Not from where I expected, but it is happening. As the latest shooting in Florida takes center-stage in our 24/7 news cycle, the same tired Facebook debates take place. “Bad guys will always find a way,” “Guns are not the problem,” “This is a mental health issue.” All of those statements can both be true and utterly irrelevant. They have also successfully maintained us in a pathetic state of paralysis. Until now.

Until teenagers, flooding the airwaves, town halls, and streets took the stand both parties and all adults failed to take. They don't care about the one-liners and the online debates. They are done furiously typing away on touchscreens and keyboards and then going back to their lives. They took to the streets, stood up at town halls, and rained hell on those who failed them. They are the change we need. They are magnificent in their righteous indignation. They are what makes America great. They are the heroes we don’t deserve.


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