Tough issues require heavy dose of civility

By Larry Simoneaux

It was interesting to say the least.

“It” being the responses to the column I wrote regarding the recent Colorado shootings.

There were several emails from those who saw the words “assault rifle” and immediately took up positions on their respective battlements to fire off the arguments we’ve all heard before and which get us nowhere.

This, admittedly, depressed me a bit. But, then, there were the others from both sides which were thoughtful, direct, and very forceful.

They came from individuals experienced in owning and handling firearms, from those who wished firearms would just “up and go away,” and from those who were simply tired of the “shouting” that now takes the place of reasoned argument.

Several “gun control” proponents reiterated the question of the need for rifles with large capacity magazines while several firearm owners explained — in one one way or another — that they’ve “learned hard lessons concerning that once even an inch is given, the camel is all the way in the tent, to mix a metaphor or two.”

Two pro-firearm responders further pointed out (correctly) that the shooter in the Colorado incident also used a pump shotgun based on one of the most common models used in waterfowl and bird hunting. Their point was that such a shotgun loaded with buckshot could put out every bit as many — if not more — buckshot pellets (about the size of a .32 caliber bullet) as the bullets a semi-automatic rifle could fire in the same time. Thus, do we now ban shotguns commonly used for hunting?

Others noted that, as regards to restricting magazine capacity, the “horses have already left the barn.” In other words, there are already so many out there, there’s little chance such a restriction would have any effect since a determined individual could get them no matter what laws were passed.

There was, however, another point with which I agree — a common thread frequently mentioned by those on both sides of the argument — and it had to do with our society.

Something’s changed over the past 50 to 60 years and it hasn’t changed for the better.

These readers said that we’ve succeeded in coarsening our society. We’ve desensitized ourselves to violence, mayhem, and murder. That the most popular computer games — often played for hours at a time — are, generally, the ones that are endlessly violent. That many television shows depict people being shot each night, every night, for thousands of nights running.

They also pointed out that we have “music” that’s beyond vile, but is “celebrated” and even awarded. That language used on television and in movies has devolved into the use of more four-letter words being heard in one place and at one time than many remember being heard throughout their entire early years.

Please understand that I don’t think “desensitization” is the “cause” of these acts. Who the heck knows what “causes” one individual to go on a rampage while another — facing similar problems — doesn’t. However, I do believe that “desensitization” is a doorway through which a mind passes while leaving behind certain inhibitions.

Further noted was the fact that our leaders and institutions have let us down so often and behaved badly so frequently that respect for them has become, basically, an anachronism.

Then, added to this melancholy brew, we have the angry, the frustrated, the disaffected, the clinically depressed, and the mentally unstable element present in every community.

Fifty years ago, though, there seemed to be more restraint and inhibitions, more lines and boundaries that even troubled individuals would rarely cross. Fifty years ago, firearms were readily available from Sears, Western Auto, and even the corner hardware store, but no one ever thought about turning them on a classroom of kids or a movie theater full of people. Given all of this, the common question raised was “How can we keep firearms out of the hands of such individuals?” It’s an honest question to ask, but with consideration because, at bottom, it’s not the tool that causes the mayhem. Tim McVeigh, for example, didn’t use a firearm.

Truthfully, I don’t know the answer. Neither did the readers. I’m not sure anyone has that answer — if it’s out there at all. That said, I do know one thing and it’s that, if we want a solution (and both sides do), we’ve got to start — and keep — talking.

And that talking has got to be “to each other” and not “at each other.”

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: