As David Hogg picks fights, respond like an adult on gun policy
When I was the same age as Hogg, my younger brother, Tyler, became a statistic. He was one of the 17,108 suicides in 2002 “by discharge of a firearm.” I don’t like thinking of my family as victims of gun violence, but I’m not sure there’s another way of characterizing it.
I’ve racked my brain for any policy solutions that might have meant my three sons could meet their uncle. I hear Hogg’s rhetoric, and it’s an uncomfortably familiar tone. I couldn’t understand why many people who might have intervened with my brother failed to do so. Those in positions of power didn’t seem to care. I didn’t want their thoughts and prayers; I wanted my brother back. I still do.
Hogg’s call to action rings true, but it’s not that simple.
Pain is extremely powerful and wildly difficult to handle. Preventing righteous indignation from devolving into reckless outrage is extremely challenging–especially for a teenager.
Our nation has an opportunity for consensus on gun regulation and school safety, but Hogg and some of his colleagues seem far more interested in fueling the political war between gun owners and gun control advocates. He’s playing into a battle that’s antithetical to the progress he’s hoping to make.
The NRA is a political juggernaut that basically supports Republicans. Until now, the political left hasn’t had a particularly effective answer. We shouldn’t be surprised that gun control advocates and organizers have helped fashion these willing students into a formidable political machine. They aren’t political pawns; they are students exercising their rights to assembly and political speech. We should applaud them for that.
But winning a political war between the political right and left shouldn’t be our goal.
Consider Hogg’s too-cute moment of putting up a symbolic NRA “price tag” for “how much Marco Rubio took for every student’s life in Florida.” Rubio and many other politicians enjoy the NRA’s support, but it isn’t some kind of blood money. The remark drew cheers from the crowd, but it directly undermines the consensus Hogg and those who share his perspectives need to actually change public policy.
Insane hyperbole is unhelpful whether it’s from Parkland survivors, cable news, the NRA or anyone else. We must stop escalating the attacks and try conversations. When we offend each other, we should try to make it right. Apologies have a tremendous amount of conciliatory power. That’s true for every personal relationship we have; we shouldn’t abandon the practice in our politics.
If Hogg upsets us, are we similarly upset by those calling these kids “crisis actors?” Hogg isn’t a Nazi just because he raised his hand at the end of a speech. Emma Gonzales isn’t a communist because she has a Cuban flag on her jacket. It’s wrong to attack them personally and pass along lies about them. Don’t give me some line about these kids “playing in the big leagues.” Politically effective and morally right too rarely coincide, and the latter is far more important than the former.
The space for compromise is open because many Americans who support the Second Amendment couldn’t ignore the massive failure to protect students in Parkland, Fl. We want to stop Cruz and others like him. We do want policies to prevent gun suicides which currently accounting for roughly two-thirds of gun-related fatalities. That task is a tall order even without perpetuating the political war.
Gun owners won’t support every suggested policy, but many of us are willing to engage on background checks, potentially raising purchase ages and even intervention in instances of mental health crises. Agreeing to further restrict a constitutional right isn’t easy and certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly. Too many gun control advocates–many who hate guns–miss that.
I don’t blame Hogg for his combative approach. I fault the adults who would rather gear up competing political war machines than demonstrate a little maturity and set a better example.
I’m not fight with Hogg and his friends even where I disagree. I’ve felt that pain of having someone you love violently taken from you. I hurt for them. When I see Hogg’s anger and witness the hot tears streaming down Emma Gonzalez’s face, I know each is genuine. I also want a politically viable path forward.
If we don’t behave differently, this opportunity will simply be quashed until the next horrible attack. It isn’t going away.
Listen to the arguments, engage the political process, and vote. More importantly teach the next generation the civility and reasoned public engagement that’s kept the fabric of our republic intact thus far. Confronted with our current political attitudes, I adamantly agree with Hogg: “This–this is not cutting it.”