July 24th, 2012
07:46 PM ET

Letters to the President #1282: 'The gun control debate'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day. He writes to me only on Thursdays. Well, actually he doesn’t write to me at all, but if he decides to, Thursdays will work on my end.

Dear Mr. President,

Here is a basic principle of life that I adhere to whenever possible: Don’t make grave decisions at a time of high emotion. By that I mean, for example, that no one should get mad, yell “I quit!” and storm off the job. He or she should wait until the fury passes; carefully consider if the job is desirable, and then decide to stay or go. People should not decide to divorce when they are furious at each other and throwing plates; rather, they too should wait until they are less angry, discuss their differences in a rational manner, and if they still want to smash the china, then they should call lawyers. And on it goes.

You get my point. Actions taken at a moment of heightened feelings can be very satisfying in the instant, but disastrous in the long run. (Oh sure, sometimes circumstances are so dire one must act right away, but often that is not the case.)

I mention it now because of all the debate over gun control in the wake of the Colorado shootings. I understand that this horrible incident is, for many people, a perfect catalyst for getting the conversation underway. I know as well that the conflict itself is perfectly valid; people who are for more gun control and those who oppose it have carried on a vigorous dispute for a long time.

But in the heated environment of the moment, I’m not sure we will get the best discussion, nor would we get the best legislation if both sides pressed it to the end. What we are most likely to get is a lot of inflamed rhetoric, accusations, and…once again…no conclusion of any sort.

Here is a novel idea: The people who are most vested in this issue, both pro and con, need to remember this moment and engage the issue when we are not in the wake of a national tragedy. I say this not out of any particular sense of moral propriety, and not because I am attempting to tip the scales either way, but rather in a spirit of practicality. Calm, rational, committed people almost always have a better chance of reasoning with each other and finding workable solutions, than do people who are upset and defensive.

The gun control debate, no matter which side you stand on, is a serious one that deserves serious consideration. All too often, however, we only hear about it when something awful happens…and it becomes nothing but another gust of sound and fury that soon passes and is forgotten by politicians of all stripes who are too timid to talk about it unless emotions are already flaming.

Hope all is well.


soundoff (One Response)
  1. Nathan

    This is not the first instance of a mass shooting in the United States. This is not even the first mass shooting in the last 365 days. If the conversation about gun control doesn't start now, when does it start? When this tragedy is left in only the hearts and minds of those that were personally affected while it is forgotten by the rest of America as their attention turns to whatever is on the front pages of the day?

    I'm not saying what the answer is or what should be done. I would suggest that no civilian requires a rifle that has a rate of fire of 800 rounds a minute as a fully automatic AR15 such as the one used in Aurora Colorado. However, that is for society to decide as a whole and that is why the conversation needs to start now.

    These events can no longer be pushed aside with a flippant response that they are "one off" situations. There is a reason why people are required to wear work boots and helmets on construction sites. There is a reason why people are required to wear seat-belts or put their children in child seats when driving. The reasons are simple; enough people have been hurt, maimed or killed and these regulations to protect people at the workplace and in the car. How many people have to die from gun violence before a real conversation even begins let alone something done about it?

    One thing I am sure of is that with the frequency of these mass shootings in the U.S. it will be pretty difficult for a conversation of gun control to ever take place outside of the shadow of one of these tragedies.

    July 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm |