With all the vitriol rhetoric and propaganda in our faces today, how can we possibly have any meaningful and honest discussion about the issue of mass shootings? This is a question being discussed and deliberated right here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. As we attempt to approach this issue from a neutral vantage point, we find no one neutral ground to stand on.
Some would like to do a march in support for the Florida students, but they know that is an open invitation for confrontation that would surely organize in opposition. Others would like to do some form of public forum on the issue. How we could keep the discussion under control regulates this conversation as well. No issue in America makes enemies of friends faster than this one; no issue encourages the blatant exhibition of hatred more. So, how can we organize any civil discussion aimed at a mutually respected resolution?
To illustrate these divisions, let’s look at two of the simplest elements of this discussion—the AR-15 rifle and the 2nd Amendment. The AR-15 is a civilian variant of the M-16, the Vietnam-era, fully-automatic military version. The rifle was clearly made for sale in the civilian market; it was originally a novelty item in that market place.
The question on many people’s minds: how did this rifle become the choice of most of these murderous monsters? That answer boils down to marketing gone mad. It wasn’t just the manufacturers and they’re ads to blame for this. No gun in American history has seen the push across so many forms of media as this rifle. It is in every action movie, every video that is war game based, and plastered across the Internet hundreds of thousands of times per day. How it got to be so popular among these young killers is no secret, yet even these facts are weighed differently as a means of jockeying for political position.
Next is the second amendment, which has a clear legal meaning as defined by Supreme Court precedence. Yet, division over those definitions still enters these discussions in very absurd ways. Anti-gun forces refuse to accept the present interpretation of the words after the last comma, while gun rights advocates support the language in its entirety as it is presently interpreted by the Supreme Court. This division also leaves no room for agreement and has very much fueled the election of our present President.
This brings us back to the structuring of a rational discussion on an issue so many people are irrational about. This effort is further hindered by two different, and conflicting, purposes. One is to stop these school shootings and end the loss of young lives, and the other is to use these tragedies as reasons to diminish the rights of law-abiding citizens who have no connections to these shootings.
First, we must develop a methodology to screen out fact from fiction on both sides before any discussions can begin. Once that is accomplished, discussion must be limited to the facts only, setting opinion aside and taking a rational approach. The reality is that this approach may produce as much anger as the present war of words, but we must try.