Why there won't be real gun reform in the wake of Sandy Hook

When our values are challenged, we cannot see reason

December 17, 2012|Susan Reimer

I have no expectation that the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School will move this nation and its leaders toward any kind of meaningful gun control.

I understand why, and I empathize.

Those who believe in the sanctity of the Second Amendment will again feel under siege in the days ahead, and they will instinctively close ranks against the angry and often uninformed rancor that will be unleashed against them.

And they will hold firm against the smallest contraction of their right to buy and use guns of any kind and ammunition in any volume.

I understand.

I believe in the sanctity of a woman's right to control her own reproductive processes, and when those rights came under siege during the last election cycle by the uninformed and the religious, I and those who believe as I do instinctively closed ranks to resist even the smallest contraction of our rights.

Like the National Rifle Association and its supporters, I guard against the camel's nose under the hem of my tent, and I am more vigilant when I feel threatened.

I understand why gun owners would want no restriction on their right to protect their homes and families with firearms and to enjoy hunting and shooting because I want no restrictions on the rights of any woman to protect herself against unwanted pregnancy, to plan the timing of children and to enjoy sex without fear of pregnancy. And I want abortion to be safe, legal and available, although I hope it is rare.

I understand why the NRA and its supporters don't want even the smallest hurdles to the ownership of guns and ammunition because I don't want there to be even the smallest hurdles — prohibitive clinic building codes, intra-vaginal ultrasounds or required discussions of fetal pain — to a woman's access to reproductive services of any kind.

I understand why the NRA doesn't want bar codes on bullets. I don't want bar codes on birth control pills.

Jonathan Haidt, author of "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion," wrote in the Saturday Evening Post this summer:

"Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science and common sense, but in fact everyone gets blind when talking about what they hold sacred."

Women who believe as I do can be as intransigent as anybody in the NRA — and we are willing to exercise the power of our outrage. Witness the last election. Women turned back the Republican bid for the presidency in part because of the views of the candidate and other Republicans on women's reproductive rights.

There are some differences, of course. My reproductive choices do no afflict bodily harm on you or ones you love, by accident or by intent. It is only possible that your sensibilities or your religious principles will be offended.

Perhaps we should adopt some of the tactics of the pro-life movement if we wish to move them — shame them — to ban assault weapons and automatic weapons, to ban the sale of large-capacity magazines, and to ban the on-line sale of ammunition.

Perhaps we should organize ourselves outside of gun shops and gun shows and the homes of gun manufacturers, praying loudly and holding up the pictures of the children killed in Newtown, Aurora and at Virginia Tech.

Perhaps we should surround those trying to enter those shops and gun shows and plead with them to think of the innocents who will die, or require that they watch a videotaped interview with the parents of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School before they put down their credit card.

Or we can do what Mr. Haidt suggests at the conclusion of his essay.

"So if you really want to open your mind, open your heart first. If you have at least one friendly interaction with a member of the 'other' group, you'll find it far easier to listen to what they're saying and maybe even see a controversial issue in a new light.

"The next time you find yourself seated beside someone from 'another' group, give it a try. ... We are all stuck here for a while, so let's try to work it out."

Susan Reimer's column regularly appears on Mondays and Thursdays. Her email is susan.reimer@baltsun.com. Twitter: @SusanReimer.

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