In the recent debates on gun control and the role of guns in society, one can’t help but notice people tend to talk over one another, without either side really hearing the other. People tend to caricaturize their opposition, making them morally reprehensible and easier to attack. If you believe that guns are harmful in and of themselves, you tend to view gun owners and advocates of gun ownership as mentally unstable. If you are a gun owner and advocate the ownership of guns for all law-abiding citizens, you tend to view those who support strict gun control as inexperienced or naive. While there are certainly crazy and naive people on both sides, reducing people and their viewpoints to these stereotypes just doesn’t get us anywhere.
In her article in the Los Angeles Times, Meghan Daum talks about National Geographic Channel’s popular show Doomsday Preppers. This, she says, is how many anti-gun people view firearm advocates – as end-of-the-world nut-jobs.
The show is already in its third season, but the renewed debate over gun laws has lent it a sudden political relevance. The kind of high-capacity gun magazines the Obama administration would like to see regulated are on prominent display on “Doomsday Preppers,” along with the assault-type weapons Sen. Dianne Feinstein would like to ban (one prepper custom-built his by combining an AK-47 and an AR-15). Vice President Joe Biden even gave a subtle nod to preppers in a recent pitch for gun control: “If you want to keep people away in an earthquake,” he said, shotguns are a better bet than assault weapons.
Of course, not all preppers are as colorful and obsessed as the outliers that wind up on TV, just as not all assault-weapon owners are preppers. Still, gun-control advocates take no end of pleasure in the idea that their opposites are all delusional crackpots who look forward to the day when they can take out all four horsemen of the apocalypse with a single pull of the trigger.
While the show can indeed be interesting and some of the people are certainly well-informed, well-meaning people doing their best to protect themselves and their families, it can indeed be blamed for depicting only one end of the preparedness spectrum. Like with any polarizing issue, it’s simply not possible to separate people into black-and-white categories, and Daum addresses this:
The problem is, it’s not that simple. Lots of different kinds of people own lots of different kinds of guns for lots of different kinds of reasons. Those of us who want to make it harder for guns to be bought and sold would do well not to write off all our opponents as members of a lunatic fringe.
I would definitely consider myself an opponent of the anti-gun lobbyists, and I think it would be difficult to label me a lunatic. Not all gun owners are blue-collar Fox News-watching, Obama-hating Republicans. When you find yourself in the position to genuinely interact with another person on the issue of gun control (or any issue, really), make sure you do your best to really hear what they have to say. Immediately categorizing someone with a view that opposes your own won’t get you anything but frustration.