Different Worldviews About Guns

May 1, 2013
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By now, you’ve probably heard of Arkansas state Representative Nate Bell who tweeted “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?”

By now, you’ve also heard the answer: “none.”

I called Nate Bell and left a message on his voicemail.

I explained I realized he had apologized for his “timing,” and I didn’t want to talk about his remark. Instead I wanted to understand the worldview that made him believe such guns were necessary.

He did not return my call. I’ll have to speculate.

Bostonians’ worldview was obvious, at least to us. We were not “cowering.” We were trusting. We expected well-trained law enforcement officials to keep us safe and do their jobs with proficiency. They did.

We were grateful they had the guns and our neighbors didn’t. If our neighbors can’t figure out something simple like how to properly put out the trash, how could they manage guns?

I wonder if Mr. Bell and others like him have had different experiences with law enforcement personnel than the generally good experiences Bostonians have had. For example, in southern New Hampshire, the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript frequently reports on small towns’ problems with police officers who have questionable behavior and probably inadequate experience and training. There are constant accusations, firings, resignations and distrust. Perhaps Mr. Bell lives in such a town and fears that law enforcement officials will bungle the job.

During the Friday “shelter in place” request, Bostonians were cooperating, not cowering. Perhaps Mr. Bell has heard of Boston drivers. We decided to stay inside so the police wouldn’t be distracted by having to show up at collision sites.

We also stayed inside out of respect for those who were killed or injured. We wanted to do whatever we could to let the police have success without us being in the way.

It was inconvenient for many to stay inside. But we were more concerned about our community’s wellbeing than our own. It was one of Boston’s more selfless acts.

I don’t know what citizens of Mr. Bell’s district would have done in such a situation. But if a sense of community was weaker, or if residents lacked confidence in their leaders, they might not have agreed to stay inside and out of the way.

Fear of others plays a big role in the reasoning of gun enthusiasts like Mr. Bell. They say they carry concealed weapons and high capacity magazines because there are lots of bad people with guns.

In contrast, Bostonians know bad people exist—we’ve just had an indelible example of this—but that good people far outnumber them, as we saw amply demonstrated by the helpers who ran toward the injured. Despite the bombing, most Bostonians walk around this city without fear, and aren’t afraid of other people, including people who are unlike them.

It seems preposterous—and terribly sad—to live in a place in which you believe you are in such constant danger that you must carry a weapon. That kind of society seems more like 10th-century Europe than 21st-century America. Or war.

Perhaps Bostonians possess greater optimism than do gun advocates like Mr. Bell. Paranoia, fear and pessimism ring loudly in the other worldview. For example, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said as budget cuts force municipalities to downsize their police departments, citizens can take up the slack by arming themselves with AR-15s. He warned of “marauding gangs.” Maybe Senator Graham has been reading “The Road” too much.

At some point in American history, we rejected this practice as uncivilized, unworthy of a great nation. The wild west finally succeeded when civic leaders and law enforcement, not vigilantes, tackled the problems.

We do know about marauding gangs. A few Boston neighborhoods suffer from wild young men wreaking havoc. Our solution is to tell the police to do a better job, realizing that even more havoc would ensue if neighbors took matters into their own hands with firearms.

Women often think that guy fantasies are a part of the gun culture. Men lacking achievement and self-worth can carry a gun and imagine themselves to be strong, important and brave, much as they would have to be if they served in the militia the Constitution says makes guns necessary.

Marathon week’s bombers seem to fit the mold of fantasy and exaggerated self-importance—Biden called the brothers “knock-off jihadists”—that women believe some men indulge in, although usually to little harm.

One woman friend noted that the strength and bravery that gun promoters, as well as the perpetrators in their twisted way, hope to be recognized for sometimes actually exist.

She was watching the events in Watertown. She said there was a lot of testosterone operating in the city. Maybe this was the time to thank goodness for testosterone when we needed it.

Karen Cord Taylor is a newspaperwoman who now works from her home. Past columns are posted on www.bostoncolumn.com. You can reach Karen at karen@bostoncolumn.com

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