December 25, 2012 by rebelwithalabelmaker

For years running, when our older boys were little, they found their Christmas presents well before the big day.  Despite very determined efforts to preserve the Big Surprise.  Efforts from me, yes, but mostly from them.

It was always an accident.  One year, they fell on them out of a closet.  Another year, I sent Nathan to bring in the groceries from the trunk, and he returned saying with some disgust “There is an unwrapped Xbox in the trunk beside those bags.  Come on, Liz, make an effort, here.”  Another year, I decided to leave David’s Lego Millennium Falcon inside the cardboard box it shipped in, thinking that even if he saw it how would he know what it was?  He took one look at it and declared “that is the exact shape and size of the cardboard box that Millennium Falcons are packaged in”.

Finally, we learned to work as a team.  I would buy the presents, and put them in a closet, and then I’d tell the boys exactly where they were so that they could avoid them until Christmas morning.  Unorthodox, but effective.

It’s all about working with your natural tendencies – adopting strategies such as teaching the children that if they find any medicine lying around, they can swap it for a box of smarties.

We were at a Christmas event with lots of relatives today, and the conversation understandably turned to guns – this happens sometimes.  For reasons illustrated above, I have never considered owning a gun.  I do enough damage to myself with our lemon zester.

I know, I know, you can keep the ammunition in a separate, locked cabinet, blah blah, but the way I see it 1) I can’t even hide Christmas presents, and 2) It inevitably takes me 20 minutes to find my keys in the best of situations.  In case of an intruder, I will just zest them to death.  It would be faster.

So, it’s easy for me to look at the recent tragedy in the U.S. and think that gun control is the solution.

David:  Yeah, I was pro gun control too, until I did a bunch of reading on that in high school, and…

David’s wife Bri:  What do you mean you did “a bunch of reading”?  I spent months researching and writing that paper!

David:  Which I read.

According to Bri, whose academic skills and judgement I respect deeply, the actual evidence of the effectiveness of gun control is not great.  This is the point made by the NRA, who are as I understand it, blaming video games.  I have looked at the research on violent video games and violent behaviour, and I’m not convinced by it, either.


On the other hand, I’m almost as unattached to violent video games as I am to the right to bear arms.  I would be happy to downgrade from “Angry Birds” to “Birds in heated discussion guided by a covenant of right relations”, on the off chance that it might help.  My feelings are of a sense of urgency – that the next set of kids, the victims of the next tragedy, are out there living and breathing and unwrapping Christmas presents and the hunt is on to change something – anything – to protect them in time.

I know gun control is much more of an issue in the States than where I live in Canada, but we do have gun incidents here.  A couple of hours drive from where I live, there was an incident a few years back, when daily chapel at a local school was interrupted by a former student with a firearm.

According to Wikipedia:

He held the majority of the student body and the staff hostage in the gym. He forced the school’s chaplain to read a letter he had prepared. The letter detailed why the student thought he had been wrongfully expelled. Partway through the ordeal the student let some people leave but many others just ran outside, where a very large police force was gathered. Eventually the school’s principal noticed that the weapon was in fact a pellet gun. He made a move to disarm the student, and during the struggle the police SWAT unit moved in and apprehended the student. There were no physical injuries, and school did resume the next day.

I don’t remember much talk about guns as a kid.  I do remember being educated a lot on what to do if I got lost in the woods, though.  And how to deal with bears.

To be clear, I lived my entire life in a city of 200,000 people.  There are no bears here.  Also, not much in the way of woods.

But, very occasionally, a kid does get lost.  When that happens, people pour out from everywhere to help.  Usually, the kid isn’t hard to find, but sometimes, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Dealing with lost people and dealing with guns share some similarities.  In both situations, something critical is at stake, and you’re working against the clock.  In both situations, you don’t know exactly where to look.  In the case of a lost person, literally.  In the case of reducing violent crime, metaphorically.

Maybe the solution is gun control.  Maybe it’s dealing with violence in the media.  Maybe it’s more security systems or even armed guards.  Maybe it’s better mental health services, or addressing the discrepancy between rich and poor.  I’m no epidemiologist.  My idea of researching this blog post was asking my son’s wife for a copy of a paper she did in high school.  And, of course, carefully reading everything she sent me, which was an email that said “Sorry, I didn’t save a copy”.

I find myself indulging in a knee-jerk reaction along the lines of “Why the heck are people being allowed to get all these guns?”  A friend wrote a beautiful article talking about how we are honour-bound to make gun control a top priority – and I found myself feeling conflicted about this.  It would be easy for me to offer to give up my right to own a gun – I have no interest in owning one.  It would be easy for me to funnel my feelings that we must do something into increasing the adamancy with which I hold my position.

But I find something valuable in the words of the blogger who wrote:

 The problem isn’t lack of faith in our schools or lax gun laws, the problem is that we stopped listening to each other. When we couldn’t get our way by talking, we shouted. When we couldn’t get our way by shouting, we hit. When we couldn’t get our way by hitting, we stabbed. When we couldn’t get our way by stabbing, we shot. 

I’m not quite comfortable throwing my voice in with the call to put the blame on gun laws and start tightening them.  Somehow it doesn’t feel right to simply get louder in my conviction that the solution that is most convenient for me is the right one.  And the evidence is, as Bri summed it up, is not great.

What if we stopped treating this like a debate, and started treating it as a search and rescue mission?  What if we didn’t argue about what causes can be proved, and started dividing up territory and searching for solutions?

You don’t look at the search and rescue map and start debating about whether you can prove that the lost person is in your section of the grid.  You get out there and check.

Let’s do a better job of thinking in terms of epidemiology, rather than ideology.  Let’s do a better job of trying things out, in various locations, and tracking the effects.  Let’s get a wealth of information, gathered by teams that have representation from a broad diversity of views – and that has to include being open to the idea that when someone says “I’m not convinced that gun control would help” they do not mean “I don’t care about those deaths and will justify my personal rights at any cost”.  Of course they care.  It’s all our kids we’re fighting for.

Let’s stop fighting each other, and get on the same search team.  Let’s make it no longer socially acceptable to frame this issue as an adversarial debate between lobbyists.  It’s a waste of time.  And let’s stop confusing certainty of the value of a given solution with being committed to solving the problem.

After all, if I’m going to ask someone else to give up something important to them, I’m going to give up something important to me.

In this case, I’ll start with giving up my certainty that I’m right.

4 thoughts on “Hunting

  1. Oh, Liz! You just helped me know what I think, too. I love your search and rescue framework. May I reblog you in Daily Salvation? Because this is such a perfect fit, one of those things I wish I had written myself.
    Merry Christmas, and may peace be with us all.

  2. lee says:

    The call for evidence-based debate resonates deeply. However, there is a fair bit of evidence out there already and no-one seems willing to actually look at it. The world is already divided into areas where different strategies are tried. For example:

    “From 1984 to 1996, Australia had over a dozen mass murders by firearms, largely copycat killings prompted by media coverage in the U.S. and in Australia. Unstable people do insane things. After one lone nut gunman killed 35 and wounded 21 people in 1996, the Port Arthur Massacre, Prime Minister John Howard banned all semi-automatic rifles and pump-action shotguns because of the outrage felt by Australian citizens. He introduced highly restrictive gun licensing laws. Hundreds of thousands of guns were purchased from Australian citizens and destroyed.

    Do you know how many mass shootings we have had since then? Not one. In addition, firearm homicides have dropped 59% with no corresponding increase in non-firearm murders.

    Similarly, the assertion that a well armed citizenry guarantees a democracy has been experimentally investigated in a myriad of countries. All we need to do is analyze it honestly.

    • Hi Dad,

      Thanks–I figured there’d be more stories about trying things out, but wasn’t able to find any…

      Do you have a citation on the Australia story so I can read up on it?

      I was raised too well to accept evidence without a citation… 🙂

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