I don’t, usually, talk with gun enthusiasts. I didn’t grow up with guns; they simply weren’t part of my east coast family life. My Iowa relatives had single bore rifles on the farms to deal with varmints, and several of them were in the military where they learned marksmanship on a wider range of firearms. My late husband Jerry was drafted at the height of the Vietnam war; his involvement with guns, such as it was, lasted no longer than his two-year obligation.
I’m checking on a house for a friend who is out of town for a few days. When I went in yesterday, the heat was off and it fell to me to track down a heating tech on a Saturday. The young man who came was talkative: a recent Marine veteran, he spent five years of military service as an electronics tech working on helicopters. A civilian again at 25, he found a good job fixing electronic heating systems.
He segued from that to talk about his love of guns, which is how he spends his spare time — target shooting, cleaning his weapons, going to gun shows. I listened, and said simply that I wasn’t a fan. He rushed to tell me that he believes in sensible regulations, and told me what he thought they should be. I agreed with most, except for his belief that all high school students should be taught to shoot and have to learn basic gun safety.
The point is we talked for several minutes, without rancor, about one of the most highly contentious issues in our culture. I have a feeling that absent the rigid positions of the NRA, and with some return of bipartisanship in Congress — both about as likely as Martians landing to attend Trump’s inauguration — we could come up with a compromise on guns that most people could live with.
Martians aren’t coming as far as I know, and neither is agreement on gun control any time soon. But it’s not because the outlines of an agreement are too hard to discern, but because people with differing views can’t find a way to share what we really believe.