Bridging the Gap by Greg Ellifritz

The article below is copied and pasted from Active Response Training with the permission of its author, Greg Ellifritz. I read this when it originally came out, and I read it again last week when Greg reposted it. I am reposting it here not only because Greg speaks my mind, but because articles of this sort get way too little attention. To be honest this is why I shy away from political discussion generally – I’m sick of American turning on American and our collective inability to carry on a reasonable conversation about any domestic policy issue.

I think we’ve fallen victim to the greatest trick the government has ever pulled: making us believe we can trust one party. We all collectively believe a. our party can do no wrong (or we can look the other way when they do because “they did it first!”) and b. the other side can’t do anything right and we ignore evidence to the contrary. This has made us focus on our fellow countrymen as the problem rather than a government that has intentionally divided us. We don’t have the attention span to hold BOTH SIDES accountable, which is what we should all be doing rather than fighting amongst ourselves. Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Greg:

Bridging the Gap

Last week, I grew tired of all the political rhetoric being tossed about on my Facebook page.  I wrote the status update listed below.  Many people wrote and asked me to share those words on my website so the people without Facebook accounts can read it.  This is what I wrote:

I’m fortunate to have lots of friends who are all over the political spectrum. My facebook feed is definitely not an echo chamber like some others are. Because I have friends with various political leanings, I’m seeing both sides of the gun control debate. And both sides are getting nasty. That isn’t going to solve any problems.

For my right wing friends, the guy advocating for more gun control is not your enemy. He just doesn’t want his loved ones gunned down.

For my left wing friends, likewise the dude posting all the gun rights memes isn’t your enemy either. He also doesn’t want his family killed. He thinks the best way to prevent that is to take an active role in protecting them.

Neither side wants to see more people slaughtered. Neither side wants to feel the pain of a loved one killed. Neither side wants criminals, terrorists, or crazy people to have free access to weapons (of any type). Stop sniping at each other. In reality you all have much more in common than you might think.

Both sides of the debate are coming from the same place…the desire to stop the killing of innocent people. Recognize that and work with it. My guess is that you will find more similarity than difference between you and your “enemy” on the other side of the political aisle.

Name calling and derision are not successful strategies to get things done. Let’s start working together to find a way to keep guns out of the hands of the criminals and terrorists. Let’s find a way to get the mentally ill the help that they need. And let’s do it is such a manner that it doesn’t infringe on the rights of your law-abiding peaceful neighbor (who would never commit such an atrocity) at the same time.

You all are smart people. You can do this. Stop attacking each other.

Who would have thought those words could be so controversial?  The post was “liked” 1100 times and shared more than 700 times.  Despite it’s popularity, I got more hate mail from it than anything else I have ever written.  People were absolutely incensed that I would suggest that we could do something to slow the tide of murderous rampages.  It was baffling to me.  After all the hate mail, I wrote this followup:

“So I wrote a piece earlier today about how pro-gun folks and anti-gun folks need to focus on areas of common agreement and not act so derisively towards each other. It was spread widely. I thank you all for that.

I’m happy to report than none of my liberal or gun-hating friends had anything bad to say (or if they did, they chose to keep it to themselves.) My conservative, gun-owning friends were an entirely different story.

I blocked 14 (now up to 19 as of today)  people from my page today. All were conservative gun owners. All of them either wrote snide comments about liberals or engaged in straw man arguments about my wanting to take away people’s rights or “compromise” with the anti-gunners. That’s very disappointing for me.

If one looks at my original post, I made no mention of anyone having his rights infringed. I made no mention of any type of “compromise.” I truly believe that we can create a win/win solution on this issue without either side “compromising.” And I am firmly against the loss of any rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Yet some of my gun-owning friends couldn’t be bothered with actually reading what I wrote before writing their own critiques or insults. That’s the problem with the status of the “debate” on this issue. As I said, disappointing.

An even greater disappointment was the fact that many of my gun-owning friends “liked” the post, only to continue the name calling I railed against in their own posts later today. More disappointment.”

Folks, let’s talk a bit about your “enemies.”  Yes, I most certainly understand that there are plenty of government officials who want to take all of our guns away as a means of political control.  By all means, demonize those people.

 I don’t think those folks make up the majority of people calling for more gun control.  The majority of the calls for more gun control come from people who don’t understand the historic elements of gun control laws and how they’ve been used to enslave certain races or “undesirable” members of the population throughout history.  The people calling for more gun control generally don’t understand guns and don’t have the desire to learn about them.  They are scared at the thought of using guns themselves and thus they don’t want others using them either.

 Those people aren’t your “enemies.”  Those are people who don’t fully understand the issues involved and who are acting out of emotion.  We can educate good people who are ignorant about the issues, but we can’t do that if we consider them “enemies.”  Enemies are people who want to hurt or kill you.  Enemies are not your neighbors, your co-workers, and your child’s teacher who might have different opinions about guns.  Don’t be ridiculous.  Do you want to further alienate the gun culture from those people who don’t understand it?  If so, keep demonizing that group of generally well-meaning citizens who take a view of guns that is slightly different from yours.

When you consider good people your “enemies” because they view gun control with a different lens, then you are merely perpetuating the myth of the ignorant gun owner.  Stop it.  And stop sending me hate mail because I choose to be friends with some good people who just don’t like guns.

Seth Godin says it best in this quote below:

“It’s no longer possible to become important to everyone, not in a reliable, scalable way, not in a way that connects us to people who will read ads or take action, not to people who aren’t already clicking away to the next thing by the time they get to the second or third sentence.

But it is possible to become important to a very-small everyone, to a connected tribe that cares about this voice or that story or this particular point of view. It’s still possible to become meaningful, meaningful if you don’t get short-term greedy about any particular moment of mass, betting on the long run instead. And we need institutions that can reach many of these tribes, that can bind together focused audiences and useful content creators.”

 I guess that I have to understand that I won’t be an important resource for those who consider gun control advocates their “enemies.”  I’m OK with that.  I’ll choose to define my “tribe” as people who are capable of doing good in the world.  People who are clear thinkers, regardless of political affiliation.  People who respect the information I provide and try to use it to create a better future for their families.

 I really don’t care about your political party, whether you are gay or straight, or whether you are a fundamentalist Christian or a strict atheist.  I don’t care if you think people should have “assault weapons” or not.  If you want to make the world a better place and keep yourselves and your loved ones safe, you are welcome in any of my classes.

13 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap by Greg Ellifritz”

  1. Greg ventured into a minefield there. I tried, too, but I got attacked by those I know who despise guns, although my post was about my support for Giffords.org and why the NRA never has and never will get a cent of my money.

    My critics were not reading. They saw the word “gun” and erupted. It is the nature of social media. It is no venue for nuance. All that registered with those folks was “you go hunting and keep a handgun for home defense. Those are evil and you are part of the problem.” A Scottish friend called hunting a “Dark Ages” hobby.

    But I get it from the other side when I support checks on all sales at gun shows, question my own range’s training, implying AR-15s make good platforms for defense inside the home, or critique the industry’s motives in flooding the market with cheap ARs, societal impact be damned.

    You cannot find a lot of reasoned discussions about this online. The moderators at the Ruger forum had to pull down a few threads. This time the issue is going to endure longer than after other mass shootings, so no matter your opinions, acting temperate will more likely convince those still on the fence here.

    As an anti-gun friend who respects hunting but hates social media told me, “you tried, but Facebook is vile.” Twitter is worse. I hope this discussion shows that we can disagree and remain civil.

  2. Like it or not, I believe some gun restrictions will come
    out of this latest school massacre.

    The NRA needs to get out ahead of some of these issues
    and help craft some restraints, particularly on the so-called
    assault rifles and possibly the hi-cap magazines which are
    associated with those rifles.

    I am aware of a number of gun stores in my area
    and ones that were in the area I used to live tried not to
    sell those rifles. Their potential for devastating misuses have
    been evident since they first came on the market.

    A lot of after-market companies have designed all sorts of
    gadgets to add onto the so-called assault rifles. The
    result is that a lot of pressure exists to continue the
    status quo. The bump stock was but one such gadget.

  3. Thank you for sharing this Justin. Level-headed perspectives like this need to be heard above the shrill, polarized screeching that is dominating the conversation right now. I could go on (and on, and on….), but I’ll leave it at that.

  4. Thanks for re-posting. I read the original on Greg’s site and I agree that we need more article like these. The screeds and mistrust put us exactly where we shouldn’t be — focused on each other as “the problem” rather than realizing that the divisiveness simply distracts us from acting like big kids and figuring this out together. Thinking is hard.

    Love the site! I, too, hope that the RG crowd is different.

  5. Ellifritz is right on the money!

    Finally, our Second Amendment rights will stand or fall by public opinion. If enough of our fellow Americans come to believe that “you’re safer without a gun than with one”, the Courts will find a way to enshrine that belief into law. Seeing how flexible the Supreme Court has been in interpreting the Constitution regarding abortion and gay marriage, it’s not hard to imagine them doing the same with the Second Amendment: coming up with, and finding a way to justify, an interpretation that accords with public opinion.

    So for those of us concerned with preserving the traditional understanding of the RKBA, our real battle lies in convincing our fellow citizens as to the truth of our viewpoint. We won’t do that by insulting, offending, and alienating them; we’ll only succeed by engaging them in ongoing respectful dialogue; and sharing with them all the reasons why our point of view is the correct one.

  6. I respect Greg and his work very much. He makes an excellent point that some people who disagree with us are simply fearful and ignorant, and they deserve our respect, patience, and help. Some of them may actually talk to us, and possibly come to a new understanding of the issue, if we are approachable and tread lightly.

    Greg is also right that some of them are dangerous ideologues (my words, not his) who want to disarm us to exert control over us. In my experience, however, they are not limited to government officials. I have no qualms whatsoever in calling them my enemies, and treating them as such. It’s their behavior, not mine, which has made them my enemy, and an enemy of liberty itself. I won’t shrink from that, and it’s obvious that Greg won’t either.

    The rub is that the ideologues are controlling the other side of the conversation, the media, and frequently the levers of government. They are skilled at using the ignorance and fear of the masses in the middle as a weapon against freedom. It’s extremely difficult to defend your position against their aggressive, hateful and deceptive attack without also appearing aggressive yourself. Indeed, the fight for liberty requires us to be aggressive in its defense.

    But it doesn’t require us to be caustic and immature. There will always be a segment of the population who will fear us for our steadfast and aggressive resistance to the tyranny of gun control, and they are sadly beyond our reach. However, there are a number of folks out there, which Greg described, who simply don’t understand us or our position. Because the ideologues have a more powerful grip on the control of public information, these folks are more likely to understand the other sides’ views than ours. It’s our responsibility to reach out to them in a friendly and cooperative manner, and help them to understand the balancing view.

    Oppose the enemy. Befriend the innocent, but confused. It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, but necessary if we’re going to preserve liberty.

    1. Don’t forget, Greg also described a lot of “us” not just “them.” And he’s right – there are dangerous ideologues, the ignorant, and the fearful on this side, too.

      1. Yeah, all this talk about the RKBA; what about my RTRI: my Right To Remain Ignorant? I’m pretty sure that’s in the Constitution somewhere, I just can’t remember exactly where…

  7. I have now read this article 3 times (like Justin, I read it both times Greg posted it), and each time I am depressed by what it implies about society as a whole. If we can’t get past our own opinions long enough to even talk civilly with someone who disagrees, I don’t see how we can accomplish any meaningful task. I see this interpersonal division as way more damaging than anything a President, Senator, Political Party or the like can do. I really hope I am wrong, but I believe this inability to be reasonable with one another will be the real cause of any American collapse.

  8. My mom, raised in the city and a career nurse, hated guns. She also hated motorcycles – another passion of mine.

    You know what? I loved her not a whit less because of what she felt, what she believed. Her worldview was hers, alone, crafted out of her experiences. We all bring a uniquely personal prism to peer through.

    I suspect it’s a rare family in America that doesn’t have passionate adherents on both sides of the gun control debate. If our sentiment is to belittle and dismiss those who believe something different than us… well, I suppose that’s how those echo chambers are born.

    Social media? When was the last time you read something on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever the platform-du-jour is… that convinced you of anything? And yet everyday our feeds are filled with incendiary posts – from both sides – as if the righteous condescension built into those posts might sway someone!

    The only thing I can conclude… is that the idiot gene is alive and well.

    I confess that I have become very cynical about the whole thing. Life is too short to spend what hours we have so angry, so certain, so uncivil. It’s a debate I almost always refuse to engage in.

    But since we’re among friends here – gun people, revolver people at that – I’ll say this… it never ends. The argument never wanes. The babble never ceases. The attempt to restrict gun rights is eternal and unceasing.

    Years ago, as a younger man, I used to believe that dialogue and compromise might lead us to a reasonable place where we could all nod our heads and agree that we’ve reached a good place that we could all live with. A place we could go forward with.

    How do you think that godforsaken internal lock on Smith & Wesson revolvers was born?

    I don’t believe that anymore. Whatever you and I cede today, it will never be enough. Next month, next year, there will be another bill. It matters not that the bill they passed last year didn’t do anything.
    The tide against you, me – any who would have the temerity to believe that owning and having and carrying personal weapons is a reasonable thing – will never end.

    And so, yeah, while I have family and friends on both sides of the argument – and I love and respect them all – count me amongst those who has lifted a sword and drawn a line in the sand. A hard line.

    A line I will not cross.

  9. I’ll grant you there are some fearful and ignorant people on the pro-rights side, and people looking to take advantage of that. The difference is, nobody on this side of the fence is trying to disarm and control their neighbors, or deprive them of their civil liberties. They just want to be left alone to live their lives.

    I reject the notion that there’s some kind of moral equivalence between anti-gun ideologues, and the people who oppose them.

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