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Why Won’t Anti-Gun People Talk to Us?

I think I could be a persuasive advocate for gun control. Like, a really good one. I think I know enough about guns and gun culture in America to do serious damage to a fundamental human right I hold dear.

It’s bizarre simultaneously feeling glad that your opponents are so ignorant (if well-intentioned) and frustrated at how easy it would be for them to do better. If you’re going to criminalize my existence, at least put in the effort. Talk about insult on top of injury.

A more cynical man than I would just let this go and continue mocking it from afar, but to show that we’re not all horrifying, monstrous, dog-whistling goons, I thought we could chat for a bit and maybe learn from each other before you have me put away.

I once had a phone argument with a fact-checking reporter who insisted that a legislator had made a false statement by asserting that assault rifles are, for all intents and purposes, already banned.

The legislator was right, of course. The limited supply of legal automatics (have to have been made 30 years ago or more) and exorbitant cost of becoming legally eligible to own an automatic weapon are prohibitive. But the reporter insisted that the “public conception” of “assault rifle” includes guns like AR-15s, which aren’t assault rifles. When I suggested that perhaps the media incessantly mis-defining terms might be the reason the public is so confused, the conversation ended. The legislator’s statement was labeled “mostly false.”

So it goes.

For the uninitiated: a “bullet button” is a small button that releases the magazine from a rifle. It’s called a bullet button because, due to desperately-flailing statutes, California only allows magazine release buttons that are operated “by a tool,” like the tip of a bullet. A button you can press with your finger is a felony, because sure why not.

Not that long ago, Fox News invited an expert on TV to confidently tell the world that a “bullet button” is a button that makes your semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.

The cycle continues.

I could go on. I haven’t even gotten to ghost guns or shoulder things that go up. The list is long, and any gun guy or girl can riff their faves off the top of their head:

  • Assault rifles are defined by their multiple fire modes; assault weapons are defined by people who watch too many movies.
  • Homicides and suicides are not the same thing, even if I’m tempted to both every time I hear them lumped together.
  • My belt loop was a bump fire mechanism long before some guy patented a piece of plastic.
  • I’ll see your Australia and raise you a New Zealand.
  • Cop-killer bullets aren’t, and haven’t.
  • If you don’t know what a clip is, you’ve probably never seen one. Just say magazine.
  • Speaking of magazines, the definition of “high” is “taller than usual or expected.”
  • If you think drug laws have an abjectly racist history and a disparate impact on people of color, boy do I have some news for you about gun laws.

You get the idea. Aside from some sort of status signal (“The only thing I’m less into than sportsball is shooty sticks!”), I can’t fathom the benefit of wading into an issue area only to make it cringingly clear to the people you’re trying to persuade that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

I’d love to have a frank conversation about gun policy and violent crime in America. But first the other side has to learn the language. Or at least hire an interpreter.

You know before you hit “publish” that you don’t really know what you’re talking about, right? So why not reach out to someone who does?

I once had a great conversation with a gun-skeptical reporter who wanted to hear from gun owners themselves how we look at this issue. I remember the conversation well because it lasted more than an hour, and we bonded a bit over our disdain for a grotesque, nationalistic film. It was the first time a reporter on “the other side” of the issue had ever bothered to ask.

She never wrote the article.

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