A Proven Formula for Disaster

Guns and Anger do not mix. What are we willing to do about it?

“A homeless man approached [Alton] Sterling on Tuesday and asked for money, becoming so persistent that Sterling showed him his gun, a source told CNN.”

I’m sick. I’m angry. I’m tired. We will have debates — about race and police tactics and all sorts of things that frankly are broken, are serious, and need to be fixed.

And you’ll hear the anger. You hear the anger now. There is anger all around. Former Congressman Joe Walsh indicated anger when he said, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”

Here’s the thing with anger — it serves us good when we use it for good. When we get angry, we can fix things. We can change things. We also can make things worse. We can take actions that escalate tensions.

And having a gun makes those escalation actions deadly.

The man in Louisiana carried a gun for his own protection. He didn’t fire it. He didn’t point it at anyone. He did what the gun rights crowd advocates — buy a gun for self-defense. Part of the “arm every American” strategy.

Owning a gun got him killed.

The police officers in Dallas showed up to do their job, serving and protecting the public, keeping the peace. They were callously gunned down by a sniper using a sniper rifle.

They had guns. The guns did not protect them.

We will have debate. And we should. Black people are treated unfairly because of the color of the skin. LGBT people are targeted for their sexual orientation. Transgendered people aren’t allowed to change their name or use the bathroom. Jews are insulted by anti-Semitic imagery amplified by a Presidential candidate. Police officers are viewed with distrust. Anger is all around us.

And let’s be real. Many white people are struggling. They are told they benefit from “white privilege” and yet they don’t feel privileged at all. According to the Henry J . Kaiser Family Foundation, 10% of families in the US below the poverty line are white. They too are angry.

I’m sure there’s a legitimate use for a sniper rifle in our society. The NRA will explain why Americans should be allowed to own sniper rifles in the coming days.

And we’ll hear from all the gun rights people — guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

But remember the clash between protesters and supports of a neo-Nazi rally in California? Seven injured, 2 critically.

I want to be clear. Crystal clear. Violence is never the answer. Never. This should not have happened. But since these terrorists used knives, no one died.

Orlando? It’s hard to think that someone would have been able to inflict the mass casualties with an axe.

Imagine the sniper in Dallas killing even a single police officer with a switchblade. It’s hard to do.

All this anger. And in the meantime, people die… from guns.

So lets have a rational discussion about the role of guns in our society. If not now, when?

Shouldn’t gun owners be held accountable for their right to own a gun? Shouldn’t anyone that owns a gun go through a background check, a re-certification and ongoing training? Why should civilians own assault weapons? What about other military style weapons? Should there be a limit to how many guns a person can own? If you own a gun and fail to properly secure it, should you be held accountable for an outcome, whether intentional or not?

These are questions that we should ask and answer. And if we find reasonable, common sense solutions, I am sure that we can prevent at least one person from dying by a hand that holds a gun. And you know what? That’s progress. Keeping innocent people alive is progress.

And who knows, those innocent people may help us resolve the issues driving our anger.

Rich Litner is a management consultant, husband, father of 3, New Englander by birth, Southerner by marriage and crusader for equality and justice for all.