by Gila Hayes

One of the toughest issues law abiding gun owners face is separating murderous actions from the tool used in the violence reported unceasingly by the media. Would preventing access to a gun necessarily stop a determined murderer or would he or she resort to other options–explosives or a truck driven at high speed into a holiday crowd?

These and related thoughts often interrupted my reading of this month’s review book Blind-Sided. Studying a book like this over a period of weeks provided a good chance to evaluate my own blind spots, and I recognized that my reaction to the election season’s anti-gun barrage was making it hard for me to give honest consideration to an academic study about monsters who used guns in horrendous murders.

Similarly, I had trouble balancing Blind-Sided’s several discussions about how mental illness does not necessarily correlate to mass murders, when author Gregory Moffatt stated that he thinks that more than half of the murderers he studied did suffer from mental illness. He also noted how often a mass shooter’s mental deterioration is well known amongst family, neighbors, and even authorities, yet their freedom is unrestricted.

This is a particularly tough issue for gun owners to balance. Moffatt quoted a gun permit licensing official who, when asked about a man who shot and killed two guards in the U.S. Capitol building in 1998, responded, “In the United States of America, you’re allowed to be a garden-variety nut.” The problem is that what looks nutty to one person, may merely be the proactive measures of a solid citizen preparing to weather an increase in crime.

Gun owners rightly fear being reported as dangerous nuts for safety practices established to protect themselves and their families. Those outside the gun-owning community fear what they do not understand, and many do not understand the preparations undertaken by responsible gun owners. This adds potential for false or vindictive accusations to legislation like Washington State’s recently passed Initiative 1491 that allows restrictions on gun possession if law enforcement or families convince a court that the gun owner poses a threat. Added to this we have existing fears about “swatting,” when a false accusation instigates a SWAT team response against a disliked individual or one who is part of a hated faction—gun owners, for example.

In troubled times, it is tempting to hunker down with our own kind and focus on a counter offensive to destructive legislation, unfair court decisions and an all-out attack by popular media. We need to be smarter than that! Prioritize threats, treat everyone with courtesy, and diligently maintain your own privacy. It is entirely within your powers to be a good and friendly neighbor to people of different political viewpoints, while guarding your privacy as protection against the possibility of a vengeful false accusation.

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