Nicholas Kristof is a true giant in the world of opinion writers. I love reading David Brooks (occasionally), Gail Collins, and Paul Krugman, among others. But it’s Nick Kristof—alone among opinion writers I’m aware of—who has focused on the slave trade, the abuse of young woman across the world, women generally, and really hard stuff.
So when I saw Some Inconvenient Gun Facts for Liberals about a month ago, I paid attention. Frankly, though, I was unimpressed. I felt like Mr. Kristof was reaching, and his piece gained no traction. We do need to understand the other side in any situation, but when the other side is wrong they’re wrong, plain and simple. And more guns solves nothing, save fattening the wallets of gun makers and the National Rifle Association.
That all said, I read with interest A Gun Dealer Talks Straight about Guns. It’s written by Mike Weisser, a gun dealer, and it’s posted at Nick Kristof’s blog site, On the Ground, at the New York Times.
Mr. Weisser begins his fine piece thusly:
Nicholas Kristof’s call for a “new strategy” to combat gun violence is both necessary and compelling, but the solutions he advances — in particular changing how gun control advocates explain and justify their positions to gun owners — I think need a different approach.
Mr. Weisser had me when, in his fourth paragraph, he noted the fact that he has sold more than 14,000 guns. I’ve been selling a service for almost 35 years, which surely explains why I think we need to pay attention to long-time vendors on the topic of their customers. As old as I am, it take a lot to sell me on a case. On the other hand, Mr. Weisser sells a product, so he’s a little less choosy about his customers. Nevertheless, he notes: “Most gun owners keep guns around because they were raised in families that always had guns.” He makes the following observation, as well:
Despite what the N.R.A. says about people, not guns killing other people, there is no consumer product as lethal as a gun. But walk up to a guy (and it’s still almost always a guy) who is lovingly caressing the gun he just bought and tell him that what he’s holding is a lethal weapon and he’ll stare at you in disbelief. Ask him why he just plunked down $600 and he’ll stare at you again. He bought that gun because he likes buying guns — it’s as simple as that. He may mumble something about the 2nd Amendment because that’s what he’s been told, but if you think picking up a gun is any less impulsive than buying any other nonessential consumer item, think again.
In the end, Mr. Weisser offers a very pallid solution—“gun owners should be willing to support sensible responses to gun violence like background checks and safe storage laws”—but his comments about why men buy guns matter. We live in a cultural divide. I cannot imagine ever having a gun in my home, but I have close friends like the men Mr. Weisser describes, as well as guys who own guns for protection which they keep locked up in safes. (“Uh, excuse me, Mr. Intruder, would you for just a moment wait before you do something awful, so that I can get my Gott, which I keep locked up to protect my granchildren?”) I also have friends—mostly women—who keep a baseball bat at the ready. It won’t stop a bullet, but it put lots of hurt on someone
I commend Mr. Kristof for raising the issue of guns, and for providing Mr. Weisser with a platform. I applaud Mr. Weisser, as well, for his candor (albeit while noting that it’s likely that one or more of those 14,000 weapons has harmed someone.) In furtherance of their efforts, we need a dialogue which does not involve Wayne LaPierre’s salary, gun industry profits, Obama taking away guns, nonsensical claims about protection, etc. We have a gigantic problem, and smart people need to come together to solve it.