Getting Emotional

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Barack Obama


On a blog I read semi-regularly, I ran across an assessment of Barack Obama’s performance the other night when he announced his newest and latest gun control agenda. The blog is called “The Bookworm Room,” and I was attracted to it originally because I thought it was a literary site. It isn’t, but it is intelligent enough and sometimes funny enough that I keep going back; its motto—or subtitle, if you will—is: “Conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts,” so you can see why it might appeal to me. In her comments about Obama’s announcement, the lady who writes the blog included a reference to an emotionally charged anti-gun video and her friend’s reaction to it:

“I had no intention of watching yet another HBO propaganda piece but that changed a few days ago when a Progressive, anti-gun friend of mine challenged me to watch the video. She said she sobbed her way through it and concluded that anyone who watches it should understand that the only way to save lives is to ban guns. The Second Amendment is a relic, she argued, and shouldn’t be allowed to stop this type of necessary reform. In other words, before Obama even got warmed up, I got the full Barack Obama treatment from her.”

That paragraph really got to me. “She said she sobbed her way through it and concluded that anyone who watches it should understand that the only way to save lives is to ban guns. The Second Amendment is a relic, she argued, and shouldn’t be allowed to stop this type of necessary reform.” Wow. All that doubtless heartfelt emotional reaction to a manipulative video. Who among us would not be moved by the sight of a dead young man (the vast majority of murder victims are young men between nineteen and twenty-nine) and of a grieving parent or family member. It is so easy to pluck at heart strings, and then go on to demonize the inanimate object used to cause all that grief. From there, you go on to demonize the owners of such inanimate objects and then the organizations that support those owners. Evil guns! Evil gun owners! Evil NRA! And from there, just to take the full journey into the ridiculous “safe-place” world of pampered little collegiate cupcakes who believe the first amendment begins and ends with their own personal opinion, it becomes Evil Anyone Who Disagrees With Me!

The primary tactic of those who are intelligent enough not to get hysterical (that excludes those delicate college students) is to keep the emotional tide flowing and never allow anything in the way of rational conversation or real debate.

I started thinking about that unknown woman’s reaction and about Obama’s tears, and I began to realize that even if his tears were faked, millions of the two-thirds of the American people who do not own guns may well believe they were real and will be empathetically moved by them and will in consequence be swayed to march with him.

But who talks about the raw emotion on the other side? Think of the terrified mother in Georgia, hiding in a closet with her twin children, whispering on the cell phone to her husband and praying for the police. Are her life and her children’s lives less valid than the life of the career criminal who broke into her home? She shot that man and saved three lives, but I wonder what her emotions were.

What about the eighteen-year old Oklahoma girl, recently widowed and left with a three-month old son, who was on the phone to the police when she had to shoot one of two men who broke through her barricaded door? Were her life and her baby’s life less valid than the knife-wielding criminal who kicked in her door? I wonder what emotions went through her as she held her child.

Those two stories made national headlines, in part because of the dramatic nature of the events, but most, in fact nearly all, such stories never even make the news, although, according to the most conservative estimate (by the Center for Disease Control) such legal, life-saving uses of a firearm occur over three times as frequently as deadly criminal uses. According to the Bureau of Justice, such defensive gun uses occur between 60,000 and 100,000 times a year, or over seven to twelve times as frequently. Other studies show a defensive use rate thirty times greater than that. Contrast those lives saved to the 8,124 people killed by firearms in 2014. How do we weigh the emotional value of the surviving against that of the dead?

Thirty-four years ago, a young man with his pregnant wife, and with his three-year old son in a stroller, were walking down a dark residential street at night in Los Angeles, when a van with two men in it slowed to scope the young couple out. The van circled the block, and then stopped. The two men jumped out and charged the family. The young man shoved the stroller toward his wife, who with great presence of mind instantly took it and moved away from him. He then reached under his coat where he had a holstered illegal handgun. But as soon as he put his hand under his coat, before he could even draw the gun, the two attackers stopped, did an about-face, and drove away.

That defensive use of a firearm was never reported, but I know it occurred because I was the young man, and I can tell you what emotions went rocketing through me as the event unfolded. The first was stark terror which somehow translated itself into resolve, and the second was giddy, almost hysterical relief.

Would I have died on that street that night if I hadn’t had a firearm? Maybe. Maybe not. The fact that I am still alive may not make you sob, but somehow I can’t help feeling my life was worth saving.


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