Commentary: Guns and the conversation we just can’t have

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – I hate writing about guns.

No other issue in American life divides people so much. No other debate pushes us so far into our bunkers.

John Krull, publisher,

I’m on the air, talking with outspoken gun advocate Indiana Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, Indiana University Law School Prof. Jody Madeira and Marian University Prof. Pierre Atlas about guns, gun-owners’ rights and gun-related violence in America. Earlier, I’d also talked with former Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Troy Riggs about the subject.

Riggs discussed the complexity of the gun question and said we needed to have a robust and open public conversation about guns, with all sides willing to listen and compromise. Madeira and Atlas make clear that a balancing act is called for – that we need to find a way to protect law-abiding gun owners’ rights while figuring out how to keep deadly weapons away from who would do others harm.

Lucas sticks to his National Rifle Association talking points.

Near the end of the broadcast, he points to some paper he’s pulled out. It would call for a registration of journalists – similar, he says, to the ones gun owners must go through.

I stare at him, dumbfounded, thinking:

He doesn’t get it. Everyone else here has been trying to figure out a problem of huge moral and legal implications – trying to determine how we can save lives while preserving rights – and he’s playing a game.

I ask him who drafted the “proposal.”

Lucas says he did.

I ask, “You did it just to score a point?”

He says yes, smirking.

I shake my head, thinking:

He doesn’t get it because he can’t get it. This isn’t about finding a solution for him. It’s about winning.

The moment encapsulates why gun conversations are so disheartening.

Every time I write about gun-related violence, my mail box fills up. I hear from gun advocates who want to shower me with “facts” about guns. At least 75 percent of these “facts,” upon investigation, turn out to be spurious, manufactured or taken far, far out of context.

A recent example came from someone who sent me a link to a chart supposedly showing that the United States ranked 92nd in the world in violent crime. The chart showed no such thing. He’d misread it. The countries weren’t ranked. They were grouped by region and the United States was just the 92nd listing.

The person didn’t mean to mislead. His need to believe guns can’t be a problem was so great he just saw what he wanted to see.

Lucas does the same thing. He acknowledges only those “facts” that support his position and ignores all others.

When he says no restriction can work because people kill people despite current gun laws, I ask him if we should dispense with the laws against murder for the same reason. He dodges the question.

When he’s confronted with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s avowal that the Second Amendment does not apply to military-style weapons, Lucas says Scalia only said that as a “compromise” to get Justice Anthony Kennedy’s vote. When Atlas reads a Scalia quote contradicting Lucas’s interpretation, Lucas changes the subject.

And, after Lucas repeatedly asserts that the right to own weapons is absolute – over Madeira’s frequent corrections that the courts never have said that – I ask Lucas if any weapons should be illegal. Nuclear? Biological?

At first, he says, if a person can afford it, he or she should be able to have it. Then, realizing he’s endorsing private arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, he backs away.

But he won’t say there are weapons people shouldn’t be allowed to possess, because that would grant government the right to regulate them for the common good. The only question remaining would be where we draw the line, not whether it should be drawn.

So, Lucas says he wants to take a “pause.”

He’s not being duplicitous. His beliefs are sincere ones.

But he sees only what he wants to see, hears only what he wants to hear.

And the concerns of others don’t count for much, if at all.

That’s what makes this discussion so dispiriting.

Because we look at this so differently, we might as well be speaking different languages.

Some see this as a savage contest that must be won at all costs, others as a tragedy without end.

Some live for the fight.

Others are dying for a solution.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism.

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9 Responses to Commentary: Guns and the conversation we just can’t have

  1. Thank you for your spot on summary of how tragically ridiculous this scenario is. Lucas represents the worst of the worst. He’s in it to win it and it has nothing to do with helping his constituents or public safety. He will never be able to think and reason on this issue. I wish we could ignore him, but unfortunately he fuels the fire for so many selfish ideologues. He is unable to process information and make biased decisions and he should not be a representative in our state legislature. Oh and he’s also an angry misogynist with a huge chip on his shoulder. Check out his public Facebook page sometime.

  2. Thank you so much for writing about this public health issue even though it’s challenging. Please keep drawing attention to the challlenges we face in trying to progress common sense gun safety.

  3. I’m going to apply to John Krull what he said about me in this article;
    “I stare at him, dumbfounded, thinking:
    He doesn’t get it. Everyone else here has been trying to figure out a problem of huge moral and legal implications – trying to determine how we can save lives while preserving rights – and he’s playing a game.”

    With all due respect Mr. Krull, I don’t consider making innocent people defenseless against people that don’t obey every gun law you’ve ever demanded a game!
    What new gun law would have that would have stopped someone that already passed several of your constantly demanded “background checks”, yet was committed to murdering innocent men, women and children?
    What new “common sense gun law” that you are SO ADAMANT about implementing will stop someone that does not obey gun laws?
    Laws do not stop these kinds of people, they merely criminalize their actions and place a level of punishment on committing them.
    The only thing gun laws do is make people that obey gun laws easy victims for people that don’t obey gun laws, so why do you insist on making innocent people defenseless against these kinds of people?
    You insist “that we need to find a way to protect law-abiding gun owners’ rights while figuring out how to keep deadly weapons away from who would do others harm.” Well, there were two very educated people in that radio room along with yourself that day and I did not hear of one, not one new law that would accomplish what you have demanded for years.
    As a matter of fact, you and many others have been talking about this for many years, surely by now you’ve come up with at least one new law that will “find a way to protect law-abiding gun owners’ rights while figuring out how to keep deadly weapons away from who would do others harm.”
    Where is it?
    The realistic, common sense answer is that there are none! If there were, it would have been implemented by now. However, due to your mindless devotion to a belief that only continues to endanger innocent lives and an obvious prejudice against an inanimate object, you keep regurgitating that we have to “do something”.
    “Doing something” is making innocent people defenseless and it’s time to apply some intellectual honesty, look in the mirror and acknowledge that there are no laws to stop a madman once they’ve started shooting, only good people with guns will.
    Jim Lucas
    State representative
    District 69

  4. Hot air. Cut to the chase. You say you want a compromise, what is it? What law would have prevented Las Vegas? NONE. He was law abiding until he wasn’t. He passed all background checks. Bought everything legally. In exchange for whatever law you want passed what do gun owners get? This is a compromise after all, right?

  5. Mr. Krull:

    I want to ask a very particular question using just a little bit of symbolism.

    If unlimited arms ownership is a cake. That is, there are no restrictions on what can own on the open market, where is the line of compromise? How much of the cake are you willing to leave in the hands of the gun owners? is a link that will take you to an illustrated cartoon which starts with the premise that prior to 1934, gun rights were a large and satisfying cake, and every gun control law passed since then has taken a part of that cake away, and citizens of this country are left with a very slim piece of what was once a nice cake.

    So, I ask you sir, how much of the cake do I get to maintain?

  6. The hypocrisy of the left is so blatant, yet they act like it’s nothing. If my Second Amendment RIGHTS are up for discussion, so should the media’s First.

  7. The beginning of the end was prohibition… A little overzealous when the people wouldn’t obey the law, and things turned ugly.
    Then later during the civil rights act when :gasp: a black man could know own and carry a gun…
    Now we have a lack of mental institutions & a high rate of homeless, lack of full judicial enforcement on gun crimes, and a serious lack of acknowledgement of the problems causing crime…
    The intellectual leftists out there continues to focus on the gun, ignoring that these policies keep generating more problems. But that’s the easy button solution, and from my experience, throwing money at easy button solutions seems to be the left’s M.O.

  8. I completely agree with Mr. Krull.

    Guns owners are disrespectful of authority. A failure to rely on authorities is an invariable sign of improper and overly independent attitudes. The mere fact that they gather together to talk about guns at gun shops, gun shows, shooting ranges, and on the internet means that they have some plot going against us normal people. A gun owner has no right to associate with another gun owner.

    Therefore, to help ensure our right to happiness and safety we must ban and seize all guns from private hands, and forbid NRA-based criticism towards people who are only trying to help. Searching the homes of all NRA members for any guns and pro-gun literature will go a long way towards reducing crime.

    Common sense requires only uniformed soldiers, police, and other agents of the state have access to firearms, and think of all the money we can save by just taking away the guns from private owners and giving them to the military and police. No person should be able to challenge this by writing to Congress or the President. If they do they should be forced in court to admit to it and then fined a hundred million dollars for each time. Subjecting them to torture will probably change their minds.

    Making it mandatory that church ministers preach against guns or else they can’t get licensed will certainly encourage the church folk to have the correct belief about guns.

    We should hold a nation-wide vote against guns but gun-owners cannot be allowed to participate. They are too biased.

    People who don’t like all this prove they are on the side of the killers with the guns and should be put in jail along side all the gangbangers and other gun nuts. Letting them sit in jail for a few years before they are charged will give the government plenty of time to find something wrong in their lives. Anything they say, write, or express should be held against them to prove their guilt.

    We should bring all of them here to Chicago to be tried by Mayor Rahmfather as judge, and we should allow only mothers who have lost children to gunfire to be on the juries. Any attorney who tries to defend them should be arrested also. If we don’t get the right verdict the first time we can just keep trying them until we do.

    No woman needs to protect herself from rape, assault or murder and should just leave crime prevention to the Police who are properly equipped to investigate following the crime’s completion. Women using a gun in self-defense interferes with and makes the attempted crime a “non-event,” which unnecessarily complicates the Police investigation. Any woman who does this should be put in jail for interfering with an investigation.

    If someone still really, really thinks they have a need for a gun in their home for protection then the Army should just force them to host and feed some armed soldiers.

    Those who claim that the 2nd amendment was given to us because we might someday need guns to use against an oppressive government forget that our Constitution has strong internal safeguards to protect our freedoms. So there!

    Long live our Constitution!

  9. Mr Krull,

    First of all, I appreciate you having Rep Lucas on your show. I just listened to the entire recording in its entirety. The discussion was conducted with respect and decorum. Thank you.

    Secondly, I would appreciate if you would put aside all biases and indulge me in a thought experiment. In every violent crime situation, we have weapon and we have motive. In the case of the Las Vegas shooter (as it is with many mass shootings), it appears this motive may have been mental illness.

    Remove the weapon from the scenario and the motive remains. The perpetrator is undeterred from his desire to do harm. He will simply find another weapon.

    Remove the motive from the scenario and it doesn’t matter what weapons the (former) perpetrator is in possession of, if there is no desire to do harm, then no harm will be done.

    Knowing this, why is all our discussion about the weapon? Why aren’t we discussing relevant factors? The guns in the scenario are irrelevant. If the Las Vegas shooter had zero guns in his possession, he had a number of other options. First of all, he owned two planes. He could have flown one of them into the building and killed even more people than he did. Or he could have barred the doors and set the building on fire. Or sprayed gasoline down on the crowd and lit them on fire. Or he could have showered them with ricin. Or…or…or.

    The weapon is irrelevant. We need to stop talking about red herring issues and talk about relevant factors.