Developing a balanced perspective on the gun control debate


As I mentioned in my last blog post regarding the “return to work debate,” my opinion is that no matter how difficult, how emotional, or how political an issue is, the key is to truly take the time to listen to multiple perspectives and understand all sides of the issue. The more people can listen to one another, and really HEAR and UNDERSTAND one another, the better the chances of finding some middle ground and making real progress.

Okay, at the risk of making some individuals uncomfortable, let’s look at various perspectives and try to avoid saying “I don’t understand where you are coming from!!”

One side of the issue: Increasing gun control is not the solution

Some individuals view the right to have guns as clearly stated in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and doing anything to suppress that right is totally unacceptable to them. They argue the country was formed with a basic distrust of the central government (e.g. King George and England), and there needs to be a focus on preventing the government from ever becoming too powerful and attempting to suppress our independence. They believe that the “good people” need to have guns to protect themselves from the “bad people.” It is interesting to note that when asked if they believe it makes sense for individuals to have access to assault weapons, many will agree that they are not personally in favor of assault weapons, but outlawing them could result in a “slippery slope,” whereby once assault weapons become illegal, less lethal weapons could then be outlawed. On the issue of mass shootings, they often state that the problem isn’t the availability of guns but rather the lack of adequate mental health care. Many believe that criminals are not deterred by stricter gun laws because they can always find a way to illegally obtain weapons, and we must be prepared to protect ourselves.

Another side of the issue: We need significant gun control

Other individuals view it as unacceptable that in the U.S. – one of the most developed countries in the world – 45,000 people die from gun violence every year. They point out that gun violence is the largest cause of death of children in the U.S., and that it as an epidemic. Many of these people are not against the idea of people owning guns, but they question the need for assault weapons. They argue for the need for functional background checks, red flag laws, and increasing the age to at least 21 before being able to purchase a gun. They look at the tragedies that occurred in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas, and last week in Highland Park, Illinois as unacceptable and avoidable.

Okay, so what is the “right thing to do?” The first step is to truly listen to one another and try to find some common ground. Recall that there was substantial gun legislation passed in 1996 (28 years ago) that was overturned ten years later. One request I have (and yes, you may accuse me of being either overly idealistic or naïve) is for all politicians to spend less time sticking to strict party lines and asking themselves “what is the right thing to do?” I personally find fault on all sides… a former mathematics major, I find it statistically impossible that virtually all 50 Democratic senators are in favor of stricter gun control and all 50 Republican senators are against it. Where is the individual self-reflection on the issue? Why does this issue need to become a partisan political issue? One would logically expect that some proportion of each side would independently come to their own personal view of “what is the right thing to do?” Clearly that is not happening, which makes it very difficult to get anything accomplished. Yes, some recent progress is underway, but I find it to be completely inadequate.

“What if”

  • So what if…..there was a proposal to ban assault weapons BUT it was written in a way that no further bans could be enacted without a constitutional amendment (I have no idea whether that is possible, I am just trying to think out of the box).
  • So what if……we significantly increased our focus on mental health as a country, and helped to minimize the number of people that wanted to harm others.
  • So what if……we asked parents to become better parents and monitor the amount of violence that their young children are exposed to in movies, social media and video games. (I am personally shocked at what children and young adults have access to without any parental oversight)

My final thought is to ask each and every one of you what you are personally doing to keep your children and grandchildren safe. I say everyone because as I remind my Kellogg students, when we ask who are the people that are going to solve these issues, we usually assume there is a group called “those guys”….well, my strong belief is WE are “THOSE GUYS”….the men and women who can make a difference. As I always ask my students when discussing challenging issues: Are you “watching the movie” and complaining, or are you going to “get in the movie” and focus on how to make sure we actually solve the problem?


Photo by Maria Lysenko on Unsplash


  • Thank you for you wise thinking; outside of the box, and focused on a solution. I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue too, as I have an 8 year old granddaughter, and I’m concerned for her safety. My husband brought up an interesting idea. After 911 one of the first things that was done, was to put locks on airplane cockpit doors. We didn’t waste time making sure the “bad guys” never got into the cockpit again! Why aren’t we thinking this way about our schools. There should be one available entrance. It should be guarded (by an armed policeman). If someone shows up wanting to shoot up the school, they have to get by the armed guard. It’s not a perfect solution, but we could make a BIG dent in this problem immediately! Hopefully the arguments about gun control and mental health will soon be solved. Personally, I can’t sit here one more day waiting for our children to be made safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Your second favorite Father-in law finally has found somerthing to agree with you on.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hi Harry, this is an excellent essay and a very important topic to be thoughtful about both sides and to work to be balanced: well done!

    The strong emotions evoked by the power of the constitution (2nd amendment and our rights as Americans) as well as those of actual deaths by guns (esp the horror of gun violence at school and other public incidents with multiples injuries and deaths) have made it virtually impossible to thoughtfully discuss the challenges without fear of betraying one’s “tribe”. stir up really strong feelings.

    Related to your principle, “don’t just wait on but rather be one of those guys” – I’ve tried. In particular, As a physician, I have wanted/encouraged the US to look at the loss of life as a public health issue. I have actively advocated for that, knowing that we have a right to bear arms and also that we cannot live without risk. However, as with cigarettes, car accidents, and other life-threatening parts of our lives we should be able to study it. Not to take away guns, but rather to know when to do so. If we did we could learn why and then discuss if it is worth it as a community/republic.

    Sadly, this has been blocked. And there’s more: as a primary care doctor (pediatrician, internist, ob/gyne, psychiatrist) in some states we cannot ask about gun locks, gun storage, and parental supervision because of gag orders over the last several decades. The issue should be studied, and sadly we have been gagged for too long. (This is evolving, so it may have changed very recently.) It’s hot issue and I respect Megan Raney MD (Brown) and several other physicians who have stuck with it and are starting to get some visibility and hopefully changes are coming.

    As a psychiatrist, I’ve come to appreciate the dangers of impaired judgment. I’ve been trained to assess for danger to self and others. I’ve also been asked to advise companies on general risk management programs (e.g. active shooters or threats) and also specifics. Interestingly, the incidence of mental illness is the same around the world. And in general, the seriously mentally ill are much more likely to be victims of violence rather than to perpetrate.

    Perhaps most important of all as I’ve tried to be a voice of balance and also trying to be one of “those guys” is your point here – the polarity and extreme points of view about this issue is making it impossible to discuss and find a solution. As usual, I like your proof: how is it possible that 100% of each person in each party is lined up with their extreme beliefs? It defies logic. And it’s clear they need to get out of their ruts and solve this problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I just read your post on the gun control issue. You are right on target, and it does come back to the question of balance. Most people seem to agree that we have a unique problem with gun violence in this country and the statistics support this view. Simply because there is no perfect solution should not be a reason for throwing our hands up and doing nothing. If we can even begin to make a dent in the problem we will be better off. As they say, we shouldn’t “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”


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