Are We Talking to the Wrong People About Gun Control?

Regardless of what the constitution may or may not allow, I can live a perfectly happy and safe life without owning a gun. I had that thought today, and it led to another:

Maybe it's time to stop talking about rights and start talking about personal rationale.

Here's the thinking: People can legally own an ugly, old, gross, stained sofa... yet we still feel we can engage them in a dialogue about that choice. Tease them, even. It's what friends do.

Can't we have the same kind of conversations about the choice to own guns?

Not the right, the choice.

I had such a conversation recently with my father who owns 37 guns. Honestly I don't think anyone has ever taken the time before to walk with him through his reasoning, to thoughtfully present him with the risks, to delve into the part of his psyche that wants to carry a deadly weapon. To ask him, "why?"

He told me -among other things- that he carries a handgun stuffed into the back of his jeans when he takes exercise walks around his small town neighborhood in lovely, idyllic western Wisconsin. He thinks he could be "jumped."

It was sad to hear. His fear is not just contributing to gun culture, it's also impacting his overall well being and connection with his community. I went online and got actual crime statistics for his area. I talked with him about how media representations of violence can make us feel the world is more unsafe than it is - that violent crime is drastically down from the 1970s. I engaged him about the probability that he is the one making his street much more dangerous for others - for kids to play.

And then I dug deep for courage and reminded him that he has a history of depression and that it runs in our family. That I worry. That the guns are a big part of that.

My dad is 71. He has been sleeping with a gun next to his bed for as long as I can remember. His custom license plate is the name of his favorite gun.

He said he would think about it.

I know we will continue to have many important public discussions that push elected leaders to consider changes to gun laws and policies. That is inevitable. It's also not working.

Maybe it's time for honest talks with friends and family members about all these ugly couches. The government alone can't solve this one. We should each do our part, too.