What is one thing that the underwater diving culture does that the gun culture does not? They self-regulate. (little dive joke there).

The aqualung was invented by Jacque Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in 1945. Right away, people realized that SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) was perfect fodder for the Darwin Awards. The website www.darwinawards.com, explains, “The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it in a spectacular manner!”

Two industry related associations called P.A.D.I. and N.A.U.I. decided that if you didn’t have a dive card stating your training and experience with SCUBA gear, you were not allowed to buy air for your tank. You were welcome to get the tank, the mask and fins… the cool dive watch. Just no air without a card. This was not the government. This was a group of people who want you to enjoy diving without doing something stupid. They were looking out for both you and for their love of diving.

PADI and NAUI also decided to make bragging rights around not how deep you could dive, but about how long you could make a tank of air last. How slow could you breath? That was a lot safer than “how deep can you go?” and just as competitive.

It would be nice if the gun culture was able to self-regulate like the underwater diving culture.

Not saying this is realistic, but what if you could get all the guns, the holsters, the standard-capacity mags you wanted. But you could not buy ammo without proof of competence? I know, the 2nd amendment says your rights to own a gun “shall not be infringed.” But what about ammo? Comedian Chris Rock said, “If each bullet cost $5,000, there would be no more innocent bystanders.”

I am not advocating restricting ammo and it is not realistic for the gun culture to self-regulate. But you and I can look out for one another and make sure that if we see someone we care about (or even if we don’t care about them) doing something homicidal or suicidal, help them or get them help.

It’s true that if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have them. It would also be nice if bad people intent on using any kind of weapons, including guns, for evil purposes, were prosecuted to the full extent of well written laws. It would also be nice if law abiding people were not punished for the behavior of bad people. It would also-also be nice if laws were the same from state to state, specifically gun laws.

Why can’t extremists on both sides somehow hammer out reasonable gun laws? In the Oscar Award winning movie Marriage Story, there is a line where a divorce lawyer says, “If we start from a place of reasonable, and they start from a place of crazy, when we settle, we will be somewhere between reasonable and crazy.”

In this so-called gun debate, both extremes are so scared to lose ground, they both start from a place of crazy. Do you remember when Beto O’Rourke said “Hell Yes! We’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47…?” Opposing that, the National Rifle Association basically claims the 2nd Amendment means “if you can fog a mirror, you can have a gun.” Both proclamations are ridiculous and both players know it! This is playground politics at its worst! The fastest way to build up support for a cause is to have a common enemy. Short term gain for some… but in the long term, we all lose. These ineffective emotional appeals serve to drive all of us even further apart. Why do people shouting from the rooftops do this? you might wonder. It’s because they do not want the conflict to end. The conflict is good for business.

If we were able to resolve everyone’s concerns about guns, a lot of people would be out of a job. There are those who rely on high emotions and resulting investments and donations to make a living. Take away the problem and they must find other work. The NRA would be reduced to just educating people about gun safety and marksmanship skills, which was their original charter anyway. Politicians would have to rely on other critical controversies such the environment, the economy and human rights. These are very important issues – but with smaller headlines, they are less evocative.

I was talking to one of my more conservative shooting friends not that long ago, and I am sure that there were many things about which we did not see eye to eye. But we both agreed that the most sensible way to find a solution to the challenges brought about by gun ownership was to first find common ground. We agreed that A) Violence is bad for society – gun violence even worse. B) As with anything, there must be limits. Who should set and enforce the limits is a question that we as a society need to decide, based on majority rule. C) Nothing will change until we all stop shouting and posturing and instead start listening and acknowledging each other’s concerns and fears. Only then will problem solving begin at all.

In the 2008 landmark case: District of Columbia vs Heller, the Supreme Court opined, by a 5-4 decision, that the 2nd Amendment was intended to allow individuals to own firearms without having to be enrolled in “a well-regulated militia.” But even Judge Scalia said that nothing about the opinion should “be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions of possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Why do I care so much? I like shooting targets and I enjoy pistol competitions. There are people who like fencing and sword competitions. There are people who like riding horses in dressage competitions. All three of these crafts have their roots in warfare at one time or another. I enjoy the sporting aspect of all three pursuits thought I do not like nor condone war. I also respect the individual power that is conveyed by possession of a firearm as well as the tremendous responsibility that it entails. It would be nice if the individual power conveyed by this possession was solely used to neutralize hostility – nothing more.

It would be nice if the gun culture was able to self-regulate like the underwater diving culture. Until the time that both sides find common ground, it’s up to you and me to try to make sense of it all.

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