My thoughts on the gun issue

Updated: 2 days ago


If you’ve ever run for office, you know that part of the experience is getting a plethora of candidate surveys in your in box. Unless you aren’t doing anything else with your life, it’s impossible to answer all the surveys.


So far this election cycle, I have received three survey requests from gun rights organizations. Having looked at these during previous runs for office, I’ve decided to take a pass this time (despite the thinly veiled threats of mobilizing their organization against me if I don’t respond). The questions don’t allow for areas of grey, and my experience is public policy in any area isn’t as simple as some conservatives claim.


However, people do deserve an answer on where I stand on the Second Amendment issue, so here goes.


One memory I have of growing up in rural Cache Valley is taking a hunter’s safety course as a Scout. Even as a young boy, I remember how impressed I was with the NRA instructor and the emphasis the organization put on the responsibilities of gun ownership.


Of course, that was about 50 years ago.


Things have changed in that 50 years; gradually, so those invested in the organization may not have noticed. But from an outsider’s point of view, I am hearing a lot more about the rights of gun owners, and unlike the NRA of my childhood, not much about responsibility.


Why might that be? I have a theory. It’s just one guy’s opinion, but here it is.


As a lifelong engineer in manufacturing, I understand something about product reliability and longevity. One thing you have to admit about firearms; they are the ultimate durable good. They simply don’t wear out. Many gun owners proudly use firearms passed down from their grandfathers.


There’s a business model problem with that fact, however. Surveys show that there are more guns in America than there are people; over 300 million. Does America really need more than one gun per person, especially since most Americans don’t own a single gun? I have some empathy for the gun manufacturers; how do create an ongoing business plan when your products never wear out?


The difference between the National Rifle Association of my youth and the NRA in 2020 has a lot to do with that business plan. By stoking anger among gun owners, firearms manufacturers use the NRA and other organizations to keep people buying guns. The anger created by the election of Barack Obama was a financial boon to the firearms industry. Conversely, the election of Donald Trump, who echoes the rhetoric of the gun lobby, has been a financial disaster for them.


I would celebrate an organization of gun owners that returned to the principles of the NRA of my youth; an organization that gave equal weight to the responsibilities of gun owners as their rights, that was independent of the firearms industry, and that admitted a balance between Second Amendment rights and the rights of my grandchildren to not be killed in their classroom.


Some of you are probably asking: So, does Steve support gun control legislation? I will answer this question the same as any other: Show me the data. Even with something as emotional as protecting our children in their schoolrooms, I am not one to support ineffective legislation just to make a political point, whether it’s from the right or left. I’m looking for effective solutions, and we need to do the work to figure out what those solutions are. But despite the difficulty, we need to get to work. In the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: "When we have conquered this—and we will—may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger, freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught—not terrified they will be shot—and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice."


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