Monday, February 17, 2014

Making a Life: Balancing Between Fear and Trust

To live, we gotta get out there.
Living -- getting out there and moving along -- is not easy. There are people who can't do it. In the extreme case, they can't leave the house -- it's called agoraphobia -- because fear of "out there" shuts their lives down. They stay home because they feel safe there.

That's no way to make a life.

I remember with a bit of pride those days as a young adult when I made decisions that shaped how I would eventually make my life. The decisions I made that worked, I repeated. Those that didn't, well, I repeated some of those, too. We don't always get things right.

But I learned that taking risks had rewards, and taking risks basically amounted to overcoming fear and trusting that I could shape the anticipated outcomes.

This balance, between fear and trust, is how we make a life. So what makes me think of this just now? Not so surprisingly, it's looking at the question of uncontrolled, unregulated access to guns.

I fear guns. Every statistic I can find says guns make you less safe. Since I can't find statistics that prove that guns make me safer, I believe my fear is reasonable.

Yet American culture seems to be built differently, for better or for worse. The 2nd Amendment said "guns good." I don't really believe it said that, but that's how it's been interpreted in the American context, so there we are.

The question then becomes, why do some people love guns? I don't, but others do. Why?

They trust guns. They've chosen to make their lives around that trust. I may think that it's a misguided trust, but, once again, there we are.

Fear of cops is rational, right?
I like the concept of police officers. It's comforting to think there are people around town whose job it is to keep people safe by enforcing laws, which sometimes require them to stop people from doing bad things. When they do that, great. It assures public safety. I'm all in favor of it.

Police make me uneasy, though. Since they're armed, I fear they might shoot me. That is not an irrational fear. Police shoot people from time to time. Sometimes they're right to shoot them, and sometimes they're wrong. For me, rationally, police fall into the category of people who can shoot me.

I don't have a gun. I don't fall into the category of people who can shoot me. The statistics show, clearly, that my not having a gun in my home makes it less likely that I'll get shot. So, I'm in the category of people who have wisely decided not to have a gun. This decision has, statistically, made me safer.

People who have guns fall into the category of people who believe it makes them safer. They trust guns to do that. They feel, regardless what the statistics say, that they are in the category of people who will not accidentally shoot themselves or their families or neighbors or even strangers. They do feel up to the challenge of deciding when to intentionally shoot someone. They trust, in advance, that they'll make the right decision. Statistically, they don't tend to get the result they expect, but in the lives they've chosen to make, they believe they'll get the outcomes they want. They'll be safe, someone else will be dead or no longer a threat.

This is how a gun owner decides to make his or her life. If they're rational and well-intentioned, then I have to respect that their decision is not crazy, and they have a right, in our society, to live this way.

Here's the nub of it: There is risk and then there's risk. When I choose, as I have several times in my life, to start a business, the risks are that I'll succeed or fail, and I'll have the money to pay the mortgage or the rent or buy food, etc. and the only people that get hurt if I fail will be me or those around me that depend on me succeeding.

When a gun owner -- or a police officer -- decides to possess a gun and as a result of that decision ends up with the likely outcome that he uses that gun, a piece of metal designed for the very purpose of killing someone flies out into the universe. It can kill someone, and in my world I think of that person as being me. And let's keep in mind that the gun's only purpose is to send a bullet flying out into the universe and kill someone.

Owning a home is nice.
So, we all choose to make our lives. Some people don't ever buy a home even if they could afford to. It's just a risk they don't choose to take. Mortgages are scary things. If you don't believe that, then you shouldn't buy a home. I've bought homes before. I own one now. I don't fear them because I feel I know how to handle them.

I don't have that feeling about guns. When I look around the neighborhood, I see lots of homes. Since I like my neighborhood, that's a cheery thing. About a third or less of Americans own guns. Do a third of my neighbors own guns? That's likely. And that's not a cheery thing, it's a scary thing.

Since statistics clearly prove that the existence of those guns -- despite the trust their owners place in them -- do not make us safer, then the fewer the better.

Licensed to kill (choose not to, okay?)
The guns, however, are not going away, and that's the biggest case for regulation. If gun owners are required to be registered, tested, trained, licensed, retested, retrained, relicensed -- just like car drivers are -- then we'll all be safer, most especially the gun owners themselves who actually take on more risk by buying the guns in the first place.

I choose to make my life without guns because I fear them, not trust them. Those who feel differently should do the responsible thing: encourage gun control, not fight it. We'll all be safer.

I rest my case concerning guns. Rather uneasily, I might add. Still, I go out into my neighborhood, out into my world, to take risks, because that is how I choose to make my life. It's what I, all of us, do. Just don't shoot me, because I gotta be out here.

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