It’s understandable that in the aftermath of a tragedy, opinions can run strong on the matter of what policy response is appropriate to prevent recurrence. The gun control debate often features mass shooting survivors, and those who disagree often find themselves in the uncomfortable position of seeming dismissive of such advocacy.
The Parkland, Florida, students who are speaking out should be treated with respect and compassion, and they are entitled to make their case for the laws they feel could have made a difference. But it would be misleading and inaccurate to portray their reaction as uniformly representative of all those who have survived such incidents.
Here are just a few examples of people whose firsthand experiences with gun violence led them to the opposite conclusion: that many gun control laws are ineffective and even immoral.
Mass shooting survivors often come out against gun control
Patrick Neville was a survivor of the shooting at Columbine, at the time a sophomore at the school. He is now the Minority Leader in the lower house of Colorado’s state legislature, and has introduced a bill to end the prohibition of concealed-carry on campuses and repeal so-called “gun-free zones.”
Suzanna Hupp, as required by law at the time, left her handgun in her car in the parking lot of a Luby’s in Killeen, Texas in 1991. A gunman then entered the restaurant and killed 24, including her parents. She later became a state legislator and was one of the key figures behind the adoption of state laws across the country permitting concealed-carry, including in Texas in 1996.
Tom G. Palmer, one of the leading public intellectuals of the libertarian movement, was also one of the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit that eventually became DC v. Heller. In 1982, Palmer and his partner were accosted by a gang of about 20 young men who threatened their lives while yelling anti-gay slurs. They retreated when Palmer drew his concealed 9mm handgun, which he credited with saving his life: a case in point on the intersection of gun rights and gay rights.
Jesse Hughes is the frontman for the Eagles of Death Metal, the band that was performing at the Bataclan theater in Paris in 2015 when terrorists killed 90 in a shooting spree. He was livid and passionate in his denunciation of French laws, often held up as a model to emulate in the US, because they left the victims disarmed and defenseless. In an interview after the attack, he didn’t hold back, saying “I’ll ask you: Did your French gun control stop a single f***ing person from dying at the Bataclan?”
Both sides should give survivors the respect they deserve
By all means, let’s respectfully consider and appreciate the individual personal experiences that affect people’s position on this issue. But that is not a principle that entails any advantage for one particular side of the debate, because there is no monolithic unanimous opinion among those who’ve had harrowing personal experiences that inform their position
It would be interesting to see one of the major news networks host a discussion, hopefully conducted with politeness and civility, between individuals on both sides of the issue who have reached opposite conclusions after their similar experiences. It might be emotional, but it would give a more accurate presentation of the complex and nuanced reactions of different individuals.
The reality is that neither side has a monopoly here, and survivors of violent crimes can be just as divided as the public at large in their opinions on gun laws.
(Photo of dozens of mourning people captured during civil service in remembrance of November 2015 Paris attacks victims by Mstyslav Chernov via Wikipedia)