Feeling Compassion For a Gun Enthusiast After Vegas Shooting?
I am not a gun guy, but somehow I felt compassion for a gun enthusiast who was talking about the Las Vegas shooting. I went on Facebook Live to talk about it, and how my feelings relate to the soul traits of Compassion and Abstinence. The back story.
I listened to an interview on All Things Considered with a gun enthusiast who was clearly upset about the shooting. This is someone who owns a lot of guns. He freely admits that there is no reason for someone to have that many guns in a hotel room. And he was clearly upset about the shootings in Las Vegas, Newton CT and at the Pulse in Florida. In fact, he felt responsible, because he believes in responsible gun ownership, and it was painful to him that “one of their own” did such unspeakable evil. Mary Louise Kelly deserves an award for the quality of the interview, because she asked questions without judgement. (Listen here, starting around 5:30). The man explained that he once fired a fully automatic weapon at a gun range under supervision, and he liked it. It gave a rush, like driving a fast car. His argument was this: why should I be punished for the actions of one person?
I’ve heard that argument by lawmakers previously, and dismissed it out of hand. But here was a real person saying the words with feeling and pain. In that past I would have felt judgement, thinking “People are dying, and you don’t want to do anything because you think guns are fun?” But none of that as I listened, perhaps because I am practicing the Mussar Soul Trait of Compassion this week. Compassion teaches us to be close to another, so close that you feel what they feel. And I felt the anguish, and the seductive power of the rush.
I was reminded of the Soul Trait of Abstinence, as explained in The Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. (Watch starting around 4:00.) Abstinence is about giving something up on the path to self improvement. Gun owners can voluntarily give up something they like. Before we jump on them for not doing so, or for fighting to keep their ability for a fun hobby, lets look in the mirror. Are you ready to stop driving fast because another driver driving that fast might kill someone? Give a watch to see what I say about sexual abstinence too.
I still don’t agree with his position, but at least I understand it. He is not crazy, and is no more selfish than the rest of us. And I think I could talk to him in a respectful way. Being sympathetic to his point of view will go a long way towards getting him to take the high road, or at least understand that we have nothing against him if we want safety regulations on gun ownership.
Healing and reconciliation in this country will only take place when we learn to understand our fellow Americans.
Have a listen. Tell me what you feel. Can you feel compassion for gun a enthusiast? Do you get it now in a new way? Agree? Disagree?
Reply below and let me know.