Eric Conrad: We’re just haggling over price

I’m a Southern, white, gun-owning male who worries one day my family will have to pay the price for America’s unwillingness to stand up to the gun lobby.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

I grew up bouncing BBs off the backs of the alligators in Lake Newnan outside of Gainesville, Fla. I went to high school in Jacksonville, where gun stores outnumber hospitals. In college, my friends and I would go trap shooting on Sunday mornings before getting breakfast.

I have four younger brothers who mean the world to me. One lives in Denver, a short drive from Aurora, Colo. The other three live in Jacksonville, just blocks from a hospitality district where days ago a young father of two was gunned down outside of the restaurant where he worked.

I’ve worked for political campaigns and candidates that have faithfully stuck to the “We aren’t interested in limiting a person’s Second Amendment rights” line. We used to say “Pod 1 Loves Guns” when I worked for the Obama Campaign, a reference to my North Florida values.

Let me be clear: I am not opposed to personal gun ownership. I own three guns and enjoy shooting.

What I am opposed to is the gun lobby’s stranglehold on our elected leaders, a lock that stops meaningful legislation that could save lives.

Right now, more than 90 percent of Americans support reforms like extended universal background checks. When’s the last time over 90 percent of Americans supported anything other than blue jeans and apple pie?

But nothing has changed. There have been more than 70 mass shooting just in schools since the Newtown Massacre in 2012 and Congress hasn’t passed any laws to reduce gun violence. I’m not talking about national registries or magazine bans. I’m talking about a five- to six-minute wait to determine whether a gun buyer is a threat to others.

How much is one innocent life worth? Ten gun buyers waiting a few minutes longer to purchase a firearm? Twenty-five buyers? One hundred?

I’m not going to tell you about how other countries have faced similar crises and collectively made the decision to enact reform. We aren’t other countries. As Americans we deal with issues at our own rate based on our own values.

Instead, I’ll point to an issue the South just tackled: the Confederate flag. Since revisionist historians in the late 1800s started to recast the role of the South in the Civil War, it was pretty much an accepted fact that people were too divided over the flag for anything to ever change.

… and then it did. In a matter of weeks, the Confederate flag was relegated to the dustbin of history in South Carolina, and companies that understood its harmful symbolism to so many Americans began pulling products from their shelves.

The change came at the cost of nine more innocent lives, but it happened.

This all reminds me of an old joke that has been retold by George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, and others over the past century.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one:

The gun lobby walks up to the American people and asks, “Would you allow me to sell as many of my products in an unregulated manner, including to the mentally unstable and criminally minded, if it only cost you a few tens of thousands of deaths a year?”

The American People respond: “Of course. No one should limit our liberty.”

The gun lobby then asks, “What if that included an average of two mass shootings a month in elementary schools, movie theaters, and places of worship?”

The American People: “Of course not! We value the lives of innocent citizens. What kind of country do you take us for?”

Gun lobby: “We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over price.”

It’s a bit different, but the punchline is still the same.

Our lack of action as a country suggests that we don’t value the lives of innocent Americans over the minutes of inconvenience that potential gun buyers might face. So unless we are willing to start telling our elected leaders to pass background check reform, we might as well continue to just haggle over the price of innocent lives.

Eric Conrad, a sixth generation Floridian who grew up in North Florida, has worked on numerous electoral and issue campaigns in Florida. He has been recognized as one of Florida’s top 30 Under 30 Rising Political Stars by SaintPetersblog and was picked a Winner of the Year in 2014 by the Tampa Bay Times for his work during the cycle. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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