Framing the issue

This is an interesting suggestion on the gun control debate from Tim Phillips:

Is there another way to frame this issue?

For the last 20 years I have led an international organization that works in war torn countries to negotiate an end to conflict. In places like Northern Ireland, El Salvador, South Africa and the Balkans, groups once driven to violence to defend their beliefs have put down their weapons, sat down at a table, overcome their differences and negotiated. Moving beyond conflict is, indeed, possible.

One dynamic I have observed present in all successful negotiations — which is missing from our current debate over gun control — is a recognition of the role of sacred values.

Phillips claims the two sides don’t really understand each other. While I’m certain the anti-gun people don’t understand us I think we understand them reasonably well. Of course they could be saying the same thing about us.

I am skeptical that progress can be made when the other side has irrational beliefs such as using guns to protect armored cars, banks, and politicians is a good idea but using them to protect school children is a bad idea. But I would be extremely interested to sit down and have such a discussion with an mediator who has experience with the techniques described by Phillips.


14 thoughts on “Framing the issue

  1. This country was founded based on the recognition of the role of sacred values, that anyone could hold their sacred values and live by their sacred values so long as doing so doesn’t trespass on anyone else’s right to do the same.

    This of course has made a lot of people very angry, namely those who find it impossible to leave other people alone and those who would place themselves above other people to justify the initiation of force against them. To mediate with such people, to lend them credence and legitimacy, to validate their behavior through your actions, is to encourage the most evil behavior.

    Should a rape victim mediate with a serial perpetrator such that they should live together in “peace”? Should honest citizens mediate with criminal gangs? Did Neville Chamberlain improve the General Welfare of the British citizen by mediating with Hitler? No. He guaranteed mass death and destruction as the only alternative to surrender and slavery. It may very well result in your being nailed to a cross, but there is a time to make a stand. Some things far more important than mere conflict avoidance.

    “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” — Winston Churchill

    If Chamberlain were strong enough to say such a thing at the right time, WW II may have been much less painful. It is possible to circumvent great evil with such resolve.

    And look at what it took to stop the Germans and the Japanese once they had gotten so far as to convince themselves they could rule the world. Look at how far they had to fall.

    Germany’s infrastructure had been all but obliterated, the Allies ruled the skies and were on the outskirts of Berlin, the majority of their young men had been killed, people were starving, boys and old men were sent out to die for a hopeless cause, dozens of whole cities lay in total ruin, and still they fought.

    Japan was gripped by mass starvation, her economy and infrastructure in utter ruin. Tokyo had been whipped off the map. America, which hadn’t been touched and was producing a bomber an hour and a jeep every thirty seconds, had operating bases off Japan’s shores within easy striking distance and ruled the skies, her navy was essentially gone, two cities had been incinerated with nuclear bombs, and still the generals wanted to keep fighting so much that they had mutinied, and it took a miracle to get the emperor’s surrender recordings out of the imperial palace that they had surrounded.

    You don’t mediate with socialists, Fascists, communists, Progressives, jihadists or imperialists. You defeat them or die trying, because the only alternative is slavery and death. You’re going to die anyway, so you’d best die for what is right.

    Our problem of course was that while defeating the Krauts (Fascists) and the Nips (imperialists), America had already been taken over by Progressives who think just like them, and had made a deal with the devil in Russia. Our current, sad state of affairs had already been determined. It was a done deal. Now we have to fight the same fight all over again, because we never finished it. This time it will be far worse.

    • I have no interest in reaching a compromise or any such thing with them. I want to be able to “get inside their head”. I want to understand them better.

      • You can’t compromise with people that will never be satisfied, you can only destroy them.

        • What we want has already been “compromised” away. Now they’re after what we need.

          But that’s beside the point. It’s yet another straw-man. Fundamentally, it’s the “Bill of Rights,” not the “Bill of Needs.” In practical terms, from a self-defense standpoint, I must be allowed to have arms equal to or greater than the arms others may bring to bear against me. Anything else puts the law-abiding at a disadvantage compared to the law-breaking.

    • “We make compromises in our demands to obtain what we need as opposed to obtaining what we want.”

      • “Detente is what the turkey has with the farmer — until Thanksgiving.”

      • We’ve been the only ones actually compromising anything for the last 80 years.

        “Unilateral compromise” is no compromise at all.

        RETURNING things that were already compromised is no compromise on the part of the ones who demanded they be taken in the first place.

        It’s time for the anti-rights bigots to give a little.

        Let’s look at a historical analogy. The fact that African-Americans, American Indians, and other racial minorities were gradually given equal legal rights over a LONG course of over a century doesn’t overlook the fact that their rights shouldn’t have been denied in the first place — so RETURNING those rights to them was not a “compromise” on the part of the white population. “Allowing” pagans to set up houses of worship in the United States is no compromise on the part of the Christian population, either — it was wrong to deny them the same rights of free and peaceable worship that Christians had always enjoyed.

        There is no possible way for anti-rights bogots to claim they have EVER compromised on ANYTHING related to guns, since the _only_ firearms restrictions that originally existed consisted of either:

        1. Hunting rules such as limits on the carry of firearms outside one’s own lands as a punishment for poaching (sorry, but regulation of recreation isn’t an infringement, and other than substinence hunters, it’s recreational and elective these days)

        2. Prohibitions on negligent misues (such as firing a gun in an urban setting without good cause)

        3. Prohibiting gun possession by convicted felons and individually determined traitors (since these were generally punished by capital punishment, allowing such to keep ANYTHING, including their own life, was already a measure of mercy)

  2. He suggests his organization has had a hand in Northern Ireland, El Salvador, South Africa and the Balkans. I don’t know much about it but my instincts scream hucksterism.

    In short, facts and figures hurt rather than helped the case. …we call on social scientists to elucidate the values behind our beliefs about guns.

    I suspect that translates into “we can’t win with facts so instead lets get social scientists to yell guns = wieners!, call it neuroscience and then try to get our way.”

    Gun control vs gun rights are in agreement that murder is bad while, say, Northern Ireland included a significant number of people who did not commit murder or violence but supported it financially and morally. I wonder if his organization’s interventions only included the people who were already opposed to the violence and excluded the supporters of violence?

    I can’t help but notice he is comparing gun owners to terrorists and revolutionaries while ignoring those who think it’s ok to kill for an iphone, for revenge, to get rid of witness, for status among peers, for someone looking at you the wrong way, etc.

  3. Notice his framing is explicitly aimed at engaging “a conversation about gun control” as opposed to “convince people there is a better path to take than murder”

    • We could “engage in a conversation about gun control” and the end result could be that everyone agrees it sounds good at first thought but it doesn’t work and is actually a bad thing.

      I’d be willing to have the discussion up to the point where they say, as I have had happen before, “Well, I just don’t want anyone to have guns around me.” At which point I tell them there used to be a lot of people that didn’t want people in mixed marriages around them, or to be near people with dark skin either. But it’s time they got over their bigotry and joined the civilized world.

      At that point I think the conversation would be over.

      • No, they wouldn’t get the connection, and they’d say YOU have it wrong, and YOU need to give up your bigotry and hatred of peace. Give up your paranoid delusions and fear, they’d say, and join civilization that coexists with all skin colors.
        They are to invested in being right to see the connection the way you intend.

  4. Remember, peace takes two willing parties, War only takes one!

    The other side tries to convince us that the ability to compromise is what makes us civilized. The person who compromises on their ‘Right’ has lost everything, while his opponent has lost nothing.

  5. I think Tim is playing up his part in conflict resolution by deliberately not talking about getting people to the table in the first place.

    You know what was in Northern Ireland? The British Army. In El Salvador? SOCOM. In the Balkans? IFOR and KFOR. In South Africa? The SADF.

    Parties don’t come to the negotiating table until they are forced their through military necessity. To get people to talk about ending conflict, you need to be able to make the conflict so horrible to them that they are willing to give something sacred up to end it.

    That is a fundamental truth of politics. And politics is just bloodless war.

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