Gun control: a conversation not confrontation

Gun control brings along with it many definitions according to sociology professor Dr. Michael Dalecki. Dalecki says there are as many “as people in this room.” As part of the Liberal Arts and Education faculty forum series, Dalecki presented “Cognitive Dissonance and Gun Control. Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gun.” His respondent was Dr. Shane Drefcinski, the humanities department chair and philosophy professor.

“What do ‘you’ mean by gun control?” Dalecki asked the audience. In his PowerPoint, Dalecki suggested some answers to the question. The answers consisted of suggesting government agents going door to door and taking guns away, taking some or all guns away and suggesting stricter registration requirements and background checks on all gun transfers.   

There was also a mention of “common sense” gun control, but what is “common sense”?

Dalecki discussed how he wrote columns for the Platteville Journal, argued against concealed carry and said he was very “anti-gun.” He also posed the question, “Why is it hard to change views?” This led to him questioning how other bans have fared and how organized crime feasted on prohibition. The same could be said on the war on drugs, all of which did not work.

Dalecki expressed how his ignorance was not helpful. He learned more about guns, bought a gun, dissembled and assembled and fear subsided. Dalecki passed out different parts of the gun he owned as well as some ammunition. He pointed out that the police chief in the audience had granted him permission to do so.  As he did so, he explained parts like the magazine, which holds ammunition and is inserted into the gun.   

“They [guns] can be scary if you don’t understand them,” Dalecki said. “If we don’t know, ignorance is fear. An AR-15 is not an assault rifle. AR stands for ArmaLite rifle.

Dalecki spoke about the common misconceptions of  gund. The AR-15 is actually a semi-automatic rifle which means only one bullet can be fired per squeeze of the trigger. An assault rifle on the other hand, is generally defined as a military rifle with the ability to be set to semi-automatic and full-automatic. The AR-15 does not have this option.    

“I have no illusions [the] that presentations would change overnight. Can we trust government to act in our best interests?” Dalecki asked.

He explained how many would say no, but it depends on many different things, like who or what is in charge. He also mentions the problem of emotion, how even he can impede ability to reason carefully and also mentioned of media sensationalizing gun violence. Towards the end of his presentation, Dalecki showed different clips from movies which showcased actors using guns in unrealistic ways.

In his last major point of the presentation, Dalecki talked about conversation versus confrontation. He mentioned a conversation he had with a friend who is also a professor here. They were talking about parking at Platteville and how they both had different views but walked away trying to better understand the other’s position.

Drefcinski had a presentation titled: “What can Philosophy offer to the debate on gun control?” Drefcinski started with the question, “What is Philosophy?” The word comes from the words philia and sophia. Philia means love, and sophia means wisdom. Together, they form “love of wisdom.” Drefcinski also explained the two branches of philosophy: logos and ethos.

He related quotes from philosophers like Socrates, to the matter of gun control, and mentioned how the quote “ignorance and errors are evil” relates to the topic of gun control.

After both presentations, a question and answer session took place. One person asked Dalecki how he would feel if the conversation was called gun regulation instead of gun control.

“I think it carries a different weight to it,” Dalecki said. “Does anyone know what a bump stock is? A bump stock allows a semi-automatic gun to act as if it is automatic. We have tremendous regulations against the ownership of semi-automatic weapons in this country, which implies obtaining and owning a bump stock would also be difficult.  You can own semi-automatic weapons, but you would have all types of licensing requirements. Should we regulate automatic weapons? I think there is a very good argument for that.”

Another student from the audience asked why, in the media, people always jump to the conclusion that the shooter is mentally ill.

“People want to have a reason. Otherwise life is just random,” Dalecki said.

Dalecki motioned to a psychiatrist in the audience to talk more about the mental health side of the gun control argument.

“People with mental illness are no more likely to be violent. Apparently, they are ten times more likely to be the victims of violence rather than perpetuating violence. Most of the shooters were talking about would not qualify as having a mental illness in the legal sense. You certainly can have some levels of people who cannot take care of themselves who probably are not responsible enough to be a gun owner. Of course, we can have the occasional individual who really is a paranoid schizophrenic and maybe is violent but mental illness is not the major issue,” they said.