“… and many of those gun laws have either an irrational basis to begin with or, as applied, are unconstitutional.”
“Those are just your opinions!”
“All you are doing, all you have been doing, is giving your opinions!”
The rabbi jumped in… “Okay, okay, the temperature in here is getting a little hot, and we need to cool it down. I know there are people in this room who disagree with some of the things being said, but we have to be respectful.”
“Thank you, rabbi, but I want to hear what the gentleman has to say; I’m not sure what I have said that would give him offense.”
“Fine! You want me to say it, I will say it! You have been doing nothing but spouting off your pro-gun opinions all night! I don’t want to hear them! Someone needs to call you out, and if no one else is going to do it, I will! You shouldn’t even be up there, I don’t want your OPINIONS!”
The rabbi jumped back in, “Let’s move onto the next question…”
This little exchange took place last Tuesday at a synagogue here in Orange County. I had been asked to participate in a “town hall” type of event where three of us would act as panelists to discuss the issue of gun violence. One of the participants was a Los Angeles City Attorney who evidently had a pre-existing relationship with the Moms Demand Action group that had a table by the doors leading into the event. The other was a probation officer (she actually has trained at Artemis), and was a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting.
Then there was little old me.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)
The demographics of the audience was interesting. About 50 people were in attendance and most of the attendees were in one of three “camps”: 30 to 45-year-olds who were decidedly anti-gun, but were interested in asking probative questions, and I suspect capable of being persuaded by logic. 50 to 70-year-olds who were decidedly pro Second Amendment, and then a small handful of aging ex-hippies who were completely antagonistic to firearms and prone to fits of hyperbolic hysteria when even the idea of firearm ownership was mentioned.
(As an aside, the synagogue is patrolled by armed security… go figure.)
Yes, there were occasional outbursts, the above-referenced one being the most egregious.
My initial thought was to subject this gentleman to a logical Socratic dialogue, a cross-examination of his emotive beliefs as it were… but I realized that to do so would probably make me come across as a bully.
Benjamin Franklin once famously chastised John Adams after Adams had insulted Rutledge on the Congressional floor. Franklin told Adams to never insult someone in public… always do it in private. When done in private, they might actually thank you for it… when done in public, they know you are serious.
It was exquisitely apparent that this gentleman was “serious.” From the look of embarrassment the other members of the congregation showed as he went on his emotional diatribe, the “seriousness” of his behavior did more to negate the value of his message than anything I could have additionally contributed.
One of the other emotional outbursts took place between two congregants. At the end of the program the rabbi decided that individuals should stand up and discuss their feelings. (Yes… this was a thing). The three of us on the stage, I guess, were just supposed to sit there and listen without responding. I’m still not exactly sure what the point of this was… but okay.
One of the members of the crowd, a woman I suspect who was in her early sixties, stood and agreed with a point that I had made earlier. Violence is something that has to do with the worsening of our culture. It’s not about the guns. She explained that when she was in high school she was part of the shooting team. Everyday they brought their guns to school and there was never any danger of a shooting. The very idea that students would use their guns against their classmates was as foreign as someone using a vehicle to drive over students in the school parking lot.
She was interrupted mid-sentence by one of the elder ex-hippies:
“Why did you bring your guns to school?!”
“I was in a shooting club. We all did.”
“You brought your guns to school?! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”
The ex-hippie began to feign hyperventilation and had to be calmed down by one of her comrades.
The woman looked on at her fellow congregant with a mixture of annoyance and disgust.
Dialogue only takes place when both sides are rational.
To believe that “minds were changed” would be the height of folly.
There were those in attendance who were silent throughout the proceedings. Perhaps they came to the event with a preexisting bias. Perhaps they were a pure tabula rasa. Either way, these individuals were shown the histrionics of the antis… maybe, just maybe, our arguments became a little more persuasive when colored by the outbursts of the opposition.