Gun owners, profiled in the March 18 Maine Sunday Telegram, are right in saying, “We sure as heck don’t want to be blamed for the other ills in society,” and “It’s important to see both sides.” The paper should be commended for airing both.

Those of us seeking to abolish guns (myself included) and gun owners can’t get anywhere by demonizing each other. We can start by agreeing: Most gun owners are responsible. With respect to gun violence, we differ: Many gun owners suggest that greater ownership will save lives, while abolitionists argue that more guns equal more deaths. Despite these radically different views, everyone agrees: We have a problem.

Abolitionists and gun owners also have this in common: Both view many gun control measures, from background checks to age restrictions, as minimally effective at best.

There is yet more common ground: Abolitionists worry about safety. On the other side, the National Rifle Association has over 100,000 gun instructors teaching safety throughout the country. That is impressive.

Here’s one area where we need to dialogue: With over 30,000 Americans shot to death each year, it’s clear that the NRA’s massive commitment to gun safety is a failure. For all that effort, we still have the highest rate of gun death per capita of any wealthy country in the world, over 10 per 100,000 in 2010.

As an abolitionist, I would ask gun owners and proponents of minimal gun control measures a simple question: How many American lives are worth the right to own a gun? My number is zero. What’s yours?

Greg Bates


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