Sunday, March 07, 2021

Guest column: Prioritize safety when legislating gun rights

by By Lisa Pavlock for The Lake County Leader
| January 21, 2021 12:30 AM

I have been studying House Bill 102, the new bill that was just passed in the Montana House. The bill would expand places where guns are permitted, namely universities, bars and restaurants.

I would like to start by revisiting the conversation about guns in public spaces. I feel we need to have an honest discussion about the future and how we can bring together gun owners and non-gun owners — a space where both sides feel they have a voice. Having grown up with my dad as a hunter, and now my sister and he both needing a gun since they work with animals on her farm, I’m OK with everyone having their own guns at home. But when did we start to accept having guns in public spaces has no limits? When we enter a public space, do we have to worry people on all sides of us are armed? This may make one person feel safer — it does not put me at ease.

Our society has been built and set up on the belief that we elect and appoint local governments that set up systems to help keep all people safe. If this system is not working, we can make adjustments. I believe we need to continue to revise these systems — they are not perfect. That is what the protests of the BLM have been expressing. Much like the framers of the Constitution said, the Constitution is not a perfect document, but it is the best they could do in their moment. And, when we as a society have seen there is a need for change, we have gone through the long process of adopting amendments — with one amendment not superseding another. No one I know in Montana is talking about taking away the Second Amendment. So the key is to have guns in a way that makes everyone feel safe.

Much in contrast to the common narrative of the moment, we are living in one of the safest periods in history (see Steven Pinker’s book “Enlightenment Now”). So, it sounds like we need to work on how we can make both sides more protected. But, building up our arsenal of weapons as individual citizens only feels like a never-ending arms race which, in the end, will not bring about more safety. We need fair and honest discussions in which we are able to have both sides be heard and make real, lasting changes. We do not need more guns in public spaces; we need more safety.

Lisa Pavlock of St. Ignatius is a former Democratic candidate for Montana House District 93.