Politicians were quick to politicize the tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon last week. President Obama claimed that “we know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths,” yet fails to mention that when looking at gun related homicides, 3 of the 5 states with the lowest rates have little restrictions on gun rights (Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota). Now, all of this is not to say that one state is better than the other. It merely says that “common sense” doesn’t necessarily dictate what the reality we face is. After all, according to the Pew Research Center, 56% of Americans polled believe gun related deaths are higher than in the 90s when in fact the reality is we have seen a 49% decrease since the peak in 1993.

The shooting at Umpqua Community College does demonstrate two demonstrable facts that Young Republicans have to understand if we are to have a reasonable conversation. First, we as young conservatives have to be willing to engage people on a deeper level than “guns save lives.” That’s rhetoric meant to confirm our own feelings instead of engaging those that differ with us. Once again, we have to face the reality that the people we are communicating with increasingly don’t see the world that way, and if our only goal is to lecture them on why they are wrong then we will undeniably lose the argument, and with it our rights under the 2nd Amendment.

Second, we have to begin to view our rights as a byproduct of a deeper philosophical foundation – protecting life is our purpose. Violence of any sort is what we should be striving to prevent, and this means building off last month’s commentary about engaging people. Valerie Weiner writes about how young people may join violent gangs as a result of marginalization, highlighting the hope that comes from building bonds with other people (and the impact that lacking those bands has). More than 3 million children witness domestic violence, and it costs our country $37 billion annually in legal, health, and lost productivity. Preventing this should be our goal first and foremost.

The key for any of our efforts is to end violence and build a tangible concept of hope. That tangible concept manifests itself in the role we take in lifting our fellow Georgians up when they feel tired, afraid, and hopeless. President Obama’s quick politicization of the Oregon shooting is but one consequence of the larger problem. Laziness. Pure intellectual and spiritual laziness, which is a risk we conservatives have to recognize, too. Responding to the president with more rhetoric about the 2nd Amendment won’t protect our rights. Protecting lives will, and the best way we can do this is preventing violence towards our fellow Georgians at every opportunity we get. Young Republicans can, have, and will take a leading role in that endeavor.


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