Jumping the Gun on Breaking News

Jumping the gunAnother day, another tragedy involving guns.

That means social media erupted on the subject. No, we didn’t know the facts of the case shortly after the slayings. It may take days to learn all the pertinent information. The blur of misinformation and conjecture immediately following events like this is profound, particularly in our digital age.

That didn’t stop people, including fellow dads, from posting the most incendiary comments on blogs, social media and the like. We’re not talking rage against the shooter or prayers for the victims and their families. Both reactions are justified and appropriate. The posts I read screamed against 2nd amendment supporters — even though we didn’t know if the strictest gun laws in the nation would have made an ounce of difference.

Part of me wanted to respond, to answer with both reason and measured force. What about all the violence that occurs in gun-free zones? The tension between our freedoms and mental health concerns, a far thornier issue we’ve only begun to explore? What reasonable measures can be taken that will truly help in the future, not just make us feel better as if we actually made positive change?

I held my fire – no pun remotely intended. And it’s something I hope to teach my children when they’re old enough to engage in similar social media scrums. Wait for the facts. Know when an argument is – and isn’t – worth waging.

When to Fold ’em

I’ve engaged in enough partisan battles to know that minds are rarely changed, particularly during the height of a controversy. In fact, those arguments too often make matters worse. What I want my boys to do is to understand the other side when they opine. More importantly, they shouldn’t assume the worst about those with whom they disagree – unless there’s substantial proof to back that up.

It’s the opposite of what I’m reading this week.

I remember first meeting some of my future wife’s liberal friends early in our courtship. When they learned I wrote for The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, some dubbed me a “fascist” without knowing a single thing about me.

Years later, another of my wife’s friends described me as a conservative but quickly added, “but he’s really nice.” Really? I’m not a monster because I have a different vision of the way government should run? Where do I send the “thank you” card? This was before Twitter and Facebook made public discourse uglier.

I’m seeing that kind of rush to judgment now in light of the tragedy, the kind that shuts down rationale, reasonable debate just when we need it most. No one wants a repeat of this scenario, no matter where you stand on gun rights. The very least we can do is take a breath and, more importantly, assume our fellow men and women also want these news flashes to stop, too. Only from there can we work on possible solutions together.

photo credit: IMG_8135 via photopin (license)


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