Just about everything has been said about guns in the past month.

Because everyone has an opinion.

Yup, I’m getting to mine. If I can just figger out what it is.

I am one of the few people in the middle of this. That is, not entirely decided. And you should be too.

Let me explain.

My friend, who we’ll call “Brooke,” lives in Montana. We grew up together in the Rattlesnake Valley north of Missoula. She fed her horse in the morning then got on the bus. I fed my horse in the morning then got on the bus. The same bus.

Her dad was a doctor and my dad was a university professor, but at the time, that didn’t matter. I really looked up to her because she knew how to handle a horse. She was a professional. A barrel rider, the real deal. When you talk about girls who are horse-crazy you are not talking about Brooke. Brooke went beyond horse crazy. She was part horse. When she rode she actually became part of the horse.

While I lugged every Bronte sister’s book through the halls of Lincoln school where we both attended first and second grade, she was probably lugging horse pellets, those mechanically condensed lumps of green alfalfa that horses would nuzzle right into your coat pocket for. Brooke smelled like horses. I probably smelled like books.

My pop, well, we called him “papa,” would go hunting every fall for elk, antelope, venison. That’s all we ate. I don’t remember ever having beef. So, yes, we had guns around. We lived at the end of a dirt road on a hillside. No one ever came to visit… except some of Papa’s grad students, who always showed up just before dinnertime. I can’t remember ever seeing his gun. Or guns. Yes, we had a black bear on the back porch once. And a couple times on the front porch. Although they never figured out the doorknobs, I’m sure it gave my mother some comfort to know we had a gun. But I never saw it used.

I don’t know about Brooke, because I never went to her house—only for 4-H meetings. I don’t know if she ate beef. It didn’t matter.

 

Fast forward 40 years and Brooke has two beautiful daughters I see on Facebook circling the barrels on what looks like an overgrown monster quarterhorse. Brooke sees my two boys, one on scholarship to music school the other directing his first full-length feature film.

Her daughters are growing up in northwestern Montana, mine grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

You heard it coming: these are very different places.

I am posting encouragement to the kids protesting the death machines that have killed their classmates.

Brooke is railing for second amendment rights.

Yes, we live in different worlds. But are these mutually exclusive?

 

We are the same people inside. But she is talking about a hunting rifle for food or perhaps a handgun to deter the unknown—whether mountain lion, bear or burglar. People in cities must fear only humans. I can attest that when you live in a place where no one will hear your gunshot, your fears are different.

Living in the D.C. area I concluded that my family is safer if only one person has a gun. Because if two people have guns, whoever shoots first wins. And someone is going to lose.

I imagine my greatest threat in the suburbs is a burglar—a home invasion robber at worst—who will probably carry a gun. In the calm of the not-actual-situation, I imagine myself holding my hands in the air while the burglar takes my scant jewelry or worse, my children’s report cards off the fridge. I know that I may want to have a handgun so somewhere in the house, locked up, I might just have one.

What today’s discussion, perpetuated by the Parkland survivors, is a different tool. A gun that is a machine designed to kill scores of people in seconds. This is entirely different than what you see on a rack across the rear window of a Montana pickup truck.

THAT is why we are arguing. We are talking about different things.

It’s not the same out there, people. When you don’t hear the bus going by, you don’t hear the sirens or the metro or the traffic or the airplanes. When all you hear is the wind, it is really easy to have fears. Whether those fears are real is irrelevant. What you want is a gun. A simple device that will put you in charge. It actually will help you sleep. Even if you never use it.

So the threat of losing that, or the threat of losing your status as a law-abiding citizen because it is so important to you … that is a huge deal.

Tell that to those brave kids from Florida who are telling the adults to act like grown-ups. To them, it is simple: Guns. Are. Bad.

So clearly, we need to draw a line here.

And let’s each of us think about it before we decide where we stand. Do we really want only certain people to have guns? Do we really want to allow anyone to buy any kind of gun? What exactly is a gun and how does it work?

I don’t know where the line is. But it is not a fine line. It is broad and easy to see.

Sure, people I respect – a marine who knows more about repeating rifles and how long it takes them to melt from firing repeatedly than I want to know; a teacher who is terrified at the mere picture of a gun‑- these are different people with different skillsets and different ideology. They are both my friends. They are both patriotic Americans. Neither wants to see children die. AND both are capable of higher reason.

 

Let’s just cool off and listen to each other.

Let’s think about what the insurance industry has done for car safety.

Let’s think about why people take guns to schools.

Let’s think about the role of government as a force for good—a road builder, a protector of the whole. Let’s just think this through a little more.