Editor’s Note: Carol Costello is the host of “Across America With Carol Costello” on HLN. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.
Pump the brakes, progressives, and listen. Thanks to those activist kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the national conversation surrounding guns is evolving – and it’s evolving in a serious way. Some gun owners are already taking action.
If you are someone who is passionately fighting for gun control on social media or with your feet, keep it up. I’m not suggesting you take yourselves out of your activist role, I’m saying maybe, just maybe, it’s time to listen, too. Really listen.
As conservative talker and former Trump campaign manager, John Fredericks told me, “We cannot have the debate in the (Michael) Bloomberg fashion.” In other words, conservatives don’t want to preached to by liberals or independents on gun control.
Instead, he says the onus is on gun owners – like himself – to have a legitimate conversation about what can be done to curtail gun violence.
Fredericks is not the only gun owner who believes it’s time. Rick Peters, who owns a group of radio stations in Montgomery, Alabama, is all in.
“We are at a tipping point,” he told me. “The argument seems to be that we need these assault weapons to protect ourselves – which is frankly, nonsense.”
Peters owns an AR-15 and plans to get rid of the weapon. “This is a silly discussion,” he says. “Nobody needs an assault weapon.”
He also owns a shotgun and a handgun and is now in favor of an assault-weapon ban.
“This is not about a gun grab, this is not about not supporting the Second Amendment,” he says. “This is about what kind of gun do you have [a] right to own.”
Other gun owners disagree with Peters on that, but they, too, are willing to talk about gun control. Jason Cazes owns a gun store in Seattle, Washington. “I don’t think either side trusts each other,” Cazes told me. “All we have heard is there’s going to be a common-sense solution, but all that leads to is, ‘We want to take away your ARs and high-cap mags.’”
That doesn’t mean Cazes is opposed to common-sense solutions. In fact, he’s not waiting for the left or the right to have a come-to-Jesus moment. He is taking matters into his own hands and changing the rules when it comes to buying guns in his store.
“I changed policy yesterday,” he said. “To buy a long gun, including an AR, you have to be 21 years old, unless… you’re active duty or honorably discharged military. You would be exempted because you have been through boot camp and know how to be a man and use this gun.”
I have talked with other gun owners, even members of the National Rifle Association, who also want change. But the preaching, on both sides of the gun issue, must stop.
So, talk. Do not villainize.
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I trust that every American cares about our children. As Fredericks told me, “I am a father of three, I am a pro-Second Amendment. I was chairman of the Trump campaign in Virginia. But you know … those who believe in the sanctity of the Second Amendment have to be able to have a legitimate conversation about this issue.”
Many gun-rights advocates are having that conversation. So, gun-control activists, keep protesting – keep pushing for change – but don’t forget to stop every now and again to listen. Because the conversation is, at the very least, progressing – on both sides.