“I suppose you’ll be writing about that horrible school shooting just like everybody else,” my old friend Julian Frye commented when I ran into him unexpectedly during a trip to the store last Saturday.

I responded with a gloomy shrug of my shoulders. “To be honest, I really haven’t decided yet,” I said. “I mean, yeah, definitely feel like I should say something, even if it turns out to be nothing more than a catharsis for my own sorrow and anger and frustration. But nothing that has come to mind so far seems adequate to address the enormity of this tragedy. All those years of communications classes and I just can’t seem to find the words.

“Besides, every time I do try to express my thoughts or feelings after some terrible event like this has taken place, the only thing that it seems to accomplish is to draw people out of the woodwork who act like they’ve really been itching to have an argument with me. I still remember the hate mail I got back a decade ago after I devoted a column to talking about my two sons’ reaction to the 9-11 terrorist attacks. After all these years that STILL doesn’t make any sense to me; I just don’t think I have it in me to willingly put myself in that position anymore.”

A slight “harumph” sounded in Julian’s throat – that expression of disapproval that those of us who know and love him have become so familiar with over the years. “Never thought I’d see the day when you would actually back away from a good debate,” he told me.

“Yeah, well, world-weariness will do that to a fellow,” I responded. “Besides, I’ve found that it’s hard to debate when you’re not all that certain which side of the issue you’re actually on.”

That seemed to pique his interest. “Please explain,” he said.

I paused for a moment, trying to put my thoughts into terms that even I could understand. “I sit back and listen to the calls for increased gun control, and I can’t help agreeing with them,” I told him. “I’ve said many times – and it’s the God’s honest truth – that I am NOT anti-gun. My father had guns in the house when we were growing up, and he made sure he taught me and my younger brothers how to use them and how to respect them. I have not once ever in my life said or even thought that guns should be outlawed.

“I am, however, anti-stupid. And I truly believe that allowing certain kinds of guns to be readily available to anyone other than military or law enforcement personnel. is just that – stupid. I don’t understand the fascination in weapons that can not only bring down a deer but also grind it up for you. I also don’t understand why there should be such resistance to the idea of stricter requirements for gun owners. The same people who argued so passionately in favor of requiring that people take drug tests before being approved as food stamp recipients cry ‘Foul!’ whenever someone suggests that people be required to undergo some kind of psychological testing before being allowed to own a gun.”

“Those are valid points,” Julian agreed. “The idea of requiring such testing – along with proper safety training and periodic reevaluation, and perhaps even mandatory liability insurance just like car owners are required to have – doesn’t seem unreasonable. And it certainly doesn’t seem to represent any kind of legitimate threat to the right to participate in a well regulated militia under our Constitution. So what’s the problem?”

“The problem,” I answered, “is that the gun advocates do have at least one equally valid point. Stricter laws aren’t going to keep the guns out of the hands of the criminals any more than Prohibition put an end to the sale or consumption of alcohol. At the same time, though, I don’t subscribe to the idea that arming more people is going to curtail gun violence; I can’t quite shake the thought of the additional carnage that might have ensued at that movie theatre in Colorado if 50 or 100 people had started shooting back willy-nilly inside such a small, confined, darkened space.”

Julian nodded. “You’re right,” he said. “That’s a good point, too.”

I let out a bit of a sigh. “You’re not helping.”

A look of faux surprise crossed his features. “I’m sorry, were you looking for easy answers?” he asked. “I’ve got a news flash for you, buddy: There aren’t any. I certainly don’t know the answer; I’m not even sure I know all the questions. If I did I’d be running the show and a LOT of things would be different in this ol’ universe. Near as I can tell, the only thing we can do is hope that men and women of good conscience on both sides of the issue will discuss and debate and find some workable middle ground.”

“And if they can’t?”

He paused a moment before answering. “If they can’t,” he said glumly, “then at some point I guess it probably won’t matter anymore. Merry Christmas, by the way...”

(Copyright © 2012, by John A. Small)