Had a conversation today that I couldn't win


Mr White
May 2, 2008, 02:42 PM
I started working in a different department last July. There are over 1000 people in this department and I still haven't met all of them.

I knew there was a guy in the department who lost his son in the VT shooting. I met him this morning. We talked about different things at first, mostly hockey and people he knew from the place I used to work. Then I saw his son's picture on his desk and told him how sorry I was for his loss. He told me how hard the past year has been for him and his family and some of what they were going through. I can't even begin to imagine how he must feel.

After a few minutes, the talk turned to guns. He told me that he used to be an NRA member but that he's not any more because they had turned into the National Machinegun Association and feel that everyone should be allowed to own any gun they want. He went on to say that although he felt the 2nd A was our individual right, why would people need to have a Glock semiautomatic handgun? He was totally against carrying on campus. He didn't see why people should be able to own semiautomatic guns that were meant only for killing people.

I'm usually not at all shy when it comes to telling antis my thoughts about guns and gun control. I pretty much enjoy the chance to piss them off, but today I could say nothing. I knew what I wanted to say. I knew what I should say, but I just couldn't say any of it to a guy who's lost so much and been through what he has.

How do you even begin to talk up our cause in a situation like that?

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May 2, 2008, 02:47 PM
You handled the situation well. The wound is still fresh and he'll be better able to sort out his real feelings as time passes.

May 2, 2008, 02:48 PM
I suppose sometimes you need to gauge when the appropriate time for debate is..

This morning probably was not it. Especially since it was the first time meeting him.

Maybe someday he will move beyond his grief. Maybe not though.

May 2, 2008, 02:50 PM
I agree, well done. The only thing that could have come out of that if you had done differently would be to further alienate the guy.

May 2, 2008, 02:52 PM
Sounds like you used good judgment to me.

May 2, 2008, 02:53 PM
I think you exercised very good judgment sir. When the emotions of losing someone are still so evident its wise to just leave it alone.

May 2, 2008, 02:54 PM
I'll second what everyone here has said. I think you exercised brilliant judgement in your restraint.

Snapping Twig
May 2, 2008, 02:55 PM
Discretion is the better part of valor.

You did the right thing.

May 2, 2008, 02:56 PM
YOu did good. He was in no frame of mind to understand facts/logic/truth.
You can't argue facts with people who are emotional.
In his pain he can NOT think ratioally. The media/others have taken advantage of his pain/loss.
I wonder if he ever was a NRA member (for more then one yr) if he thought a Glock was a machine gun.

May 2, 2008, 02:59 PM
You handled the situation as well as it could be handled. The anti gun movement is primarily charged by emotion more than logic, and this man's loss would only add to this.

That said, nothing really excuses the illogical behavior he displayed, and I don't know if I would have handled it as well as you. I lost my mom a year and a half ago in a car accident. I know what it is like to try and understand a loss, to want something you can put a finger or cast blame on. But I am not out crusading against cheap Korean imports, deer, or icy roads. Sometimes, you have to admit that crap happens, even, or esp, to good people.

Mr White
May 2, 2008, 05:01 PM
Thanks, all. After I talked with him and was walking back to my office, at some level I began to think I had failed our cause by not being more outspoken, but deep down I was pretty sure I did the right thing. Thanks for affirming that.

May 2, 2008, 05:02 PM
You did as good as one could hope to, under the circumstances. He'll most likely blame the tool, not the killer all his life. Sad.

May 2, 2008, 05:09 PM
You just can't talk to people that are ruled by emotion, and have lost their perspective on life.
It is his problem , not yours. I would just ignore him on anything other than a professional level.

May 2, 2008, 05:10 PM
I agree with the previous posters.
You did very, very well.
Over time this fellow may become a friend in the real sense. He may be more logical and less emotional in his thought processes then.

Sometimes, you have to admit that crap happens, even, or esp, to good people Only too true.

I have a severely physically handicapped 28 year old daughter who will never walk. Many years ago, I once asked the question "Why MY little girl? Why her?" And I was answered: "Why NOT her?"

Why not, indeed.

Just my $0.02


May 2, 2008, 05:14 PM
I just lost my 22 year old nephew in a car accident this past December, so I have some idea what the father was going through.
This knocks you off at the knees, so to speak; it's a horrible painful reality of loss that somehow one must learn to live with.
Even after a year I don't know that the pain won't be lurking just below the horizon of the conscious.
This man isn't thinking logically or rationally about guns. He may be obsessing with semi autos without understanding a double action revolver will fire as fast.
Sometimes all you can do is let it go.
With him, I think you did well. It isn't going to get you anywhere to drege up the intensity of pain this man has.
Logically, the pain should have been directed at the shoter, not the gun, but humans are not rational animals.
Let him heal as best he can, and may God comfort him in his agony.

May 2, 2008, 05:16 PM
I am with all of the others on this one, too. You did the right thing.

This is a special case, but as a rule, I do not talk guns or gun rights with anti-gunners, anyhow. They think that they have the truth/answer just as we do. I do not believe that they will change my mind, why should I believe that I will change theirs?

May 2, 2008, 05:18 PM
you can't fight the fight every time it comes up. its unreasonable to take up every pro/anti gun argument that arises.

The guy is fixating on the only thing he can blame his angst on for losing his son. I wouldn't deny him that either- even though I think he is misguided.

Winter Borne
May 2, 2008, 05:19 PM
Ditto Mr. White.

There are a lot of VA Tech families in my neighborhood, and my nephue is a senior there this year. There was a small group who met in our church weekly after the masacure. I went to a meeting to offer support and it soon turned to an anti-gun theme. I usually rellish these moments to shine the pure light of logic on an anti's mindset, but found myself speachless. I haven't been back to the group as I felt like a hypocrit (sp?) after I said nothing, but really wasn't too sure what to say.

I believe strongly that the students / faculty should be allowed they're 2nd amendment rights on campus, but felt that the time was just not right to voice it.


May 2, 2008, 05:21 PM
How do you even begin to talk up our cause in a situation like that? You don't begin. You should do just exactly what you did. And thank you for having enough class to do it.

May 2, 2008, 05:27 PM
You did the right thing. That was not the time to argue. You wanted to express condolences, you did. Maybe, if you become friends, you can eventually do this. But you could not possibly have done anything good in that if you'd gone further with it.

Good job.


May 2, 2008, 05:28 PM
Since it usually seems that we are all preaching to the choir here, I would challenge you, is this a valid argument for anti gun people?

Its difficult to separate the gun from the shooter for someone with such emotional pain. Where no form of logic could prevail over the emotional wound he is experiencing. You did the right thing by not challenging him on the issue.

Tom Mauser, the father who lost his kid in Columbine, comes to mind. He is a big outspoken anti gun crusader. I haven't experienced anything like that, so its easy for me to follow the line of logic and debunk an emotional position.

Not all conversions are meant to be won or lost, especially if it means making an enemy in the process.

Black Knight
May 2, 2008, 05:43 PM
Sometimes you need to understand where their viewpoint comes from and just let them vent. You did the right thing. Sometimes we need to fight the fight, other times it is best to walk away. This was a time to respectfully walk away.

May 2, 2008, 05:56 PM
We will never win any of these "emotional" arguments. Rational, logical discussion is impossible. The fear or pain is too deep. It is pathological not rational. Antis will only change if and when they find themselves helpless in the face of an assault or threat. They will change only if they aren't so hopelessly committed that they see their "truths" proven wrong and then have the stuff to admit it.

Those on the fence will lean towards whatever the last "sensible" argument or emotional news story they heard was. Simpler that way.

The "choir" needs to be preached to to keep the fires stoked or we lose.

We do better when we walk and talk softly I think. Prove by actions.

May 2, 2008, 06:03 PM
I don't agree that one should abandon his principles just because someone else is in the victim position and you feel sorry for him. Does his sorrow justify his illogical thinking?

I would not have been confrontational, but I would have asked him what would have likely happened if half of the people in the room with his son would have been CCW, in an effort to help him to understand his own faulty thinking.

I think this fathers reaction is irrational. Maybe he should better consider why he did not encourage his child to secretly carry on campus than to blame guns, but then it seems nobody wants to take responsibility for himself. It seems easier to point the finger elsewhere.

May 2, 2008, 06:08 PM
I dont see how someone can blame the shooter and the gun. The gun is a tool and is pretty worthless unless someone is using it. I know if I lost my daughter in a shooting I would not blame the gun, just the scumbag holding it.

Art Eatman
May 2, 2008, 06:13 PM
gego, the deal is not at all new: "There is a time and a place." Regardless of one's philosophy and one's principles, there are times when a double-handful of shut-up is wisest. And really, at a jobsite is not the best place; not during working hours, anyway.


May 2, 2008, 06:20 PM
I agree with gego , since the father said he use to be a NRA member I would have had to ask if he had taught his son to use weapons , specifically handguns for self defense .

If he had I would ask if his son wouldn't rather have had the option of defending himself on that day instead of being a helpless victim .

I would also remind him that evil people have always existed even long before the first gun was invented and have slaughtered millions throughout history and they shall always be with us .

We all have a choice when faced with evil , fight or cower down and let it dominate us and decide our fate .

WWII was a prime example of both actions , the European Jews as a rule cowered down and were slaughtered by the millions from the evil of the Nazi's while others such as the English fought and eventually overcame the very same evil .

Being ever vigilant means just that , not to let your guard down only when you're at work or school or perhaps out shopping .

By blaming the NRA he is condemning someone else's son to the same fate as his , should another sick individual try the same thing at the same school .

May 2, 2008, 07:10 PM

Of course it does not work to be confrontational. Most people do not want to see themselves or their delusions, but at the same time it is equally cruel to feed these delusions, no matter how much they are suffering.

My real friends tell me when I am off base, and I appreciate them for that; I listen to them because I trust them and their good intentions. You do not need to be mean to someone to not agree with them, or to point out the error in their thinking. It is all in the way you communicate, and honesty is better than letting your empathy for someone letting him abandon rationality.


May 2, 2008, 07:24 PM
There's a righteous time for valid argument & a similar time for due compassion & prudence. You didn't lose an argument, you exercised judicious & thoughtful consideration.

May 2, 2008, 07:50 PM
He has four choices.

Blame the U for disarming all the law abiding people.

Blame himself for letting the kid go there.

Blame the bad guy for killing his kid.

Blame the NRA and guns.

He decided not to do one or three, even though those are the correct choices.

He decided to blame guns and the NRA, wrongly.

May 2, 2008, 08:53 PM
I lost my only brother 5 years ago due to alcohol use. Although it is not the same as loosing a son to a madman, I can tell you from my perspective that you did the right thing. When my brother died it was quite unexpected. We all knew he had a problem with alcohol. We all tried to get him to stop. Ironically he did stop but, apparently the damage had already been done. He had been clean and sober for 6 months, we were planning our first ever hunting trip together (we had both been hunting for years just never went together for various reasons) the weekend before our trip he called and said he couldn't make it do to a big project at work. A week later I was sitting beside his hospital bed watching him die. The doctors said there was nothing they could do.

What makes me tell you that is this. After the funeral some of his friends wanted to get together and say goodbye. They all asked me to go, saying they wanted to have a drink in his memory. I told them I would never let another drop of alcohol touch my lips. Even now, years later, I run into his old buddies and they want to get together and have a beer. I still say no. I know that nobody that makes alcohol forced my brother to drink. I know it was my brothers choice to open that bottle. I know my not drinking will not bring him back. I still won't have anything to do with alcohol.

As for when to talk to him, just be his friend, he will let you know when he is ready to talk. He may not come out and say it but he needs his space, he need time to grieve, he needs time to be mad, he needs time to force himself to go on. Whoever said time heals all wounds is full of it. I still break down when I think of my brother (the keyboard I am typing on is very blurry right now) All time does is let you learn how to force yourself to think about something else. In time he will mention his son. He will make some passing comment and you can be ready with a comment that might help him realize his son might still be here if he had been armed. When I hear people talking about the shootings at schools and how all those kids would be alive if the were no guns or stricter gun laws, I just remind them that Timothy McVeigh killed over 100 innocent men women and children without firing a single shot. It's not the gun, it's the person holding the gun.

Don't push him, a person who is grieving can go from happy to sad to down right pissed off very quickly. I got rid of a lot of old friends because they kept pushing, handing me a beer, asking why I don't drink, telling me it's not the alcohol, or worst of all... telling me what my brother would have said or done. They had known him for a few years and were going to tell me, his only brother, what he would have said or done.

May 2, 2008, 08:53 PM
How do you even begin to talk up our cause in a situation like that?

Well, you can't really. It's understandable that such people become a bit "anti-gun". His heart is wounded, and unless you can heal it, it is not going to change. Just love him.

It's always in hindsight, after most of society prohibits concealed weapons and an armed populace, that the law-abiding get blamed for the senseless maniac who goes out to prey on the innocent.

It's like people here say though; you never see the homicidal maniacs show up at an NRA convention.


More deeply thought on, it might be considered that a maniac might join some range or shooter's club, and his feeling of alienation from society might be softened and the sharper angles of his nature smoothed over with a little human companionship.

May 2, 2008, 09:24 PM
i dont think ther is anything you can say. sounds to me like you took the high road...

May 2, 2008, 09:25 PM
As others have said, there's a time and a place for everything. This was NOT the time to mount an argument for gun rights, no matter how illogical the man's feelings were.

May 2, 2008, 10:24 PM
i think you did fine. just leave it alone. its way to fresh to talk to the person about it.

May 2, 2008, 10:52 PM
"...failed our cause..." Absolutely not. Compassion is not a bad thing. Salting an open wound is.

May 2, 2008, 11:09 PM
I might have said something like, "I dunno, cops are there to protect us, and they have these high-tech high-capacity weapons. Nobody seems to mind when they use those guns to protect people..."

Though, I doubt'd have done any good. In all actuality, probably better that you held your tounge.The guy is still emotionally attached to the situation. He's unable to detach guns from the killing - which is precisely what the media intended to do with all their lies.

Now ,if you get to know the guy and befriend him, chances are you might be able to make an emotional appeal later on, when he knows and trusts you, and the wound is not as fresh.

May 3, 2008, 12:01 AM
And you would have been both out-of-perspective, immensely cruel, and rude. Gun rights are important . . . so are deep feelings of loss, more so in this case. I'm glad the Op met the gentleman instead of you, for all of the reasons stated above. In this instance, tho you are entitled to your opinion, you are DEAD WRONG. The guy lost a child . . . drop the spear & find a tear.

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