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Gun Owners Must Take Center Stage

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This evening HBO will air a controversial new documentary film, four years in the making, entitled Gun Fight. Crafted by the acclaimed Academy Award-winning director Barbara Kopple, the film certainly illustrates one all too obvious truth about the gun debate in America: polar opposites continue to exist on both sides. Sadly, the film veers from a dispassionate, comprehensive view (tough to do in 88 minutes), into scoring many subtle advocacy points.

The film will be used to continue to fan the counter-productive divide between gun owners and many non-gun owners. Too many of the latter have been conditioned to reflexively call for "gun control" as a "common-sense" alternative, without having been presented with a full range of options or a detailed knowledge of the status quo. The terms "crime control" and "gun control" have little to do with one another and their juxtaposition as opposites creates a false dichotomy as the starting point for crafting intelligent answers to serious criminal justice issues before we even begin.

My treatment in the film as an unrepentant pro-Second Amendment moderate more concerned with policy solutions is both fair and accurate. However, the large number of gun owners whose viewpoint I represent is obscured by the repeated presentation of "typical" gun owners as militiamen, anti-government extremists, gang-bangers, or mentally-deranged individuals throughout the film. Graphic trauma scenes -- from the dramatic and gut-wrenching opening with the rampage at Virginia Tech to the wrap up at the memorial site -- and the portrayal of gun owners as caricature, also do little to advance serious dialogue.

But the film's wide distribution does present an opportunity to expand the discussion. The overwhelming majority of Americans are somewhere in the vast, under-appreciated middle ground within the debate. Over one hundred million of us in America own firearms. We do so for multiple reasons including self defense and security, sport, hunting and collecting. A statistically minuscule number of our citizens misuse guns to commit violent crimes, which threaten the rest of us. The key unifying point we need to focus our collective attention on is: "it's not the guns, but whose hands are on the guns."

America needs a well-informed, rational voice that defends our rights, yes, but also one that points out practical solutions to real issues. For that reason, I have joined with a number of respected law enforcement leaders, sportsmen, scholars, and policy analysts to form the Independent Firearm Owners Association, Inc. (www.IFOAusa.org) to ensure a place in the debate for mainstream gun-owning Americans. We are entitled to have our say in this important policy debate and will work towards intelligent solutions that protect legitimate citizens while focusing our limited law enforcement resources on the universally agreed upon problems.

We intend to be the innovative pro-civil liberty voice at the table and to work for solutions, not "gotcha" points to sustain the debate indefinitely. If you agree that a new proponent not conforming to tired stereotypes might be in tune with your thinking, consider supporting this new approach to an old debate. America has many difficult challenges to face that can best be accomplished by forging an inventive consensus on criminal justice policy toward solutions and away from wedge driving political posturing. What do you think?