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From the PowerShell Facebook group.

I think everyone views “blogging” as “writing a book” and it doesn’t need to be. It’s electronic. It’s short-form. I often use blog posts as a way of getting my thoughts in order and gathering feedback, prior to writing something more “permanent” like a book.

Rodney, thanks for posting that on Facebook ;). I hope lots of folks realize that they can “give back” without it needing to be a major weeks-long effort. Just share the process!

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Nicholas asks:

how would you use PowerShell for performance monitoring for items such as storage arrays.

I hope you’ll ask a question, too!

I wouldn’t. I don’t think PowerShell is a great monitoring tool. It wasn’t designed to be. It’s not great at just sitting and waiting for things to happen; it can, but you pay a lot in compromises. I’d get a proper monitoring tool.

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Don Jones by Don Jones - 1w ago

Jeremy writes:

With dsc headed for it’s third major rewrite in nearly as many years, is it something that you think will turn into a fully fleshed out and complete product? Or will it just end up as an interesting footnote that never found its place? Or something different altogether?

I hope you’ll ask a question, too! Visit here for info.

I’ll argue the “major rewrite” that was v4 to v5; it wasn’t that major.

But, I have the same worry, at this point. I’m waiting to see how the cross-platform DSC shapes up, but I think Microsoft has made some baseline architecture decisions that hamper DSC. I think the LCM is too “smart” and has had to much invested in it, versus a smarter, centralized “server” component instead. I think they’ve added complexity – using “DependsOn” instead of a top-to-bottom execution – for no reason (the intent with DependsOn was to support “eventual” multi-threading, which we’ve yet to see and which will be problematic on its own if we do). I think the “punt” on a Pull Server – only providing a “sample” with the product but never denoting it as such or providing source code, and pushing people to Azure for the “real” solution – was a terrible misstep.

Worse, it’s like literally nobody else in Microsoft has bought into it in any significant way. SQL Server should have a much richer set of resources. SCCM should be using DSC under the hood for its Configuration Auditing feature. But the entire rest of Microsoft has basically ignored DSC. It’s like the company doesn’t even want to be in the “configuration management” game, and are just ceding the space to Puppet/Chef/Ansible/Salt/Etc. I think the company will regret that one day, but I think it’s where we are right now.

I think Snover had the right idea and basically the right architecture. DSC was the fourth and final item in the “Monad Manifesto,” so he’d been thinking about this since the mid-2000s at least. The current rewrite (which is indeed a rewrite) is a good move: they’re moving away from using CIM to “run” the LCM, rewriting the whole thing in C++ instead of .NET, etc. All good. So I’m holding out some hope; this’ll also get us the DSC code in open source, which we’ve never had before, and I think a lot of its annoying bits can be fixed or mitigated a lot more easily that way.

But it’s the stark lack of tooling, with approximately zero third parties jumping in to provide solutions, that’s a little scary.

So I don’t know. The jury is out to lunch, but they’re very much in session, and we’ll have to see what happens next before I feel more confident making a prediction. Microsoft could still pull it off, if they try hard enough. I think.

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Bryan asks:

What’s your approach on learning new technology or new capabilities in an existing technology?

I hope you’ll ask a question, too! Visit here for info.

Ugh. I get asked this question a lot, and I’m always afraid to answer it. But… I promised. So here it is: I already know everything. 

LOLZ.

You know, I really had to sit and think about this. I mean, it’s not a new question, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about a good answer. So let’s just kind of stream-of-consciousness this and see what comes out.

I’m a reader. I’m not a video-watcher; I like to read. I’m a good researcher – I can strike what is for me, a good balance between focused reading and following threads. So when I need to learn something – anything – that’s where I start. I’m decent at triage, which means if I’m in some document I can usually figure out pretty rapidly if it’s going to help me or not.

As I’ve mentioned in Be the Master, I synthesize quickly. Oversimplified, synthesizing means taking some facts you already know, adding another, and then arriving at some number of additional facts by combining the previous ones. That makes learning faster, because you don’t have to confront each fact on its own – you can “learn” some by learning their friends. I know some of this is innate talent, because I’ve met people who are really good at it, but I know for me a lot of it was some fairly specialized teaching I had as a kid.

In a lot of areas, I get the same boost everyone else does. The more familiar you are with a topic, the easier it is to learn new things about that topic. When I teach, my goal isn’t to teach everything I know; it’s to teach you enough that you can start to consume source material, like manufacturer documentation, rather than having to have someone like me repackage that information for you. That same trick – learning enough to be able to use source material – helps me learn a lot faster.

I try to be very conscious of why I’m learning. Although I absolutely do sometimes ingest facts for the fun of it (Wikipedia’s “Random Article” link is awesome), if I’m learning something for a reason, I get very focused on that need. That, in turn, dictates how I’ll go about the learning. I’ll tend to skim a document first and decide if it seems like it’s pointing in the direction I need to go; I won’t just read it straight through in a hope it’s what I need. The minute things start veering away from addressing my need, I stop and look elsewhere. This definitely helps me learn, because I’m not focused on tangents. I may make notes of things I want to come back and pursue later, but I don’t let myself get distracted.

Otherwise, I don’t take notes much. I may rewrite some of what I’m learning into my own, often-more-concise terms, but I don’t like note-taking. I actually have a bit of a weird bias against people who take notes – I’ve met too many who write stuff down and never actually learn it. It creeps me out. I’m working on that. For whatever reason, though, I know my brain doesn’t work well with traditional note-taking, so I don’t do it. (That reason is probably that I was too lazy to take notes as a kid, and so my brain never learned to operate from them.)

At some point I will usually experiment with whatever it is I’m learning. Set up a computer lab or whatever. That tends to be very focused and need-oriented, too. I won’t often just “play around;” I’ll have a goal, and I’ll work very firmly toward it.

Dunno if any of that helps ;).

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Don Jones by Don Jones - 3w ago

Drew asks:

Do you consider Health insurance a benefit or a service?

I equate benefits as no cost and services something I pay for…

I hope you’ll ask a question, too! Visit here for info.

What a fun question. I agree with you, and so it depends on who is paying right? When my employer pays for it, that’s a benefit. The benefit isn’t the insurance per se; it’s the fact that my employer is paying for something. The insurance remains a service – something someone pays for – either way.

Although if I may go off on a bit of a rant (stop reading if you’d rather I not), health insurance as a concept is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.

Insurance is all about paying an insurance company to cover some situation that you and they both hope never exists. You can pay for car insurance your whole life and never use it. Same for homeowner’s insurance. Hell, even “instance” on a hand of blackjack can go entirely unused. And insurance is all about assigning a value to something. Your car is wrecked, but it’s only worth $3,000, so the insurance company won’t spend $5,000 to fix it. They’ll just write it off and send you the $3,000. Again, same with homeowners insurance, renter’s insurance, whatever.

Health insurance conforms to none of these norms. You will get sick and need health care. It is a certainty. And when you do, how is an insurance company supposed to “assign a value” to you? Well, I mean, obviously they do, but not in a way you’d ever agree with, I imagine. “Yeah, that cancer is going to cost $200k to fix, and you’re really only worth about $10k in your current situation, so here’s $10k. We’re writing you off. Bye, Becky.” It’s ludicrous.

Most people think of health insurance not as insurance, but as a kind of “medical care club.” So long as you pay your dues, you should get whatever care you need, period. But that isn’t what’s really happening. Health insurance is insurance, it’s just the dumbest insurance ever. Nobody’s going to choose to not fix their bodies in the way they might choose to not make a claim for a small door-ding their car acquired in a parking lot. Insurance companies – who are companies who are allowed, and supposed, to make a profit – are trying to do this giant financial zero-sum juggling game, and it just doesn’t work.

The fact that the US conversation is always about insurance, and not about the fact that healthcare simply costs too damn much is the root of the entire problem we have. We’re so focused on getting someone else to pay for this expensive care that we aren’t bothering to wonder why it’s so expensive in the first place. We just take the expense as a given and then try to come up with ways to make someone else pay for it in exchange for some rock-bottom, fixed-price monthly “dues.” It’s a broken system because it starts with a broken premise.

End rant.

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Patrick writes:

As a teacher I often use your phrase “Learn PowerShell or learn do you want fries with that” to underline the importance of PowerShell. That was a few years ago. Do you still think so, or has your opinion changed?

I truly believe that all systems will get smaller and smaller over time and that PowerShell will become more and more important.

However, my experience shows that many Windows administrators still use the old vbs or bat strategy when it comes to scripting. My experience also shows that at least 7/10 are not familiar with PowerShell at all (European Region, small and middle sized companies). So I’m worried if we’ve missed the boat.

Have a question of your own? Please ask.

You didn’t miss the boat. VBScript was around for a decade before anyone even seriously started into it, and even then it never caught on as big as PowerShell has in that same timeframe. People take time to alter their habits and patterns, unless there’s some external force that pushes them to do it. Culture plays a huge role. Not to play into stereotypes, but all of my German and Scandinavian friends are PowerShell monsters, whereas I think I have maybe one fellow I know in France who really uses it a lot. I’ve no idea what that means, or why, only that culture clearly plays some kind of role.

Systems will get smaller and smaller over time, and automation – whether that’s PowerShell or something else – will play a more and more important role. Here in the Microsoft world, we need to acknowledge that not everyone is going to make it to the end of the journey. Some companies, and some people, just don’t have it in them to adapt, and they’re going to be stuck in whatever place they are right now. Yeah, there’ll always be room for GUI-based button monkeys. They won’t be the highest-paying jobs, anymore than a supermarket cashier is a high-paying job. So the industry will sort itself, and companies who can’t afford Automators will have to make do with Button Monkeys. And those Monkeys will have to be thankful for whatever salary they can earn from those smaller companies. That’s life.

Part of the problem is that people aren’t always really good at looking where their industry is going. I imagine the makers of horse-drawn carriages poo-pooed those horseless contraptions right up until they locked the doors on their workshops for the last time. If you can’t see where things are turning, you can’t make sure you’re in a position to capitalize on the changes ahead, right? I (and you, clearly) try to help people do that, but you know what they say about horses and water.

Good example: I have a PowerShell Scripting course in Microsoft’s Courseware Marketplace. It’s 55039BC. I get student feedback reports every quarter or so, and the #2 complaint about the course is that the labs aren’t the usual Microsoft “list of numbered tasks to complete.” People literally have come to a programming course and expect to be told exactly what to type, as if I’m going to go back to their jobs with them and tell them what to code there. Those are not folks who are, for the most part, going to make it much further on the journey. (For the record, the #1 complaint is from people who are experiencing PowerShell for the first time in that marketed as “Intermediate-to-Advanced” course and are having trouble following along; I don’t know how to fix that.)

There’s always room to catch the boat, though. Now, that doesn’t mean the best seats are still available on the boat, because the clever folks who got on early already took a lot of them. But it’s a really big boat, and we’ve got plenty of room for those who want to come along for the ride. In terms of serving your fellow humans, all you can do is keep making the case, pointing to the many people who’ve gotten multi-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars pay raises by getting on board, and help show them that the change isn’t as alarming or hard as they might be making it in their heads.

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Bryan writes:

How can a small, mainly click-next-admin team/culture best get started on the journey toward Infrastructure-as-code, build-test-deploy / Release Pipeline? I see many blogs and books about more mainstream DevOps, but our shop is more like the one referred to in the Microsoft / Chef Release Pipeline whitepaper, where we only create and maintain our own infrastructure operations management files and scripts, mainly for internal corporate facing apps and systems. We don’t need to worry about any customer facing or other style of high visibility web pages or mobile apps, but I think we could definitely improve our efficacy of managing the on-premises environments we have, with a lean, properly trained, empowered staff. We have mainstream skills across VMware, Windows, NetApp, SQL, Exchange and Citrix technologies; all of which also play nice in a PowerShell-centric world. We have a few people with foundational PowerShell skills, but have not yet reached a tipping point where we really use it the way I think we could / should. Instead, we feel stuck in the rut of jumping through RDP to fix our Production ‘snowflakes’, instead of working out automated fixes in a ‘lab’, then using a DevSecOps style pipepine to get the fix to production.

Have a question of your own? Please ask.

DevOps is DevOps; the benefits potentially apply to anyone producing any code, for any reason, whether it’s customer-facing or not. So I agree with you – you can definitely achieve a lot.

You might not love this answer, Bryan, but it’s, “you just gotta do it.” The next time you need to just quickly fix something via RDP, don’t. Do it the way that you know is right. Yeah, it’ll take longer that time, but you’ll only have to make that investment once for that task. From then on, it’ll be easier and faster, and you’ll start to see a return. Over time, this’ll accrete to the point where not running a script to do something will feel odd.

When I worked for Bell Atlantic Network Integration, back in the day, I had a small team of four admins, a 3-person help desk, and a 4-person desktop support team. We supported a couple of thousand users spread across a dozen or so sites. The help desk and desktop team brought me problems all the time, but I almost never fixed them (unless it was a fire drill, of course). Instead, I wrote a script, gave it to them, and let them fix it. Sure, this was a lot of VBScript and KiXtart back then, but same thing applies.

You just have to make a cultural shift. We aren’t going to do it this way, anymore. We’re going to change. I mean, I know it’s super-easy to write that and very hard to make it stick, but that’s really the only thing you have to do. Decide to change. And then stick with the decision.

Start small. Pick one task, work on that, and then pick up another task. Start logging your tasks in a ticket system or something; you’ll want to know how much time these things take to do manually, how much time it takes to write the script, and how much time you save. Take your salary. Multiply it by 1.4. Divide that by 2,000. That’s your fully-loaded hourly rate. Multiply that by the amount of time you save per year by automating a task, and that’s how much money you save. Multiply your hourly rate by how long it took to write the script, and that’s how much money you spent. So long as the savings is bigger than the spending, you’re #winning. Doing that math can be a big help in making the cultural shift, because it represents a business outcome, whereas, “we’re just going to write scripts instead of manually facing problems” is a little abstract from a business perspective.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

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Allen writes:

Let me Begin by saying thank you, thank you for providing tons of material and resources on PowerShell. You have helped me boost my IT career and climb my way up the ranks in my agency with PowrShell scripting. My question is how can I find a job where all I do is PowerShell scripting (or is at least concentrated)? I know that they exist somewhere out in the world; I genuinely enjoy scripting in PowerShell and would it to be my full time job.

I hope you’ll submit a question, too!

I suppose I’d start by arguing that this isn’t a fabulous long-term career choice. I mean, “I’m a specialist in this one tool” is eventually going to come back and bite you in the ass. “I swing hammers” isn’t much of a resume.

But, let’s maybe rephrase this to, “I want a job where I can focus on automating.” That’s an actual business outcome. It’s a valuable outcome – economies literally grow only through automation of some kind or another. Being an automator is a big deal. There are many tools you can employ, and it’d be best to know a few of them.

So, how do you find that job? You kind of answered it:

I know that they exist somewhere out in the world

They do. So start looking. Brush up your resume. Start contacting recruiters. Make sure your resume speaks to job outcomes. How many man-hours of manual labor have you automated out of existence? How much money did that save? Know those answers, because that business outcome is what another employer will look at the hardest. Those answers should lead your resume: “Experienced automator who can achieve 100:1 savings in man-hours with commensurate hard savings in salaries.”

Let me tell you why I think people can’t find the job they want:

  • They’re not willing to relocate, or they’ve put too many conditions on relocation. You want your dream job, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes to get it. That may mean moving.
  • They don’t like the whole resume-inteview-rejection process. I get it. You gotta adult-up and do it, because that’s how people get jobs. Nobody is so special that someone’s going to come right to your door begging for you. I don’t even get that, and I mean, I’m Don Freaking Jones, right?
  • They interview poorly. Us tech people suck at interviews. We just do. So conquer that. Apply for a few jobs you know you could get, but don’t want, just so you can do the interview. I know that’s a horrible thing, but where else are you going to get better at it?
  • Applying for jobs is a PITA. Everyone has an online portal, it’s totally impersonal, and you’re filling out forms for days on end. Again, I get it. Adult up and do it anyway.

Allen, you’re right – these jobs exist. But only people who go dig them out are going to find them. So go get a shovel.

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Don Jones by Don Jones - 2M ago

In the wake of multiple gun-related atrocities in the past few months – Orlando, Las Vegas, and Parkland most recently – I wanted to try and offer a less-biased approach to the background of the “gun issue” in the United States.

From outside the US, I know it’s difficult to understand what the problem is. After all, we have more guns per capita than pretty much anyone else, and we also have a higher rate of gun violence. The global correlation numbers are pretty clear: if we had less guns, we’d have less gun-related violence. I’m not sure you need statistics for that, since it’s kind of like saying “if we had less pasta, we’d have less Italian-related food.” But it’s easy to simply ask, “why don’t you guys just cut back on the guns?”

To begin with, there’s the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution, one of our original 10 “Bill of Rights.” That’s not something we take lightly: the Constitution is literally the bedrock of our entire system of government and more than a little of our entire culture as Americans. It probably has more to do with the national identity of “American” than almost anything else; the Constitution is, for us, what takes a mob of immigrants and turns them into one nation. It’s difficult to explain to non-US citizens, because the Constitution is something we become emotionally connected to at a very young age.

A Brief History of the Second Amendment

There’s a lot of misinformation about Number Two’s origins and history. Some believe it was because British soldiers were confiscating weapons from Americans who needed them to hunt, in order to feed their families. Others believe it was because those soldiers wanted to prevent American colonial resistance. Both of those were likely things that happened, although in reading histories of the time I’m personally pressed to find a lot of evidence of the former. What we do have, however, are fairly copious notes from the original Constitutional Congress where the amendment was first presented.

James Madison proposed it originally, and it was seen as a way to provide more power to state militias. Keep in mind that the concept of Federalization was extremely unpopular with most states at the time, each of whom had previously operated more or less autonomously under British rule. Today’s “state militias” are, more or less, the state National Guard units nominally under the control of each state’s Governor.  Madison was fairly clear that the measure was intended to give states the power to fight back against a tyrannical Federal government. Even today, most gun regulation comes from the state level, not the Federal level, with a patchwork of laws and regulations spread across the current 50 states. For example, I believe it’s 44 states that have open-carry laws, even though nothing in the 2nd amendment has ever been interpreted as guaranteeing a right to open carry.

The Amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

You might wonder, then, how much training we require for gun ownership, given that training would seem to be a basic tenet for a “well regulated Militia.” The answer is none. We largely can’t even agree on whether the amendment provides for a collective right – the right for states to arm its militias – or an individual right – the right for individuals to own guns. We’ve more or less opted for the latter, but it remains a hotly debated issue in scholarly works.

(I should note that we do indeed train our militia members quite extensively, but that has nothing to do with owning guns; not every National Guard member owns personal weapons.)

Our ultimate authority on the Constitution is our Supreme Court, which is tasked with interpreting the Constitution, and its amendments, for modern times. Back in 1876 and again in 1886, the Court held that gun ownership was not an individual right, and that the amendment only addressed Federal gun regulation, not state regulation. They held that same stance again in 1894.

We didn’t hear from the Court again until 1939, where some yahoo got arrested for carrying a banned sawed-off shotgun across state lines. This is the first time the Court acknowledged any Federal authority over guns, stating that, “in the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.” This was also about the last time a “militia” played into the Court’s thinking.

Almost 70 years later, in 2008, the Court took on Number Two again. This is the first time the Court more or less discarded the “well regulated Militia” bit, stating in part that, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” This was a big change, but it really didn’t reflect anything more than common thought at the time. By 2008, we had more guns in private ownership that citizens, and very, very, very few of those gun owners were in the militia.

And that’s more or less where we’re at from a legal perspective.

Gun Culture

Guns are scary devices, with good reason, and so terms like “Gun Culture” can evoke some negative feelings. It’s no different than “Car Culture,” though, which sounds much more West Coast-cool, and Gun and Car Cultures have a lot in common.

We don’t have a Constitutional right to keep and drive cars, but if anyone tried to regular their use more than we already do, or God forbid take them away, there’d be a hue and cry like you’d never believe. Cars are a legitimately vital part of many people’s lives, and they play a similar, fundamental role in the American identity as guns. Cars give us personal freedom. They’re one of the first big milestones a young American achieves as they grow into adults. Emotionally, for us, they’re a huge deal. And guns, for many Americans, fall into that same emotional/identity zone. That’s not meant to be a positive or negative statement; it simply “is.” Few Americans need guns to survive; few Americans belong to a militia (which would provide them with guns anyway, these days; the National Guard is not a BYOG club). But, like cars, they’re very much a part of our country’s basic weft and weave.

Making Changes

Notwithstanding former Supreme Court Justice Stevens’ comments recently, changing the Constitution isn’t easy. It’s purposefully difficult, for the same reasons you don’t just go down to the basement and start jackhammering your house’s foundations. The Constitution has far-ranging consequences that are difficult to grasp, and you don’t mess with it lightly. The only enumerated way to change the Constitution is to get two-thirds of both the Senate and the House to agree, and then three-quarters of the states to ratify the change. If this seems impossible, it’s definitely close, which is why we’ve only done it a handful of times in our 200+ year history.

And there’s no guarantee that even a full repeat of Two would matter. 44 states guarantee a right to bear terms in their Constitutions, and absent an explicit Federal override, those state laws would “win.” So we’d need to not only repeal Two, we’d need to add a new amendment to potentially override state laws. Not happening.

Which leads us to the very reasonable question of, “well, what changes could we make short of a Constitutional amendment?” Plenty. It’s questionable how much Federal regulation would be acceptable, given previous Supreme Court opinions, but states could do almost anything they wanted. And that’s likely the best place to regular almost anything in the US, believe it or not. We’re a country of more than 350,000,000 citizens. From a land mass and population perspective, we’re as big as Western Europe, and we have just as much cultural diversity. If you think having the big-bad EU issue Europe-spanning regulations is unpopular over there, well, the Federal government’s edicts are just about as loved over here.

Activists on all sides of any issue try to use the Federal government as a blunt instrument for two reasons. First, it’s perceived to be easier to pass one law on something that to pass fifty. Second, people get really bent out of shape when they see other people doing something they don’t like, even half a continent away. And so the Feds are seen as a way of enforcing one’s will on the masses. It goes over about as well as you might expect, given that the makeup of the US is more like eleven loosely-joined nations. I’m personally a big fan of state-based regulations, because it puts the power and the decision closer to the people it affects. I think the Federal government has its place helping us accomplish the Big Things we couldn’t do on our own, but I’m largely a states-rights fan. I’d personally be squeamish of major Federal regulations on almost anything, because those are so often heavy-handed, badly managed, and overwrought.

The Non-Debate

But here’s the real difficulty: conspiracy theorists (my phrase, which I understand is a bias on my part) believe that “the liberals” are coming to take our guns; given the resounding lack of factual evidence for that, it’s a theory I can’t even discuss. But basically, pro-gun anti-regulation advocates largely refuse to engage in debate.

After the Parkland massacre, Marco Rubio made a statement, which in part reads:

Protest is good way of making a point, but making a change will require both sides finding common ground

That’s true, and it’s the way any system of democracy is meant to work. The difficulty is that anti-regulation advocates simply refuse to engage in debate, discussion, or search for a common ground. For the most part, they simply insult, bully, and demean anyone taking any view less that total gun ownership freedom without restriction. It’s fine if your stance is that there should be no restrictions, but you should be able to state that, and mount a logical defense to your position that could be used in a debate on the issue.

Let’s be clear on something: there are millions of responsible, law-abiding, intelligent people in the US who own guns. I own several guns, and most of my friends do. I enjoy shooting targets at the range, and when I’m at my relatively isolated cabin I enjoy the extra peace of mind the shotgun offers against large, hungry predators. I, and most of my gun-owning friends, would be happy to engage in a discussion about how guns might be more intelligently regulated, and we do engage in those debates between ourselves. Some of my friends are members of organizations that advocate against gun regulation, and are a bit weary of those organizations’ hard-line stance against even having a discussion of the issues.

Most of us feel that for the purposes of discussion, anything can and should be on the table. Mandatory training. Bans on certain types of weapons. Limits on ammunition magazine sizes. Hell, someone mentioned mandatory militia service for gun owners, which is at least something we could talk about, you’d think. Some sides routinely fight against even simple things like gun registration, stating that making people register their guns is one step away from the Federal government knowing where all the guns are when it’s time to take them all back, which strikes me as a little paranoid and counterproductive (although I admit it’s a valid position in a debate of the issue). The politicians’ “thoughts and prayers” responses are driven largely by their loyalty to the refusal to even enter into a debate.

And let’s be clear on this, too: most conservative politicians aren’t even offering solutions. Not even bad ideas. The problem gets shoved off to “mental health” in a country that can’t even decide if it wants all of its citizens to even have health insurance, and that’s it. We can’t even get a crappy proposal to start discussing, which is why we can’t get any change.

Gun advocacy groups should have a valuable role to play in a national discussion on gun regulations. Unfortunately, they’re backing themselves into a corner. By refusing to even discuss the situation, and by focusing on a strategy of bullying to silence their opposition, they’re creating a situation where compromise can’t happen. Rather than bringing an opposing voice to the table, pro-gun organizations could eventually find themselves excluded from the table entirely.

The fact that we can’t even get a meaningful, civil debate off the ground in the US is simply inexcusable. That alone represents a bigger failing of basic democracy than the actual underlying political issues.

And Here We Sit

And so that’s more or less the current situation. One “side” is pushing for stronger regulations on at least certain kinds of guns, accessories, and ammunition; the other “side” is calling them names and basically refusing to talk about it. In the middle sits the vast, vast, vast majority of Americans, most of whom wouldn’t find anything at all toxic about a discussion. 

Notably uninvited from discussing the issue are the men and women of our militias, who would presumably have some thoughts about the 2nd amendment that ensures they can be armed. Largely uninvited are the vast numbers of men and women in law enforcement, who presumably have some thoughts about gun ownership (many of them own guns privately as well as for work), enforcement, and safety. We’ve yet to hear anything substantive from them except, perhaps, in our own social media channels.

It’d be nice to say that the debate rages on, but it doesn’t. There is no debate, and it’s that singular failing of the entire concept of democracy that’s the most saddening to me personally. Whatever your stance on the issue, I think we as a people should hear it. We should all be able to put our concerns, fears, and desires on the table, and find someplace in the middle where we hit the best possible balance between it all – and then try that for a minute.

I’ve tried not to share my personal stance on the matter of gun regulation, because right now that’s not what should matter. What should matter is that we all get a fair shot to have our opinions represented and heard, and that we can’t is the ultimate problem. I hope that’s something we can get fixed, and soon.

Knowing what a politically fraught topic this is, I hope I’ve managed to keep this fairly neutral on the issue itself, if not around my disrespect for advocacy organizations’ unwillingness to engage on the actual issues. I want to acknowledge that all “sides” of this debate (there are more than two, in my feeling) have made bad calls along the way, but hold firm to my feeling that the one thing we should all agree on is that an actual honest discussion can’t possibly hurt. If you’ve got something to add, please do sound off in the comments.

Please try to avoid pejorative terms like “right-wingers” or “libs” and so on; even when we disagree, we’re all meant to be one nation. We have to acknowledge that when we’re discussing something so embedded in our national fabric, it’s going to be tense. Try to make it not tense.

Discussion Guide

I’ll offer this, for what little it’s worth. Whenever you’ve a tense issue like this, with tempers running hot on all sides, try to set your own temper aside and create some quiet space. For example, just ask, without judging or arguing, you opponent a few simple questions:

  • What are your concerns? What are you trying to fix?
  • What is your proposed solution?

If you can do that without name-calling, and get some solid, quiet answers, you can move on.

  • Let me tell you what fears your proposal raises in me. You don’t need to agree, but I’d like it if you could just hear me out.
  • If we changed __ about your solution, it would help alleviate some of my fears. How would that change it for you, though?
  • What if we added ___ – would that help alleviate your remaining concerns to at least some degree?

Try and aim for the smallest possible point of agreement. We don’t need to sole any entire problem in one fell swoop; we can pick away at it until we solve the bits we can solve together. We won’t be able to solve it all, usually, and that’s fine. As tempers and situations change, we can continue to pick away it it.

If we can discuss it.

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