A Letter to My Daughter for her Civics Project

IMG_2384For those of you who are worried about the government brainwashing our children with Obama’s “socialist propaganda,” I present my daughter. My problem with Obama is that I do not think he is socialist enough, yet Kyla comes often comes home from school parroting political opinions that make me throw up in my mouth a little.

Last night, she told me that she was going to do a civics project where she had to write a letter to her senator about a topic she cared about. She chose gun control, or as she put it, “I want to write against people who are trying to take away our right to own guns.”


This is not about to be a rant against Kyla’s teachers. She gets a lot of these opinions from her friends. Insofar as any of her teachers do influence her, I doubt it is intentional. It is well nigh impossible to hide our own biases from the kids we teach! Only once have I been led to believe that a teacher (not her homeroom teacher) intentionally crossed the line to deliberate persuasion. It would take a lot for me ever to pick a fight with one of Kyla’s teachers. The last thing they need is someone to micromanage their instruction.

My challenge as a father is to help Kyla learn to think for herself. There is no way for me to tell her what I think without her desire to please me short-circuiting her critical thinking skills. That would make me no better than the kids on the playground. So for this project I did my best to sum up the issues for Kyla in a letter. I had to generalize a bit, but I tried not to dumb anything down. Kyla does a pretty good job thinking through things when given the opportunity. Here it is:

Dear Kyla,

As you begin this civics project, I wanted to help you be aware of some of the issues by trying to present both sides of the debate.

Those who are For Gun Control (FGC) want to restrict access to what are commonly called “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines.” These are weapons that can fire a lot of bullets very quickly without having to be reloaded very often. Assault weapons are often used in mass shootings, like those you have heard about in schools and other public places (such as movie theaters). The FGC crowd also says that gun owners should be required to pass a safety test and be issued a license (like drivers’ licenses), and that we need to keep a national database of people who are mentally ill or have been convicted of a violent crime. These people should not be allowed to own guns. Additionally, the FGC crowd says that there are some places where people should not be allowed to carry guns, like public parks and bars. Some employers may also decide that people are not allowed to have guns at work.

Those who are Against Gun Control (AGC) do not believe the government should restrict access to “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines.” They say that “assault weapon” is too hard to define. Most of them are just regular rifles that look scary to some people. For instance, one of the rifles that I own can fire rounds (bullets) as fast as some so-called “assault weapons.” They say that instead of banning some types of guns, we need to educate people about what guns are and how they work. AGC people say we should focus more on preventing kids from seeing violent t.v. shows, movies, and video games. They also agree that mentally disturbed people and convicted felons should not own weapons, but they do not believe the government should keep such a database. They believe that the states and private gun shops are better able to manage that information. The AGC crowd also says that people should be able to carry weapons into bars, public parks, and even places of business. AGC folks believe that when more people own guns, it will deter criminals from violent shootings. They say that criminals will not obey gun laws anyways. They say that if more teachers had guns, then even if somebody were to open fire in a school, the teachers would be able to shoot that person before they could kill that many people (or maybe anybody).

Both FGC and AGC people argue about practical matters (like whether you can define an “assault weapon”), but they also argue about the Constitution and what the “founding fathers” intended (and how much their intent matters today). In the United States, the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights declares, “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.”

FGC and AGC people read those words differently. FGC people say that those words refer to the “collective right” to own weapons: The states have the right to maintain a national guard for civic defense. AGC people say that those words refer to an “individual right” to own weapons: Individual citizens have a right to own weapons in order to defend themselves and their nation from foreign powers and even a corrupt home government.

Both sides agree that we need to keep kids safe. They disagree over the best way to do that.

Here are questions for you to consider as you make up your own mind:
1. Both sides agree that convicted felons and mentally ill people should not own guns. Who should keep that information: the federal government, state government, or a private organization? How might each group use/abuse that data?

2. Should background checks happen at gun stores? What about private gun shows? If someone wants to buy a gun from me at a garage sale, should I be required to go to the courthouse with that person so he/she can get a background check first? What are the positive/negative consequences of each of those options?

3. What are the characteristics of an “assault weapon?” Is it possible to ban it? Should you?

4. Does the Second Amendment refer to the rights of individual citizens to own weapons or the states to keep a national guard? In either case, should the government be allowed to say that there are some types of weapons people cannot own?

Whenever you think about public policy, it is good to ask yourself the following questions.
1. Is it ethical? – Is it something you should do?
2. Is it possible? – Is it something you can do?
3. Is it desirable? – Is it something you would want to do?

You are a very smart girl. I know that if you put your mind to it, you can figure this out for yourself. Listen to others, but think critically about what they say. Just because more people have an opinion does not mean they are right. Truth is not decided by the majority. And just because an older person has an opinion does not make that right either. Truth is not decided by authority.

I will not be proud of you just because you agree with me. I will be proud of you if you think. Make up your own mind and have good reasons to back them up! I will be proud of you for being a good thinker.

Love, Dad

One thought on “A Letter to My Daughter for her Civics Project”


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.