Gun advocates like to call themselves patriots. What does patriotism have to do with guns? Oh, right. Soldiers -- the well-meaning patriots who actually risk their lives for our democracy. They are the members of our standing army, the same one that eliminates the need for militias.

Add police and the National Guard to that standing army. All of them are highly trained for their jobs, which is to set politics aside while protecting us and upholding the laws. And if a soldier or law officer allows his or her political or social views to infect his or her actions, they are (ideally) fired.

And then there’s the National Rifle Association -- the self-proclaimed seat of patriotism. For them, patriotism is not about upholding the law. Instead, it's about holding their views above the law and threatening the people with whom they disagree.

Picture having an argument with someone packing a gun, perhaps your spouse. Who wins?

If gun owners (and, yes, gun opponents) were true patriots, they would be diplomats first. They would model grown-up behavior to children, dedicate themselves to non-violent resistance and compromise, which is the core of democracy. True patriots would leave guns to the hunters and police, and instead promote patriotic education that teaches children how to stay civilly and peaceably engaged in our democracy.

Guy Thorvaldsen, Madison

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