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The black and white of guns

It is easy to paint any issue in pure, unyielding black and white. Abortion. Environment. Poverty. Health care. Energy. Immigration. Taxes. Everything can boil down to pro or con.

But is that accurate? Almost never.

Let’s look at guns.

Pennsylvania is often tagged as a gun-friendly state. It’s hard to forget Barack Obama saying in the 2008 presidential campaign that “bitter” people in former industrial towns decimated by job losses “cling to guns or religion.” Someone in Seattle might think every Pennsylvanian has an arsenal. It’s just not true.

Pennsylvania is a state where hunting is a sport and a tradition and a way to fill the freezer for a year’s worth of eating. It’s a state with one of the most forcefully worded statements on gun rights woven into its constitution. It’s a state where gun owners take those rights seriously.

But it’s also a state where people feel differently. Pittsburgh’s mayor is defending an incredibly controversial package of laws that would limit ownership of specific weapons and regulate the ability of certain people to have guns. That package was born in the aftermath of the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, at Squirrel Hill’s Tree of Life synagogue in 2018.

It is not right or fair to tar the state as one thing or another. It isn’t right or fair to do the same to gun owners or gun control advocates, either.

On Monday in Homewood, the Church of the Holy Cross Episcopal ran out of money buying back guns in a no-questions-asked event aimed at taking weapons off the streets. Rifles, pistols, even two AR-15s were surrendered. A total of 145 weapons were taken in, some given up even after the money was gone.

On the same day, in Virginia, a crowd of thousands demonstrated peacefully, despite worries that violence would erupt, in opposition to plans for that state’s leadership to pass gun-control legislation.

The gun owners didn’t get violent. The people giving up their guns didn’t just do it for money. It was more complicated.

There is a rainbow of gray in an issue like gun control, and that should be more of a focus because it means buy-in from both sides. It’s seen in support for more cooperation between agencies that would better enforce existing gun laws and enhance background checks.

Important issues are never black and white. It’s not fair to paint them that way.

* Guest editorial from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.