The conversation didn’t begin as one. I wear NRA hats and shirts all the time, so it didn’t even occur to me that I was when this waiter said at me, though not with any eye contact, “Guns are an abomination.” He then skedaddled away between the white-linen tables filled with people.
He was wearing a mask, so I leaned over to my wife to be sure I’d heard the passive-aggressive waiter right.
She nodded and her eyes told me.
Now I was stewing—and was worried about what might be in my salad.
I started thinking about one-liners, as I’d only have a moment before the waiter would again retreat back out of earshot into the cacophony of the busy Italian restaurant, as he really didn’t want a conversation. He wanted to slap me with what he thought was a moral rebuke. He was “woke”, and so, in his unthinking opinion, he was of the highest social order, whereas I was a “deplorable.”
Maybe: “Can you imagine how a gun might feel in the hands of a woman being stalked by a violent ex—yes, like freedom.”
No, too confrontational.
How about: “You’d be surprised how empowering trigger time is.”
No, too easy to misinterpret. He would just accuse me of thinking I was John Wick or something.
I know: “Why do you think the weakest, frailest and smallest among us must live in fear?”
No, his fear of guns is from his ignorance; therefore, his reaction would simply be that guns are frightening.
Maybe just: “Why are guns an abomination?”
Yes, that’s short, engaging and not too confrontational.
So he comes to refresh drinks and I ask this loudly, but calmly and curiously and with eye contact.
“You know,” he says, looking at me briefly before dodging his eyes away.
“I really don’t, and I want to understand your important point of view. You must have a lot of experience with guns?”
“No,” he says, stepping back. His expression says guns are too vile to touch.
“Then how do you know?”
“Guns do awful things all the time.”
“You mean people.”
“No,” he says, but his eyes are unsure.
“You don’t really think guns are possessed or something, right? You don’t think they have minds of their own?”
“Well, of course not; it’s the things they make people do,” he says.
“If you ever try shooting—just to get some perspective, of course—you’ll find it’s not like that,” I say.
“But if it wasn’t for guns—” he stops with his eyes on the floor.
“Oh, you think murder began with the invention of gunpowder?”
“Well, no, but—”
“Did you ever consider that guns are used all the time by people for self-defense? That they empower women. That they can make the frailest individual the equal of the strongest person?”
“I guess I see what you’re saying,” he said and filled our water glasses, before striding away. He didn’t come back. Another person brought the check.
And so my wife asked, with her eyes tightening, “When will you ever stop?”
And I don’t say, “I didn’t start it.” That’s not a debate I would win.