Opinion | I was discussing gun policy. He threatened to shoot my campaign worker.

Editor’s note: The following was first published by Michigan Sen. Margaret O’Brien on Facebook. She agreed to allow Bridge to publish it as a commentary.

Have we lost polite civil discourse in our country?

I was out knocking doors and engaged in a respectful and informative conversation with a couple about school safety and gun laws. They do not like most guns, which is their right to believe and advocate.

It was mostly fine (the husband liked to say provocative statements) until I was leaving and the husband saw one of my volunteers waiting for me at the end of the driveway.

Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, is running for re-election in the 20th District.

He decided to yell, “You better duck! I’m going to shoot you with an AR 15” to my sweet volunteer.

Now friends, I don’t believe the man owns a gun, nor do I believe he would shoot someone. But my volunteer did not know this. And did not deserve this. The wife was horrified by her husband and kept trying to get him to be respectful like she was being.

If this is how people try to make our communities safer, it won’t work. Threatening innocent people is what we are trying to stop. This man’s message was lost.

Is this where our country has gone? I hope not.

I wish we could say this started with a handful of people a couple years ago. It hasn’t. It’s been around a long while.

This last (presidential) campaign highlighted two candidates who regularly demeaned others. The media (almost all media) feeds in to this and also demeans people in the name of “fairness” or “news”- whatever it is.

I’m okay if people disagree with me. In fact, I learn more from it. But I must be responsible for MY actions and do my best to act how I want to be treated. If we all did this, we would find solutions much more quickly.

Let’s make sure no one name calls or justifies violence or hate simply because someone else has done it. Together, we CAN change the tone.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Thu, 04/12/2018 - 7:44am

Most anti-gun people I know tend to be extremely uninformed about operation and the specifics of guns. You should just as well expect this to extend to gun etiquette.

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 12:32pm

It is part of gun etiquette to threaten to shoot someone? Even in jest, it's just not funny these days. And because people don't know the technical specifics of a particular gun, that takes away their right to be upset about gun violence and the deaths that result?

Sat, 04/14/2018 - 7:00am

No John when people know nothing about guns we shouldn't be surprised this to extends to all aspects of firearms. You are welcome to prioritize feelings over facts if you'd like.

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 9:47am

This is how disrespect and rudeness are endemic. You say priortize feeling over fact. That's a tactic known as gaslighting. It suggests that you are a beacon of reason while your opponents are needlessly emotional.

Ironically, you are the one to go negative and rude, and your raw emotion drips through the attack. You dismiss anyone who doesn't understand the difference between an automatic weapon andnthe AR-15, believing falsely that youve shut down debate when, in fact, you made the very argument for them thatthey seek to get across to you.

For all of the majority of Americans who want to end mass shootings and needless gun violence, let me explain it to you with a reasonably apt analogy.

Probably you've made the argument that cars kill people. Indeed, they do. They are also highly regulated so that you do not have more deaths and so that there are consequences for violating regulation. Most people cant describe how a combustion engine works, but are horrified by, say, drunk driving.

"Now, wait," you argue emotionally "There's a Constitutional right to own a gun!" True, within a well regulated militia. If you are part of that militia, which you would need to be to exercise that right, your are already subject to government regulation.

Sorry, it seems it is you who lack an understanding of the necessary information to excercise your 2A rights, it seems. You seem to believe that technical expertise bis necessary before regulations can be enacted. The Constitution says you're wrong.

Now you owe him an apology for being demeaning and emotional.

R Brown
Wed, 06/06/2018 - 2:51pm

The reason for the 2nd amendment is so the government can raise a militia. You are not required to be in a militia to exercise your second amendment rights, anymore than you must be a journalist to use freedom of speech or a pastor to exercise your freedom of religion.

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 8:59am

The constituent's sarcastic, provocative comment was clearly inappropriate. Unfortunately, the hatred spewed forth and the war-like tone of people like NRA's Dana Loesch and our president does provoke others to respond in kind.
While I likely disagree with your politics, I agree with you in hoping that the hateful rhetoric stops so we can have civil discussions in this state and country about policy. A long term tactic used by the military in war time is to use words and degrading names to dehumanize the enemy, an approach increasingly used in the political sphere.

Kevin Grand
Sun, 04/15/2018 - 1:26pm

"I agree with you in hoping that the hateful rhetoric stops so we can have civil discussions in this state and country about policy. A long term tactic used by the military in war time is to use words and degrading names to dehumanize the enemy, an approach increasingly used in the political sphere."

It's also a tactic used by hoplophobes as well when they are trying to control the narrative.

Unfortunately (for them, anyway), it only works when people are unaware of this tactic. Once it becomes common knowledge, it loses all effectiveness.


Thu, 04/12/2018 - 9:47am

More to the point of this article, the loss of civil discourse, I would like to recommend a book by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt "How Democracies Die". The book addresses how the lack of civil discourse is just one part of the process that leads to the end of a democracy.

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 10:10am

In your reference to the last presidential campaign, you said that the campaign highlighted two candidates who regularly demeaned others. Certainly this applies to Trump who during the campaign and since the start of his presidency has demeaned others on a weekly if not daily basis. I am not sure who the other candidate you are referring to is. If you mean Hillary Clinton, she did not "regularly demean others". You are likely referring to her "basket of deplorables" comment. Clearly this was an inappropriate comment when taken out of context and was a very poor choice of words, but understood in context she was referring to the extremist racists and sexists who were given voice by Trump (and she stated this very clearly at the time). But it is important to note the rest of her statement that day which was: "But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”
A demeaning comment?

Sat, 04/14/2018 - 8:15pm

While I certainly agree that Trump takes the prize for demeaning others, both before and after the election, Hillary's comment about "deplorables" is far from the only example of her attitude. She continues to spew demeaning and patronizing comments. The most recent one that set me off was her characterization of women who voted for Trump as doing so because their husbands told them to. Excuse me? I am a professional with a bachelor's degree, a woman, and I voted for Trump (actually I voted against Hillary, but the result was the same). I remember well as I launched a career in a male-dominated profession 35 years ago the comments that assumed I felt a certain way, or would react a certain way, because I was female. But to hear such a thing from a woman, in 2018, pretty much made my jaw drop. Good luck to anyone who tries to tell me who to vote for -- and after years of my husband and I joking about cancelling out each other's votes I am certainly not going to vote for who he tells me to vote for. Both parties are complicit in the mud-slinging and incivility that is so prevalent today.

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 1:43pm

But you thought it was ok for someone who thinks grabbing women by the p****y because they let you is ok was worthy of your vote. Interestin.

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 11:02am

Democracy also dies when those hate comments extend to traditional media organizations and recently, when a news organization starts scripting and making its anchors say hateful things about other media. This leads to a state run media, which is common in all authoritarian countries. Democracy will not long live when the free press is stifled. Our lawmakers and president seem to feel that they can change reality if they just say it enough times. And so far, I see them doing it. We so need to change the discourse! Thank you!

Sun, 04/15/2018 - 12:03pm

We will not have a state run media. The goal is to have a privately owned media empowered to say and do whatever the owners want said and done. We are in deep trouble with our media and unless the FCC starts doing it's job our troubles will only grow.

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 9:13pm

I guess the question is when do words matter and when do actions matter. The man used his words but did his actions show his words to be predictive?
Are provocative remarks said in ones home the same as those said in a public setting, does it matter the context of the situation or is it only the words that matter, is how those words are taken [even out of context when only a snippet of the conversation is heard] matter, does it matter if the words are in response to perceived provocative remarks?

In today's partisan environment which has added strong emotions to many issues is there no place a person can have as a sanctuary for their thoughts and remarks? Does someone have the right to invade a person's home [walk on to their property] to tout an emotionally charged issue to the home owner? Is it 'fair' and 'just' to hold a homeowner up for ridicule because of differing positions?

If Senator O'Brien truly wanted to have a conversation on a topic such as 'guns,' I encourage her to use a neutral setting such as Bridge, frame the issue and even present her position as part of an article and have a structured conversation [in which she actually addressed respectfully raise concerns].

Joel A. Levitt
Sun, 04/15/2018 - 4:04am

Do you believe that learning about a candidate through one-on-one conversation is bad?
Do you believe that responding to the ring of your door bell or, having responded, that refusing to converse with a caller is not permitted?
Do you believe that shouting at someone standing on the public sidewalk is a private communication?
Do you believe that such an undiscplined person as the shouter should be allowed to carry a deadly weapon?

Kevin Shopshire
Fri, 04/13/2018 - 3:35pm

I’m skeptical of that tale. I wish I had a dollar for every tine a pro-gun person threatened me. Then she plays the “both sides do it” crap. “This last (presidential) campaign highlighted two candidates who regularly demeaned others.” Give me a break. Hillary Clinton never made of a handicapped man, bragged by assaulting women to had a demeaning nickname for anyone who disagreed with him, from “little Marco” to “Low Energy Jeb.”

Joel A. Levitt
Sun, 04/15/2018 - 3:46am

Those who care about Michigan’s future will turn their frightened and contemptuous opponents into friends, by respectfully working with them to achieve our very many mutually desired ends.

Ron Holder
Tue, 04/17/2018 - 3:53pm

Ted Nugent anf the rest of the NRA terrorist organization gave him tacit permission to act that way. Since a lot of gun nuts (as opposed to sane gun owners like myself) operate in a world where even the most modest reforms are seen as an existential threat, and they've become convinced that any outrageous response to that from their extremely narrow side is perfectly acceptable and appropriate. They muddy the argument with irrelevant comments about how people who want sensible gun control measures don't know enough about guns to have an opinion, which is patently absurd on so many levels, it doesn't even merit a response. This is going to take concerned citizens who care about their country voting their enablers out.

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 9:25am

Margaret, that's cool. Peace begins at home, right? Maybe talk to the GOP about the candidate it has running for governor who is a raging Islamophobe and its p*ssy-grabber-in-chief in the White House if you want to tackle the problem of civil discourse?

Sun, 06/03/2018 - 11:05am

The last presidential campaign featured “two” candidates who regularly demeaned people? Really? Which campaign were you watching? If you want to be taken seriously as a candidate for elected office, don’t insult the intelligence of the electorate like that.

Matt Korolden
Mon, 06/04/2018 - 6:08am

“Is this where our country has gone?”

No, Senator, this is where our country is.

This is what happens when a very few, very wealthy ideologies use their influence to purchase a government.

This is what happens when government is no longer of, by and for the people.