We’re all still shocked. I know. The most recent incident of senseless gun violence in Connecticut yesterday is just about the worst you can imagine. 20 children dead. I don’t have children, but it still breaks my heart. In the coming weeks we’ll hear many more details about what happened. We’ll be able to dissect it from every angle and try to make sense of it. But right now, for me, it’s simple. The number of guns in this country and our lack of strict control over them is a problem.
That’s a simple statement. It doesn’t say this incident was a direct result of our gun policy. It doesn’t say we should ban all guns immediately. But it seems clear that there’s a pattern here. We may have to argue about what the pattern is exactly. We may have to argue about what action to take. But in my opinion, that is the work to do here. We need to figure this out. We can’t keep saying “what can we do?” or “there’s nothing to be done” about the fact that 20 innocent children are dead and so many families are grieving.
I’ve been talking about this with friends and acquaintances. I’ve been debating with those people who say “we should focus on mental illness”. No, this is a false choice. We can and should do something about the way we treat the mentally ill. But it’s not only those we traditionally think of as mentally ill that perpetrate these massacres. If we took everyone on the fringes of society and treated them like crazy people, we’d have an entirely different problem. I’m not even convinced we can correctly identify the fringes of society anymore. The point is that talking about mental illness and how to properly treat it is a long conversation. It has dozens of tangents that will take us away from addressing yesterday’s tragedy. We should most certainly try to get at the root causes of things like this. But that’s not the only thing we should do. We also have to ask if there are other ways this could’ve been prevented.
I’ve talked to the people who say guns don’t kill people. That madmen will do violence regardless of the weapon. This is certainly true. But what other weapon allows a madman to kill 26 people before anyone even knows what’s happening? If we put this madman in your child’s school and give you the choice of whether he has a knife or a gun, are you gonna say “oh it doesn’t matter”? It does matter. It matters because circumstances matter. Because the things around us affect our state of mind in a very real way. I responded to this in a facebook post earlier and it was a moment of clarity so I’ll reproduce it here.
I take issue with the idea that more guns don’t have an effect on the level of violence. Yes some people who want to do harm will find a way to do so. But guns make it terribly easy to do so and on a wider scale.
Guns have a very real psychological effect. They make you feel invincible. They increase the probability that you’ll take matters into your own hands. Once you fire a gun and hit someone, it’s much easier to do it again in rapid succession.
We can take a self defense class to learn how to defend against a knife. Show me the gun defense class. Should kids have bullet proof vests at all times?
And the self defense thing doesn’t hold up either. If someone threatens you or your family, a sane reaction is to want to deter them from doing that and make them leave. Not blow a golf ball sized hole in them and cause them to expire. So “gun control” could even start with not allowing average citizens to own a glock because there is no legal reason that they require one. The fact is, owning that glock makes you feel justified in blowing a hole in someone. Maybe even unconsciously itching to do so.
There are non-projectile self defense weapons that are illegal today. Because they were deemed “too lethal”. The only reason we haven’t extended that same common sense to gun control is because this country has a sick fascination with them.
I’ve talked to those people who argue for that we are overreacting. That this incident and the dozens of others don’t constitute any pattern. They want to see more facts. They want you to scour the internet and cite credible sources. And then they want you to spend time picking apart and debating each one before they will concede that something has to be done. I have no patience for these people. First off, when 20 kids are dead, there is a lot of reacting to be done before it becomes overreacting. Second, I’m left asking why you feel strongly enough to take the side of those who wish to possess killing instruments above those who only want to feel safe in their own neighborhoods. But okay, I’ve been trying to read a few facts myself. I shared this one earlier and it was more than enough for me. Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States, with a choice quote.
“If roads were collapsing all across the United States, killing dozens of drivers, we would surely see that as a moment to talk about what we could do to keep roads from collapsing….Only with gun violence do we respond to repeated tragedies by saying that mourning is acceptable but discussing how to prevent more tragedies is not.”
I don’t have all the answers. No one does. It may be that we’ll take a few missteps. It may be that some people will feel like their rights are being violated. That’s not new. We should always be having this conversation in the context of our country’s dedication to civil liberties. But civil liberties have always had to be balanced with public safety. Our public will never be completely safe. That’s not how the world works and nobody here is naive. But we have to take steps. Instead of denying the current climate, instead of arguing for arguments sake, everyone who cares about victims of random gun violence needs to help us figure it out. And if you don’t care, or you think other things are more important, well, we’re not really talking to you.