The White House this week said curbing gun violence is a complex problem requiring a “comprehensive” solution.
But the president immediately moved to appoint a panel on guns.
There may be some changes in gun laws that can help. But it remains that some of the areas of the country most plagued by gun violence have the strictest gun laws. Gun laws in Norway – not exactly the Wild West – were futile in preventing Anders Breivik’s slaughter of 69 at a youth camp last year.
And when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg insipidly says, “We don’t need people carrying guns in public places,” he is being decidedly un-nuanced. He can say that, and could pass such a law would it not be clearly unconstitutional according to recent Supreme Court rulings, but it begs the question: Would criminals agree? Or only law-abiding citizens?
Way back in 1764, Cesare Beccaria, warned of laws “which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent.”
We welcome a debate on gun control, as long as it is honest and adheres to reason rather than emotion.
But the laser focus on gun laws may miss the larger target.
The Newtown shooting, as all other massacres and gun deaths, is about so much more than guns. It’s about mental health issues. School security. A culture of self-gratification at nearly any cost. Subcultures that glorify violence and objectify women. Broken homes and births out of wedlock. And more.
It’s so much easier to demonize good Americans who believe deeply in not just the right to bear arms, but the wisdom of it. It’s easier than taking a painful look at lifestyles and behaviors that help lead to violence and cheapened views of human life. It’s easier, for instance, than confronting this country’s negligence of the mentally ill: We rightly ended the practice of wholesale institutionalization long ago, but turned our sisters and brothers out into a society with precious few resources to help them. A quarter of homeless people are believed to have mental illness.
Meanwhile, luminaries in the entertainment industry lament the violence while hypocritically cashing in on movie after movie, video game after video game, featuring gratuitous and ultra-violent images.
There may be some things the government can do. But in a free society, they are extremely limited, and largely ineffectual. In truth, it’s Americans, not their government, who hold the key to creating the peaceful society we want.
We need to walk away from violent imagery. We need to be our brother’s keeper – and when we can’t, we need to alert authorities who can. We need to support community-based mental health programs and organizations. We need to re-evaluate whether our anything-goes sexuality and
mating dances with virtual strangers are healthy – for us, our children or society.
Again, we can tweak the gun laws – but to treat the real problems in American society, we need an exceptionally candid dialogue about the state of American society.
Let’s see a task force on that.