The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary – where a 24-year-old man entered his mothers kindergarten classroom and opened fire with two pistols – has rocked the nation just three days after a mall shooting in Portland, OR.
Currently, the Sandy Hook Elementary body count stands at 27 victims including a chilling 18 children and the shooter’s mother. The school had in place updated security measures and appears to have reacted immediately to the shooters presence inside the school. This tragic event leads us to the uncomfortable discussion of gun control – uncomfortable because opponents of increased gun control must confront occurrences like this morning’s. For example, I have argued extensively against gun control, but this attack on children, family, and security has forced me to re-think my stance on the issue.
The oft quoted “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” line has been a staple of my “pro-guns” philosophy and even today it holds some truth. However, a far more accurate re-statement would be: “guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.” Yes, people will always fight and kill each other, but technology is making it increasingly easy for a single person to drastically impact the lives of dozens or hundreds of people. Today’s incredible loss of life is indicative of this; with a knife, club, or other similar weapon, the shooter is forced to move slower and faces much more realistic resistance from the victims.
However, it is fallacious to assume that simply outlawing guns would prevent killers from killing. Instead, increased restrictions on handguns, assault weapons, etc. make it far more difficult for killers to kill so many and so quickly. In the United Kingdom, for example, handguns were outlawed in 1997. To compare their murder rate to the U.S., the UK had 58 firearm murders in 2011, while the US had 8,775 (by size comparison, the rate is more accurately 58 UK vs. approximately 3,095 U.S.)
Although certain geographic features may play a role (heat and drought in the south, greater geographic expanse, more diverse populous, porous borders, etc.) in the difference between the UK and U.S., the most obvious conclusion to draw is that less guns = less gun violence. While the U.S. has been shocked month after month by mass shootings this year, the UK has not seen a mass murder in the double-digits since 2010 , when the murder weapon was a lawfully obtained and licensed shotgun, owned for 20 years.).
Unfortunately, even as the president calls for action, I struggle with the practicality of restricting guns for law-abiding citizens. If we cannot control our borders to prevent people and drugs from being smuggled into our nation, then how are we to expect that civilians stand by while the police and criminals shoot it out with each other and civilians are merely caught in the cross fire? Quite simply, we cannot.
I, most assuredly, do support renewed discussion on gun control and further limitations on assault weapons, tactical gear, and handguns, however this focus on gun control is indicative of a larger problem in American Society today: addressing the result rather than the cause.
With the war on drugs laboring to stop drugs at the source, at the border, and on the body, conservatives raging against abortion while defunding family planning, and the assault on the Second Amendment by liberals – Americans have forgotten how to prevent problems and seem to be able to only figure out band-aid style, quick fixes. Again and again I will say it; we need to re-focus on education and compassion towards others. We need to address issues from veterans with PTSD, failing schools, and disenfranchised youth. Across the board our culture is fixated on avoiding responsibility and blaming others for their actions.
We need to address the serious cultural problems that give rise to our problems, not simply lash out when the pot bubbles over and tragedy occurs. The independent, maverick American spirit is the backbone of our nation, but we need to recognize that this is utopian. Children are not raised and people do not live in a vacuum, and being independent is often confused with being invincible or un-needing of assistance. Most probably, the people that over conform to this American ideal are the ones who suffer the most and inevitably turn to violence.
(A parting shot at the gun-rights activists scared of the government: be politically active; don’t just hide out in the woods. Use the tools provided to you to limit the governments reach, as I hope that such activism will prevent the need for armed resistance of any form, ever.)