It is all of our responsibility, including the NRA

I have never been a fan of the blame game. As a former manager of people, it is extremely rare to see a one-sided communication problem. I am also not a huge fan of people trying to place their share of the blame on someone else. I think the recent posturing of the NRA on our complex gun death problem in the US is highly offensive, not only to me, but to many, including responsible gun owners. Truth, be told, our gun death problem in the US is all of our responsibility, and yes, that includes you NRA.

The theme of this post has been altered over the course of the week, as I have read two of the best pieces of journalism on this topic from two bloggers, who I want to give the loudest of shout outs. I would encourage you to read “Can we talk about gun laws?” at www.thebrabblerabble.wordpress.com as well as “Starting this year off with guns a blazin” at www.diatribesandovations.com. The authors of these blogs have written several good posts on the topic, but you will get a keen sense of their concerns and issues by reading these two posts. All, I can add is “Amen, sisters” to their work. Yet, if you did want to read more about my concerns, I would guide you back to two posts of mine – “Gun deaths and the bigger context” last month and “Another day in America – a 16 year-old kills 13 year-old friend” penned back in August.

As these posts point out, the gun death issue is not about addressing mass murder, although that is a part of the equation. The bigger question is how do we address the gun deaths that occur every day? The issue is complex and one solution is not the answer. That is another key reason the NRA’s posturing is so lame. It will require a series of solutions to address this issue and one of those solutions will have to be tighter gun restrictions. And, if you don’t believe me check out the positions of Ronald Reagan and the first NRA president in the aforementioned post on “Can we talk about gun laws?”

So, please consider the following issues and potential solutions:

Tighter gun restrictions: This has to be part of the equation and the easiest thing to do is reinstate the Brady Law” which was advocated by Ronald Reagan, who as president was the target of the bullets that also hit James Brady. This law expired in 2004 and its lapsing is a clear sign of poor stewardship on Congress’ part.

Civil Discourse: This may be the major issue causing gun deaths. People get in arguments with family, friends, fellow patrons, fellow sports fanatics, etc. over stupid issues and do not know how to civilly disagree. There has been a huge increase in fan violence at sporting events, which is an example of this behavior. Yet, now when people get into arguments, someone has a gun or can easily get a gun and an impulsive decision will end a life. Folks, walk away. If you do not take offense, then you are not offended. Most of these arguments are not that important and some are ludicrous such as wearing another team’s colors. It is OK to disagree with someone and it is OK for them to disagree with you.

Drunk and disorderly: I mention this following the above comment. This is a key reason fan violence has increased. The players taunt (which is a disgrace, as they don’t seem to taunt when they screw up), so the fans think it is OK to taunt. When you are inebriated your judgment goes out the window. This causes fights in bars, sports bars, restaurants, etc. which have been escalating when someone goes to a car and gets their weapon. You can’t stop drunks as many show up at the game drunk from the tailgating, but the venue owners have to take responsibility and throw drunk assholes out.

Poverty: this is another major issue effecting gun deaths. In impoverished areas, crime opportunities increase and so does gun utilization. We have to find more employment opportunities and provide help climbing the ladders out of poverty. Ideas have to work within the community building off their assets and perserving dignity. I often quote Malcom Gladwell, but in his book “The Tipping Point,” New York City reduced crime in subways by doing several things, one of which was constantly repainting over the graffiti. The criminals saw that if they are this concerned with something as basic as painting over graffiti, then they are likely to be tough on crime. Plus, it helps people take pride in where they live.

Law Enforcement: Listen to the people fighting crime. Provide them with resources and tools. Law enforcement has advocated putting serial numbers and tracking the sale of bullets back to the seller. Why? It will help solve crimes. The NRA is against this. For the life of me, I cannot fathom a reasonable answer to why they believe this. If I am a law biding gun owner, then tracking my bullets does not affect me one bit. When we listen and support the people on the ground fighting crime, crime goes down.

Mental Health Care: Access has to improve. The stigma of getting care has to change. The statistic I cited a month ago by a behavioral psychologist and former collegue of mine was validated by another source. In short, 20% of people have or will have some mental health issue. It could be mild depression to being bi-polar. 10% of claims, on average, of an employer’s healthcare plans in a given year will be mental health claims. So, our imperfections sometimes manifest themselves with a need for a counselor’s care or prescription medicine. My friend’s mantra when advising clients is to make sure more of the people getting medicine are also getting therapy from a counselor to talk about their problems. She can demonstrate through data that quality of care outcomes improve for the patient and cost of health care will decline for all. Many people live with mental illness. It does not have to be debilitating. Nor does it need to lead to a crime. This is a key reason to have background checks and waiting periods on gun sales. Once someone acts on an impulse (depression is higher on college campuses, e.g.), a life is over and it cannot be retrieved.

Funding of changes: I saw someone say “put more armed guns in schools, but don’t increase my taxes.” That statement sums up America in a nutshell. We want services, but we don’t want to pay for them. There is a bigger issue here, but to keep it on topic, I live in a county that addressed budget issue by only accepting a school board bugdet with many fewer guards in schools. To the earlier point, they also reduced the number of psychologists and school counselors on site. If we want services, we have to step up and pay for them. One of my pet peeves is after cuts are made to services, services decline (it could be fewer social workers handling more family cases, e.g.) and then people complain “how could you let that happen?”

Don’t Solve for a problem and cause a bigger one: This is also one we need to avoid. Arming teachers in schools or allowing guns on college campuses are attempts to solve for a small occurring problem but lead to a bigger one that will occur daily. I don’t care how trained you are, there are very few people who can stand up, aim correctly and fire at another person shooting back. Teachers would be better served to get their children to safety rather than playing Dirty Harry.

Entertainment Violence: Hollywood and games creators. Yes, you do have a role. The NRA is correct on this. I often frequent a local video store as I like the library feel of browsing for movie gems. On one wall are all the current releases. This is anecdotal, but my guess is 75% are violent movies either with weapons or horror based themes. The bad guys have to die, it is that simple. The same is true of the games. The bad guys have to die. This is not the first time Hollywood is full of shit on an issue. Just like the NRA, they tout first or second amendment rights. Yet, they are both hypocritical as they want to push the sales of their products. I can assure you if well done biblical movies sold $100 million plus, they would push them more. And, we parents need to talk openly and monitor some these violent games. We should also vote with our feet and stop buying these games or attending these movies.

Religion must be inclusive: I am a broken record on this topic. The thing I detest most is bigotry from the pulpit. When a faith leader preaches a religion of exclusion and promotes we/ they issues, I believe they have let their God and parishioners down. Religion is at its finest when it is inclusive. It is at its worst when it excludes. I have delighted in Alastair’s post on www.kattermonran.com on “Why I love humanity…” where one of the pictures is of a boy holding a sign next to a man holding a sign which says “God Hates Fags.” The boy’s homemade sign is “God Hates No one.”

If there is anything we each can take away from the above, I would at a bare minimum ask you to remember three things. First, stop this we/ they bullshit. Do not tolerate it because it puts us in adversarial positions. We stop listening to people’s opinions and make everything a competition. For example, the NRA is right about Hollywood, but wrong about their own role.  Second, have civil discourse with others. It is OK for them to disagree with you. If you cannot discuss amicably your issues, walk away. Third, understand that solutions to problems have to be muti-faceted. There are no panaceas. The problems are complex, so single purpose solutions don’t address the problem. Question others when you hear simplistic solutions.

Many thanks for reading. Please feel free to offer comments or share with others. We have to bang this drum and keep banging it. We have to greatly reduce gun deaths in our country. This is not something we want to lead the civilized world in as we do.

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30 thoughts on “It is all of our responsibility, including the NRA

  1. Excellent piece, and as usual, you nailed it. I have been engaged with a writer on a daily investment sheet who essentially says that the problem is too big, there are too many guns, too many speed clips, too many illegal guns out there to control. I completely disagree, if we are afraid to take on this problem now, then when?

    We also can get mired in the purpose of a gun argument. Hunting rifles and shotguns? No problem here. One argument asks if we should also ban high speed cars and motorcycles, because people get killed on them. The purpose of a car or mortorcycle is transportation. The purpose of a gun is to kill. The purpose of an assault rifle is to kill a lot of people, in a very short time. Same for high-speed, high capacity clips.

    Thanks for the post

      • As always, I appreciate your comments. I do agree that teaching manners is another key as well as the addressing the me first culture. I think your arguments abet my argument. I will stand by comments that the issue is complex and requires holistic thinking and solutions. Yes, this is hard, but we cannot point a simple finger and say their to blame and we should fix that. All to often I see issues resulting from the compilation of events and past decisions. Keep on reading and writing. Thanks, BTG

  2. With all due respect BTG (and I enjoyed your writing and your links)… how do you know that… “The issue is complex and one solution is not the answer.”…

    The suggestions you offer are a call to REMAKE almost everything in the country we live in and the culture, or cultures, that make up what we know as America. I suggest, if you really believe that, it will be far easier just to move!

    You ask me to… “understand that solutions to problems have to be muti-faceted. There are no panaceas. The problems are complex, so single purpose solutions don’t address the problem. Question others when you hear simplistic solutions.”…

    I don’t agree. I see no proof that this MUST be complicated. I don’t know of a place where all the things you listed that need fixing are fixed. Yet, no place has the blood running in the streets like we do. I would suggest that the problem is a simple one and it can be easily diagnosed by observing just “how” we differ culturally from our fellow humans and their cultures. I just don’t think we want to.

    We have no manners. We teach our children that no one is more important than they are. We outlawed shame and dedicated ourselves to the idea that everybody has a birthright to high self esteem and that there are no “real” wrong answers.

    The inevitable result is a population that never grows up and is incapable of dealing with disappointments. Resentful losers who have been assured from birth that they are winners. Tantrum throwing children in the bodies of adults. Add ridiculous drug laws & ubiquitous firearms and this is what you get. You simply do not see such behavior in cultures where children are taught manners and respect for adults and authority figures. You didn’t see it here when those conditions flourished here either.

    All the best
    Mrs. N.

  3. i enjoyed your post and all that you addressed. this part baffled me: “Law enforcement has advocated putting serial numbers and tracking the sale of bullets back to the seller. Why? It will help solve crimes. The NRA is against this. “….

    why on earth would any good law-abiding person object to this? because they have the power to object?

      • you are probably right, but if a bullet connected with a loved one of mine – even a dog or cat, i would like to be able to follow the trail! like random drug testing in schools, the fact that one might get caught is often enough to hinder the impulse to ever start. i would think people would reconsider umpteen times before pulling the trigger if they knew the bullet could be easily traced. of course a clever person would find ways to hide the trail, but it might stop many.
        z

      • thank you for the research that you put into your posts and for presenting it to people like me who live off the grid. as i have stated before, i wish we could roll back to mayberrry rfd days and begin again with the wisdom we have now.. but what would we change and how could we short circuit what’s going wrong?
        z

      • Thanks Z. I don’t know. The US is the United States of Entertainment. I read an op-ed piece that we have a new reality show coming our way which stars a rapper and the ten “baby-mamas” for his eleven children who all live in the same house. This is a far cry from Andy Griffith. I find myself watching more BBC TV these days, when I do watch.

      • Z, it is an incredible place where someone would actually put that on TV and people would actually watch it. We are also about to release a show on a West Virginia version of Jersey Shore, neither show have I or will I watch. Ecuador sounds even better. Thanks, BTG

      • BTG’s point about the United State of Entertainment is well taken. There needs to be a more thorough study of the effects of television viewing on people. We are inundated by thousands of images every hour and the themes of violence and humor based on put-downs are constant. And we sit passively taking it all in. There’s work to be done in that area.

      • Thanks Hugh. I borrowed that quote from “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” I think people need to choose not to watch this stuff. They need to choose not to buy from the people who market on these programs. I know I am being naive to certain extent, but I try not to watch garbage on TV and do not buy things because a scantilly clad woman is being used to sell it. I appreciate your comments, as always. BTG

  4. Excellent blog, my friend. I would make a small exception to your notion that in the violent movies the “bad guy must die.” I don’t think it is clear any more just who the bad guys are. I’m not sure whether people believe there is any moral high ground that Martin Luther King once spoke about longingly. This might be an important part of the discussion you correctly note is long overdue!

    • Hugh, great point and very ironic. This morning I was re-reading the quote from LaPierre of the NRA who said “The only chance against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Since we are all varying shades of gray, to your point, how do you determine who is good and who is bad? One of John Wayne’s greatest acting roles was in “The Searchers” and he played an imperfect, gray character. Thanks for reading and commenting, BTG

  5. Joni Mitchell’s BOTH SIDES NOW…
    Well something’s lost but something’s gained,
    In living every day.
    I’ve looked at life from both sides now,
    From win and lose and still somehow
    It’s life’s illusions I recall;
    I really don’t know life at all.

    Your “points” BTG…salient to a fault.
    The solutions? World history documents winners and losers.
    Which tells me? This “ill” will only be cured when we want it to be…

      • We are both correct, Mr. C. From the halls of Wikipedia: “Judy Collins made the first commercially released recording of the song in 1967, shortly after Mitchell wrote it, which reached #8 on the U.S. pop singles charts and won a 1968 Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance.[3] The record peaked at #3 on Billboard’s Easy Listening survey and has become one of Collins’ signature songs.”

      • I responded before I saw your second comment which is more thorough. If you ever want to see Joni Mitchell in her finest, watch “The Last Waltz” about The Band. She sings in silhouette a haunting back up to Neil Young and then sings lead on one of her songs. Very cool.

      • I think Joni wrote it and Judy Collins sang it. The infamous “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” that Crosby, Stills and Nash sang about. Neil Diamond does a good version of Joni’s song as well.

    • Jots, you have just recited one of my most favorite songs. Thanks for the memory lane. I agree that we must decide to cure this. This has to stop being a political issue and be a life/ death issue. Thanks for reading and offering your comments. BTG

  6. Confucius… in the book The Analects:
    [“Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, they will order themselves harmoniously”]

    We are a guilt based culture where, in the past few decades, we have learned that claiming victim status can, more or less, absolve us of most opportunities where we should feel a sense of guilt. We have a larger percentage of our population behind bars than any other nation in history. What Confucius wrote rings so true. From a cultural anthropology point of view our problem with guns and murder is not only understandable, but, utterly predictable. The more shame based a culture is the less they suffer this problem. NO culture has outlawed shame like America has…. The consequences simply follow.

    • I am very impressed with your quoting Confucious. You have rasied excellent points. Well done. I try not to generalize and paint everyone with same brush. To me, a huge problem is the purposeful segmentation of people for marketing reasons – this causes many problems. The NRA has enabled through fear the sale of guns and wrapped themselves up in the Second Amendment. My belief is they have data on what sells and the know how to push those buttons. The other issue is people do not want to take the time to see the complexity of problems and look for simple solutions like building more prisons. I think Confucious would be shaking his head at all of this. Please never hesitate to offer your comments. Take care, BTG

      • I have noticed BTG that, on numerous occasions, you have taken the time to inform me that you “try not to generalize” and that “problems are complex”, while people look for simple solutions. Perhaps not in those exact words, but, certainly to that effect.

        I think I enjoy your blog the most because our minds so obviously travel different roads. I am a pattern seeking organism that delights in discovering things that can be generalized, perpetually amused by those who demand complex answers to simple questions. For me, and in my experience, all the really BIG answers to the BIG questions in life have had one thing in common. They were elegant in their simplicity.
        Respectfully,
        Mrs. N.

      • Mrs. N, thanks for the note. Based on your first paragraph, you would be surprised that I love elegance. It is an old computer programming term meaning finding the most efficacious solution. I am also one who tends to get up out of my chair and go do something rather than talking about doing something. With that said, if you can figure out how to simply fix some of our complex problems and the political permutations and challenges, I am all for it. I will shout from the rooftops with you and help make it happen as much as it is in my power to do so. We do tend to make things harder in this country than they need to be. Keep on reading and offering your thoughts as I like being made to think and you do create that environment. Many thanks, BTG

  7. Thanks for the shout out, BTG. You have some great ideas about where to start the conversation about gun control. Unfortunately, in my personal experience, ANY attempt leads to infantile and ridiculous arguments. But at least the administration is not sitting back and waiting any longer. I read this today: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/white-house-weighs-broad-gun-control-agenda-in-wake-of-newtown-shootings/2013/01/05/d281efe0-5682-11e2-bf3e-76c0a789346f_story.html

    From the article: “A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors…”

    A friend of mine found these ideas “draconian.”

    • Amaya, you deserve the shout out. Thanks for sharing this. Joe Biden takes a lot of shit, but he may go down as one of our best Vice Presidents. He has been involved in many things around the globe, brokered a fiscal cliff resolution and is working on this important issue. Not that my opinion matters a lot, but tell your friend you know a 54 year old, former Republican, now Independent who has been preaching better gun control for many months (actually years, but blogging for months). Gun control does not mean gun elimination. Take care, BTG

  8. We can’t talk about this enough! But talk is cheap and, eventually, someone will have to DO something about the problem. I fear will soon live in a vigilante society where it will be, more or less, every man for himself.

    Thanks a ton for the shout out, too! 😉

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