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.