Cause and Effect.

I have a few thoughts regarding the horrific mass shooting earlier today at an elementary school in Connecticut. It’s possible some of these thoughts will make you think less of me. If that’s the case, so be it. I stand by everything I write here. There are those who say we shouldn’t be discussing political issues so soon after such a horrific tragedy. While I can see the merit of that argument, I also recognize that it’s too often used as a form of emotional blackmail to keep from ever discussing certain issues, the gun culture paramount among them. You hear often that this isn’t the time for politicization, and I could not agree less. This is precisely the time for politicization. Discussing and deciding on a course of action to lessen the chances of this happening is far-and-away more important than the risk of appearing insensitive. What’s truly insensitive is allowing this absurdity of a status quo to continue unchallenged.

My first response to this – as it was in each of the previous mass shootings that seem to have become an American tradition – is pure horror and empathy for the victims and their families. Watching a kindergartner with some reporter shoving a microphone in his face, listening to this child describe seeing “the first-grade teacher die,” evokes in me a sense of tragedy and anger which our souls reserve for only the truly, heinously, senselessly horrific. I’m no parent so I’m unequipped to relate on that level, but I can only imagine how much more intense their own feelings must be. Just when we think we can’t be the least bit more horrified, we come to realize that this is becoming a routine for us. Just days prior to this tragedy, not two hours’ drive from where I live, somebody went into a mall and started shooting. That it’s no longer at all surprising when it happens does nothing to lessen one’s sense of wordless grief and rage.

However, as members of a reasoned, enlightened society, we owe it to each other, to ourselves, and the generations who will follow us, to consider this question as dispassionately and scientifically as we can. No amount of prayers or grieving, no amount of shares or likes for memorial pages on facebook, no amount of silent respect for the victims and their families will give them back their lives or keep this from occurring again in the future. What we need is a long, serious, honest and uncompromising look at the causes of these incidents, most notably the widespread availability of weapons of mass murder.

I believe that such a conversation must include tighter gun laws. There is no way around it. The evidence is readily available, and it is dispositive. Ours is, always has been and likely always will be a violent species. Violence has been a part of literature and drama since those art forms have existed, so it’s difficult to fault the media’s influence. Violent acts have occurred among us since the beginning, well before there ever existed a media to report them with sufficient detail to horrify us at a distance. What has changed is the weapons technology. Our killing machines are more efficient and successful in bringing about their designed purpose than ever before in our history. As politically difficult as it would be, restricting access to that technology would at least minimize the damage when these things occur, if not prevent them entirely. This is of course no panacea, but it’s a start. It’s the most obvious, clear, important, proven-effective start to the conversation. (The standard reply at this point is that if concealed-carry were more common and prevalent, that would prevent mass murders even more effectively. The anarchic madness in that idea is such that I struggle even to reply to it with something approaching logical sense. I’ve never heard it supported by data, instead relying on anecdotal evidence of a concealed-carrier thwarting an assailant. I’d defer to Gin and Tacos’ takedown of the armed citizen approach.)

And let’s just face the facts – such a conversation is not going to happen. Not anytime soon. The reasons for this are many, varied, and depressing. Our political system in the best of times is ill-equipped to deal with such an issue. With the president’s party having staked out the center and the Republicans having careened to the right in the past half-decade, where we currently stand is a country mile’s distance from the best of times. As Phil Plait notes here, Congress isn’t actively tackling the issue; they’re actively avoiding it. Mirroring the Republican Party’s unwillingness to even entertain the idea of tighter gun laws, the simple fact is that the passionate gun owner will shut down at the first whiff of gun control. As soon as he realizes that is your target, he has stopped listening. Guns are in America’s DNA, inextricably a part of us. They – and the cultural fascination with them – are not going anywhere. You could quote to a thousand different studies showing lower gun deaths in states with tighter control laws (like the one here), and it won’t make the slightest difference. I’ve heard more once the same sentiment: should they – law-abiding citizens, each of them – be held accountable for the actions of some sad, twisted individual like Ryan Adam Lanza?

I feel for them. I grew up around passionate second-amendment types, and to this day call many of them friends. It is too bad that their chosen hobby is tarnished by events such as what occurred today. When the gunowners I know say they would never intentionally hurt another person who did not intend them bodily harm, I believe them. That it’s unfair makes it no less irrelevant. Surely the cost-benefit has now changed. Surely the benefits of being allowed to own and use extended magazines and assault-style weapons are outweighed by the cost of same.

If that cost-benefit hasn’t changed, if lax gun regulations are still more important than minimizing and/or preventing incidents like today… well, we get the society we ask for. If we continue with the status quo of poor mental health access and exceptionally wide-open gun access, then our implicit statement is that the damage occasionally caused to our fellows is an acceptable byproduct of the system we prefer. Never in a million years would I say any individual deserves bodily harm. But, as a society, as a collective, we won’t get what we want. We will certainly get what we deserve.

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~ by kroveechernila on December 14, 2012.

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