Monday, December 3, 2012
With another murder/suicide in the news, the usual gun control debate is all over the media. It’s a story we’ve heard before. Angry person with possession of a death toy, people wind up dead. The argument is one we’ve heard before, too. While not exactly a liberal vs. conservative issue, there seem to be two sides: outlaw guns (or at least the automatic ones) vs. don’t outlaws guns.
The arguments for outlawing guns are certainly compelling. I’m not too interested in the stats, but we can all agree that most violent and accidental deaths in this country, if they don’t involve a vehicle, involved a gun. We can probably also agree that this is not what we want to be happening. But is that where our agreement has to stop?
The pro-gun side will cite the founding fathers, the 2nd amendment, and the natural human need to defend one’s self. The prohibition side will argue that automatic weapons go far beyond anything needed for simple defense, will probably bring up the nefarious intentions of the NRA, and can provide endless stats showing that far too many accidental deaths occur because children have access to guns, as do angry people in an argument.
In general, I try to base my opinions on laws on pragmatics. Just like with abortion and the use of most drugs, just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean someone should go to jail for it. It’s also pragmatic to recognize that politicians aren’t interested in using their political muscle on issues related to guns. The outrage towards guns flares after an incident, then dies when people forget it. A few months later, something else happens, we all throw bumper stickers at each other, and then we move on. Let’s admit that after Columbine, Batman-gate, and hundreds of accidental child deaths, if guns are still legal, it’s not likely to change.
So what now? There’s an awful lot of apathy on both sides. The prohibitionists spend a lot of time arguing for the banning of certain guns (much like pro-life protesters spend a lot of time waving signs in the rain), but very little time trying to end the systemic problems that bring the issue up in the first place (also like said protesters). The pro-gun people simply make their usual points, and go on their way, apparently with little concern with how many people are dying from death toys.
If we really care about people like we say we do, we need to do better than rehashing our arguments every time someone kills with a gun. We can’t control many of the systemic causes of our problem. We can’t force the TV networks to tone down the rhetoric and name-calling anytime someone disagrees. We can’t take away the speech rights of musicians, rappers, and artists that glorify violence. And we probably can’t end the nation’s absurd bloodlust, which results in the worship of soldiers and war.
But we can control what we say as individuals. One at a time, we can make our best effort to calm down, listen before speaking, and treat other people with decency and respect. We don’t have to follow the example being given by our favorite political pundit. We don’t have to call people idiots on Facebook. If there’s one systemic problem we can fix all by ourselves, it’s the elevated tone of our routine conversations. And I’d suggest that if we can all calm down, we’ll all be less likely to believe that our problems have to be resolved instantly and violently.
P.S. Slave-owning Brits founding a country doesn’t make them experts on 21st century domestic policy. Just sayin’.