All of us have recently watched the outpouring of sentiment in regards to the massacre of unarmed children at Sandy Hook elementary in Connecticut. For reasons that should be tiringly obvious, the standard actors have been marched onto the stage in order to trumpet some despairingly familiar refrains. For reasons I cannot readily identify, I’ve been moved to respond this time, despite the fact that this blog has been quiet on basically every other issue. As a parent, and as a thinking human being, this one seems like a softball.
After all the body counts have been taken, after all the reactionary rhetoric on both sides has been exhausted, it seems agreed upon that inactivity is an unacceptable response. The most important question, the one that should guide all our thinking is, what to do? What is our strategy? Specifically: what do we want to achieve?
In my professional career, I have rarely embarked on any long-term or large-scale project without a clear and concise answer to that question, as well as the implied followup, “and how will we measure our success?” Since the pundits seem unable to answer this question and the entrenched interests are incapable, I’d volunteer an answer to this one right off the bat. Our objective is to reduce the number of incidents of preventable gun deaths overall.
This statement should be uncontroversial, and it is worded quite specifically. If you don’t agree, there isn’t going to be much common ground south of here. Notice the characteristics of this statement:
1. We say reduce, not ‘end.’ We say this because we are working inside reality. While a 100% success rate would be wonderful, let’s just call that good news if it happens and continue to target realistic, reality-based improvements.
S2. We don’t say massacres, crime, threats, or accidents. We are keeping it to the simple and easily tracked death metric, which are reported more effectively than almost any other category. Injuries are also ideal, if the tracking is there.
S3. The word preventable is almost redundant– are there any incidents that are not preventable? But this also underscores the intention that is baked into the philosophy: we believe that there is a preventative aspect to gun violence and that it is appropriate to include preventative measures in the solutions considered. We are not talking simply about how we choose to react to incidents. Our objective includes avoiding incidents altogether.
S4. We say overall — including whatever form this violence may take, be it gangs, domestic violence, household accidents, rampage killings and so on. Some are scarier than others. We’re taking them all on.
I also offer a series of important assumptions, hopefully these are obvious:
A1. We know that we live under the second amendment, and that we are talking about real (if not wholly agreed-upon in their specifics) Constitutional rights. Consequently, we assume that they are largely irrevocable. However, we also understand and accept that the Constitution is considered a living document, not inviolable scripture, and is designed for amendment and interpretation. So while any discussion of rights-modification is to be avoided, the territory is not Holy Ground. This is not an opinion. This is a matter of the constitution’s design.
A2. To a certain extent, the genie is already out of the bottle. That is, we are not starting from a position of zero guns. They are already out there, they are already someone’s property. The seizure of guns, despite what the cranks tell you Obama’s big plan is, is probably impractical politically. Again, we’re basing this on the real world. Any solution needs to acknowledge this.
Agreed? Great. So what do we do?
It would seem that the first most obvious thing to do is commission serious investigation and research into gun safety, from credible, non-partisan sources. What are the sources of injury? Of death? This has not happened. More to the point, it has been aborted by the gun lobby, who (no doubt) correctly foresee real commercial implications to any possible findings. So the first thing to do is demand this get research re-implemented.
But frankly, this response would strike me as the typical cowardly bullshit from the media that has us unable to recognize a fact when it’s staring us in the face, and lays us up against a typical hard-right avoidance tactic that we’re all a little tired of, having seen this applied to the case of global warming, congressional intransigence, etc. That is: find counterarguments or extremes, regardless of how flimsy, use these counterarguments to sow doubt by citing a lack of consensus, demand further research, diffuse counterarguments with accusations of impartiality.
More tersely, say there is no global warming, or that it’s not proven to be caused by manmade factors, or that there is still a debate or lack of consensus in the scientific community. The fact is there, and the fact that will be borne out here, is that there is consensus, specific research has already been performed, the facts are in, and they are not ambiguous.
In the meantime, while we wait for the results of those studies to come back, we have to live with this? What will inaction look like?
I think we all know.