I am a bit disconcerted to discover that I am fast becoming numb to the news of yet another mass killing by a lone and heavily armed gunman. I certainly can’t in any way condone what was done, so I call on each and everyone of us to stop condoning a society in which such heinous events happen. As the national discussion begins on what we should do I have a couple of observations.
First, we must resist simplistic solutions and hasty reactions. As appealing as it may be, banning private ownership of firearms is not the answer and arming teachers, principals, and all law-abiding citizens is also not the answer. Gun violence and senseless mass murders are but symptoms, or manifestations of deeper systemic issues.
A fruitful starting point may be to acknowledge the interconnections between seemingly unrelated issues. What about examining the connection between how we entertain ourselves and how we act toward others? What immature (or perhaps irrational) beliefs have we developed about how effective guns are as a solution to our problems? On a larger scale, what do we believe about the power of state-sanctioned violence to resolve our conflicts and solve our problems? What has been the impact of living through the first decade of a perpetual state of war? Does military power really lead to world peace? Does an armed citizenry produce a safe community?
Next we need to admit that the status quo produces the status quo. The byzantine web of regulations and loopholes; restrictions and liberties; private and public interests has built a society where these kinds of incidents happens with what seems like increasing regularity. Yet we defend each dimension of the status quo as necessary for the maintenance of the private interests that would need to change if we are to make a meaningful change. What we have failed to do is take a long and thoughtful look at the whole that is the sum of these fragmented yet interconnected parts.
Clearly the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School were not made safer by the Lanza family’s constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Perhaps there is a collective good that is more relevant and more important, and more in the need of our collective efforts than personal desires, pleasures, and sense of security that is maintained by those who want to see firearms in every holster.
I don’t have the answers, but I think our collective response to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary needs to include both individual and collective soul searching. I think we need to make local, state, and national decisions to change the status quo. What we are currently doing clearly isn’t working and more of the same will change nothing.