The recent shooting in Newtown, CT, was an indescribable tragedy. While every innocent and needless death is a tragedy, this seemed particularly heinous in that young children were the primary targets and the massacre occurred ahead of the holiday season. Few would argue with President Obama’s statements that something needs to be done to deter these types of tragedies. Sadly, however, all I have heard thus far is: “I believe this tragedy can be used to advance a political agenda .”
In today’s political world, it’s inevitable that such senseless criminality would give rise to talk of gun control and rolling back the Second Amendment . And it is a reasonable discussion to have in a free and open society.
While seen largely as a black-white issue by both sides of the discussion, these types of issues have their shades of grey because it isn’t just a mixture of world views and paradigms but competing rights. Most importantly, these aren’t debates that should be shaped by majority opinion. By its definition, the safeguarding of rights should protect the minority from the majority.
Like most people, I have an opinion on gun control. I grew up in Wyoming in an avid hunting and sporting family; thus, few would be surprised at my leanings. This country was born as a result of citizens being able and willing to stand up and fight tyranny. That same dynamic is on display today in the Middle East where folks are battling oppressive regimes in the “Arab Spring” movement.
We can debate whether anyone needs a semi-automatic weapon for recreation, to protect themselves, or to fight oppression, but it doesn’t address the real issue. It isn’t that a psycho used a gun to kill innocent children, or that some of the deaths could have been prevented if the school principal had been armed. The dilemma is how to minimize these tragedies without paying too great a price in terms of freedom. Another question is whether any measure can succeed in preventing mass killings.
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If there’s to be some positive from this tragedy, then the conversation needs to be more comprehensive. That means in-depth discussion about violence in entertainment. I’d like to see a renewed focus on valuing human life, and correcting the cultural changes that have diminished that over time. The discussion should also focus on getting God back into our schools and not being afraid to teach morality  to a society desperately in need of it.
We also need a serious discussion on improving mental health care, testing and diagnosis. If the issue is gun violence in general, then we should address this nation’s rampant drug problem, as well as the decline of the traditional family.
Sadly, we won’t have that type of national debate; it will merely center on gun control and, more precisely, gun control on a very limited class of guns. The idea, of course, is to prevent these rare actions of murderous psychopaths, but any criminal bent on having them will have access to them.
There are no easy solutions to the societal problems we face. However, if we are ever going to do more than pay lip service to these tragedies, we have to understand that applying a band-aid while ignoring the underlying cancer isn’t a solution. It just makes us feel better.