How Do We Fix This?

December 14, 2012 8:43 a.m.

I try not to, or I generally have no interest in writing things that amount to counsels of despair or suggestions that there’s no possible solution. But I have a hard time not doing that in this case. Many of you have kids. I have kids. These school shootings, a subset of the no less horific mass shooting phenomenon, seem like they’re becoming more common (though I’d be curious to hear whether there are hard statistics on this.) But this one seems, feels like it’s in a whole different category — the age of the children, the number of fatalities. I’m not sure any of that requires saying more. You get it.

In this case, I read a couple days ago that there are some 300 million guns in the US. Just under half the population owns a firearm. Let’s assume some truly radical shift in public opinion in the country and new regulations and laws get that number down to 200 million. What does that accomplish exactly?

And let’s further note that the courts have moved decisively in favor of a much fuller interpretation of the 2nd Amendment which would make almost any sort of serious gun control impossible. Just days ago a federal court essentially made ‘conceal and carry’ the law of the land, or at least within that circuit for now. So what seemed a bit crazy a few years ago is now a constitutionally protected gun right.

We know many cases of schools where people have to go through metal detectors. How much more on permanent lockdown do we want schools to be? Let’s call that half a rhetorical question. But only half.

Don’t mistake me: I’m not making the argument that gun control wouldn’t be effective or the standard arguments that the guns were bought legally or by people with no history mental illness, whatever. I’d be ready to support pretty much all the things that normally go under the heading of ‘gun control’. But I’m hearing a lot of people saying we need to talk about guns, restart that conversation. And I agree, at least in the abstract. But what exactly are we talking about? And how we propose to get from here to there? How do we make our country less of a moral embarrassment.

I don’t want to hear about these tragedies being rooted in evil or the human heart. We know the human heart is a substandard product. The brain frequently malfunctions. It’s offensive to put this forward as part of a discussion about policy as opposed to theodicy and meditation. We know that the vast, vast proportion of gun owners use them legally and safely. We also know that gun deaths are rare in many other countries quite similar to the USA for the simple reason they don’t have so many friggin’ guns all over the place. This is obvious. And guns just make it easy to kill a lot of people really quickly. Freely available body armor helps too.

I’m not trying to stop the discussion. I want to start it. But I’m looking for some guidance on how it can be about more than words.

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