Friday's event in Newtown, CT are, in a word, stunning. I really didn't have words for what I felt upon learning of this tragedy. Anger. Bewilderment. Compassion. And lots more. But I've had a few days to digest and process this, and other similar public massacres and I've begun to organize my thoughts about how we might take step to prevent this type of event from recurring.
We've become a nation of extremes. All day long both the far Left and far Right lob bombs at each other through the media. Government is clogged up with stand-offs and stalemates. No one seem willing to listen to the other side, consider their perspectives, make some concessions to get some concessions, or much of anything else, in the name of finding solutions and making progress. "I'm RIGHT and you're WRONG. And, anything you think is WRONG and won't be given serious consideration." Well, we live in an era of complex social, economic, and cultural problems. These problems don't have a single solution -- they're interwoven tangles of multiple issues. But Americans seem hell bent on believing without thinking. This needs to change, and it starts at the top.
OK, so let's say somehow the events of Friday get some folks to wake up and realize that these slaughters are becoming increasingly frequent. What would need to happen, in my opinion to make progress is:
I'm a card-carrying NRA member. I believe in the Second Amendment as a fundamental right of Americans. But the days when we could hide behind the Flag and claim that ALL people should be able to own ALL the guns they want has long since passed. Let's remember, the Founding Fathers shot MUSKETS for God's sake. We really didn't need to worry about anyone going on a shooting spree with a dueling pistol! "Hang on, just stand there for 5 minutes while I pack another charge..." Modern weapons are more accurate, more lethal, and easier for nearly anyone to figure out to to use. So, let's start with some things I think are pretty obvious:
- Eliminate high-capacity magazines. There are only two reasons you would want a 30-round clip on your Glock. One is to spray the desert with a gazillion rounds like a gun nut. The other is to do harm. Sorry pro-gun folks, we need to give a little here.
- Strengthen background checks. If you or a member of your household has a history of mental illness, no guns for you. Period. A legally acquired firearm in the hands of an unstable person is every bit as lethal as an illegal one. Yeah, this might slow the process, but what's your hurry?
- Increase prosecution of gun-crimes. They do this in Europe and many other places and it WORKS. Use a firearm in the commission of a felony, you get a free life sentence. No discussion. Instant jackpot. When actions have clear and strong consequences, it's a definite deterrent.
- Consolidate information. Yes, I'm talking about gun owner databases. And yes, I know that causes the NRA to go bat-shit calling it one step closer to the government taking all your guns. So, let's compromise - no Federal Firearms Database, but let each State maintain one. In Michigan, for example I'm pretty sure the database in Washtenaw County (where I live) is quite a bit better than rural Kalkaska County. A consolidate source makes identifying problem individuals far more likely when we do those background checks.
"Guns don't kill people, people do..." If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that after Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, KC, Portland, etc. I would finally be able to dump my day job, buy a ranch in Montana and spend my time hunting, fishing, and more. But I would expand that statement, "Guns don't kill people, angry and unstable people USING guns do." So how about if we took some of the money we seem to want to spend making it easier for illegal immigrants to enjoy the benefits of being an American (why the hell do we teach Spanish in public schools?) and put it into getting help for the troubled, unstable folks who wind up on the business end of the trigger? Seems that if even one life is spared, that was worthwhile. And Tea Bagger's who say, "Not with my money..." can just suck it. The concept of greater good is a simple one. Now, to Obama -- is there a provision for a stronger mental health system in Obamacare? No one I know can even comprehend the 2,000 page document or what it means. If I have to pay for a welfare recipient who's decided public assistance is a career, we should sure as hell be able to find some money the re-engineer our failing mental health system.
It would appear the sociable, popular, content people don't grab and AR-15 and spray a crowd. Many of these high-visibility shootings are clearly a cry for attention, rather than a well-engineered plot to exterminate the human race. Need evidence? Most of these guys shoot themselves last. Why? Because it will get them boatloads of media attention. Now they'll finally BE somebody, in some warped and twisted way. This is where we can help. Turn off the news. Stop buying The Enquirer. Don't watch anything with a Kardashian. Instead, get outside and hunt, fish, cycle, ski, play golf, backpack, or SOMETHING. We all spend too much time glued to a screen of some type. And yes, I realize I'm writing this on a computer. But we all sit on our collective asses too much, subtly giving up our brains to the media.
Here's a little secret for our legislators - they people who elect you mostly loathe you and what you stand for. The Republican party (or Democratic party) didn't elect you. WE DID. And, at least in theory, you represent us. So, let's drop all the rhetoric and Party Line. Roll up your sleeves, consider what would make REAL change happen and work with others to make that change happen.
We've become a society without much respect - for each other, for the environment, for the value of life, and so much more. We don't want to work hard, don't expect consequences from our actions, and are utterly unaccountable. It's every man (or woman) for himself. That needs to change. And I don't mean respect by offering entitlements to folks who've discovered that can be a career path. I mean we all need to start giving a shit about the other guy. Help them, but at the same time, give them some expectations. Spend less time thinking about your new big-screen TV and more volunteering to get city kids from broken homes out into the field to learn a love for the outdoors and respect for wildlife.
Guns kill people. Sometimes innocent ones, sometimes those who would do harm. I can't help but think that a well-trained armed civilian in the third row at that Aurora, CO theater could have changed the events of the day. When the shooter's AR jammed, a well-placed 9mm round between the eyes would have ended the carnage instantly. Removing concealed carry rights is like pursuing a related issue, not the root cause. And it eliminates the potential for an intervention that could have saved lives.
A complex set of circumstances got us here. And the fix will be equally complex. We're all complicit here in some way. We can all do SOMETHING. So, do it today before this happens again. Again, this is simply my thinking. Others may feel differently, but they can get their own damn blog...