The story of the past days has been Sandy Hook and the heroism and horror (deliberate word order) there. One loud part of the discussion has been about gun control. Another part of the discussion has been about the safety of children in schools. And then another part has been the kind of leadership that should be displayed in light of this. Internally, I grieve for the kids/adults lost and their families. What I don’t have as much patience for is the rhetoric.
Gun control is a weird topic in the USA. As I listened to Steve Harvey and a few other folks talk on this specific aspect of things, I just flat out got angry. Gun control isn’t the issue here. The person who did the shooting had access to it. Nothing about controlling the point of sale would have averted this tragedy. Access is a behavioral component (and this is where the gun control discussion drives into the mental health discussion – also misguided in many of the louder conversations I’ve been avoiding).
Back to gun control. The right to bear arms is indeed guaranteed by the Constution. However, it was a right based on the fact that there was no state funded militia and therefore the right to bear arms needed to be a guaranteed right to individuals from a federal mandate (in the case of the colonies who were almost always fighting someone for something land or otherwise). Anyone who portends to start at the amendment has to then take into account the many Supreme Court decisions that have changed the original purpose of the “right to bear arms” into the ammunition marketplace that exists today. I’ve not heard this part of the discussion. As a matter of course, I don’t know but a few lawyer friends who even know how to search for or read thru such information. In that case, if the subject is gun control, where is the accountability to all of us towards being informed completely to the state of why we are where we are? Those we elected effected those who make the interpretations of the law that make plan or confused these matters.
Gun control and personal defense decisions eventually get into talking about safety and what is and is not guaranteed. Part of that expectation to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is that within these three pursuits that some entity has to guarantee safety in the midst of these. Its a weird one, and speaking totally detached from this situation, its hard not to see safety in learning as part of this happiness and liberty decree. In general, or at least as its been fostered since the last war to hit between the shores of the USA, we are entitled to being safe in whatsoever we do that does not infringe on the life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness of another (in the latter, of a reasonable state). But, if safety is not entitled, then whose responsibility is it for its provision? Does the tax you pay entitle this (but the tax is something levied first by Congress (to maintain a military and treasury) then by your state (to balance trade with other states)?
Can you tell that I have a problem not with the emotion of the moment, but the lack of the understanding of civics (social studies)?
Finally, there’s been this political grandstanding that is calling the President to take a stand on gun control. One of the things that I really appreciated about his speech at the high school Sunday night was that he didn’t grandstand about what went wrong, only that in order for anything to appear as if its going right, that all parties need to take responsibility for this and other events. He didn’t ask for accountability in gun control, mental health testing, or security – he asked for everyone to take inventory of themselves and be accountable to their actions in light of this (I can’t imagine having to make this speech 4x, but he has). And that’s what’s not being heard on the radio shows, the documentaries, the other-city reflections, or even side conversations. No one is asking aloud how they contribute to making something like this not happen again.
During every election season, I ask friends and family if they are listening to whatever it is that the ads are not saying. Do they know the viewpoints and character of those persons they are electing into office on the local level, state level. And then are they sure they understand the job functions of those folks they are electing and how those persons are responsible to the electorate. I’ve been told that I ask the wrong questions. But, then we have events like this and folks postulate on everything except what items they were responsible for.
I get it, there are bodies who want to keep the gun ownership rules the way they are. There are policies towards how schools manage mental health issues that will take a bit longer to change than immediately. But being accountable towards not letting this happen again – well, we expect that things will change. Will we step up to that discussion’s challenge as well.