Friday, January 11, 2013

Newtown did not change us

After the massacre of several dozen school children and others in Newtown, CT, there was plenty of talk Newtown “changed us,” it didn’t. Within a few days, Americans were back to their usual pantomime political tribalism..

It’s like I said the day after Newtown. If we’re not willing to change something about our society, then nothing will change. Not exactly high philosophy but it means if we’re not willing to change something significant, we simply have to accept that there will be lots of needless deaths in our country, whether by children or by mall denizens, whether via guns or via other means. If we’re not willing to change something about our too frequent use of violence as a means of first resort, then all the sorrow and hand-wringing will be continue to be as hollow as it’s been. America has been a violent society from the beginning. Far greater massacres have done little to curb these impulses, so I have no expectation that Newtown will make any significant dent in how we act.

There was a (presumably) pro-gun control graphic that made the rounds after Newtown. It pointed out the rate of gun deaths in various western countries, the US of course being the highest. I was struck by it but in a different way the the authors likely intended. I was struck the fact that the two countries with the lowest per capita death by gun rates on the list were the UK and Switzerland. 

Britain has virtually banned private handgun ownership and has very strict gun control laws. Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and, if I understand correctly, has very little in the way of gun control laws. These two extremes of these supposedly “causational” factors have both resulted in far lower gun-related deaths than our own country.

Focusing solely on gun control is taking the easy way out, because even if the gun control makes a positive impact, that impact will be too small to make any significant difference by itself. We need to look deeper.
The problem is greater than what guns or ammunition is available or whether every school janitor has an AK47.  So changing gun laws or creating national registries of gun owners or the mentally ill or arming every special ed aid and bus driver in schools may or may not help a small amount but will not fundamentally change the situation because it doesn’t address its broader problem. We have to look deeper and that’s not something we’re not nearly as good at as we are invoking the Nazis in every argument and then going back to American Idol.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe the broader problem is everyone feeling like they HAVE to have guns. That HAVING guns is more important than, well, just about everything else in life.