It’s time to talk about Gun Control, and to consider if this past weekend with the shootings in El Paso and in Dayton — as well as a local one here in KC — have changed my mind, or our country’s mind, about Gun Control. Back in January when I made my lists of Important issues and Distractions, I put Gun Control in the Distractions list. What were my reasons then and do I still believe that now?
I sense a groundswell of public opinion to pass new laws and shame any leaders who stoke hate and white supremacy, and who merely cite violent video games and mental illness — not the prevalence of guns in our country — as the causes of our situation.
I must admit that this groundswell has swept me up, and I have floated a proposal to some friends at church to start a petition drive for gun control, to send to the President and to other elected leaders — just so we can do something tangible and be on the right side of this issue. If this is the tipping point, let’s get on the bandwagon!
However, I also still feel this “crisis” is basically a Distraction. Trying to remember my frame of mind back in January, I think I felt that gun violence in America was a self-correcting, temporary problem, that sooner or later, a tipping point would come, like the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, in 1996. Let me read a little from Wikipedia about the community and government reaction:
Australians reacted to the event with widespread shock and horror, and the political effects were significant and long-lasting. The federal government led state governments, some of which (notably Tasmania itself and Queensland) were opposed to new gun laws, to severely restrict the availability of firearms. Concern was raised within the Coalition Government that fringe groups such as the “Ausi Freedom Scouts”, the Australian League of Rights and the Citizen Initiated Referendum Party, were exploiting voter anger to gain support. After discovering that the Christian Coalition and US National Rifle Association were supporting the gun lobby, the government and media cited their support, along with the moral outrage of the community to discredit the gun lobby as extremists.
Under federal government co-ordination, all states and territories of Australia restricted the legal ownership and use of self-loading rifles, self-loading shotguns, and tightened controls on their legal use by recreational shooters. The government initiated a mandatory “buy-back” scheme with the owners paid according to a table of valuations. Some 643,000 firearms were handed in at a cost of $350 million which was funded by a temporary increase in the Medicare levy which raised $500 million. Media, activists, politicians and some family members of victims, notably Walter Mikac (who lost his wife and two children), spoke out in favour of the changes.
Much discussion has occurred as to the level of Bryant’s mental health. It is generally accepted that he has a subnormal IQ (estimated at 66, and in the lowest 2% of his age group) and at the time of the offences was in receipt of a Disability Support Pension on the basis of being mentally handicapped. Media reports also detailed his odd behaviour as a child. However, he was able to drive a car and obtain a gun, despite lacking a gun licence or a driver’s licence. This was a matter which, in the public debate that followed, was widely regarded as a telling demonstration of the inadequacy of the nation’s gun laws.
I know, skeptics claim that after Sandyhook, there could never be a mass shooting worse than that, and that the NRA was just too strong, and America would never pass any new sensible gun control laws. I thought in January that a tipping point would come, and I still believe that. It may have come this past weekend. But it will come, sooner or later, and I say, let’s all help it to come sooner!
My main criteria in classifying issues as to Important (capital I) and Distractions (capital D) is whether or not the issue is self-correcting, and whether or not there exist active and energized groups to raise the issue in the public consciousness. Let’s go over my revised list of 14 again, and I need to add a new one to the Important category.:
- climate change
- income inequality
- humanities/liberal arts
- empathy: pro-social not anti-social policies
- mental health
- nuclear weapons/nuclear energy/nuclear waste
- community building
- restorative justice
- shut down
- gun control
I’m not saying don’t support already active and energized groups to hasten positive changes in public policy in the seven Distractions. I am saying, if you have limited time and resources, consider the eight Important issues which in many ways are neglected.