Searching for multifaceted solutions in the wake of Sandy Hook

With the flurry of conversations happening in the aftermath of the massacre in Connecticut on Friday, I’ve been tracking several threads and thoughts. In lieu of a full-blown analysis, I’m collecting them here and inviting conversation. [And I mean conversation— rhetoric and drum-beating from any political angle are not welcome in my comments.]

1. On Facebook, I started asking for a nuanced conversations. My friend Dina summed up what a nuanced position might look like in her comment.

[…] To me, context is everything, and gun laws should reflect that. We have to make it possible for those who can prove they know how to handle them to have access to the tools they need; we also need to make sure that it’s tremendously difficult for the unstable and the criminals to get them to wreak havoc and destroy families and lives. We have a system now where we do this with cars, another ubiquitous and dangerous tool in our society. The answer isn’t really that far away.

2. My friend Kurt tweeted: “Are laws the drugs of society? ‘Here take a pill. Make a law. That’ll fix it.’ I think we need a holistic cure here.” I’m with him. Laws can be band-aids. How do we also change a culture soaked in violence? I’m unwilling to cry out for new laws without addressing this. Especially when the old laws are so broken.

3. Broken laws. This piece spells out a lot:

[…] There were calls to ban “automatic” weapons, though fully automatic weapons are already illegal, and the Newtown shooter used semiautomatics. There were also calls to reinstate the assault-weapons ban, a notion that White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday, remains “a commitment” for the President. Such a law would probably cover the type of Bushmaster M4 assault rifle that the shooter used on Friday. But even when it was originally passed in 1994, the ban was a highly compromised piece of legislation. It only covered sales after the effective date of the law, so any assault weapon already in private possession was effectively grandfathered in. And, of course, there was a spike in gun sales before the enactment of the law. […]

I also appreciate Marc Cooper’s post on Facebook about the futility and waste of political capital on an assault weapons ban.

Let me tell you what the ban will NOT do: it will not ban semi-automatic rifles or handguns which have been around since the 19th century and which are as common to guns as Fords are to cars. It will not ban fully automatic weapons (i.e. machine guns) because they are already illegal in the U.S.

4. Effective laws coupled with technological innovations and culture change do make a difference. Here’s an infographic showing a timeline of car fatalities in the US along with laws that were enacted, as well as safety innovations that were adopted. We also taught people culturally in the last century that cars were not toys, not weapons, not to be taken lightly. Where is the maker hackathon to make this part of our culture better and safer?

5. The gun-lobby being unwilling to budge while many of their members believe in change—e.g., stronger background checks. I think about a gun conversation I had a while ago with my dad (a conservative gun-owner); he believes that the enforcement of existing laws, for example, is not happening. I think that’s true. It shows, for me, however, yet another decline in investing in the overall health & safety of our citizens by not having the funding or wherewithal to enforce these laws.

6. I do sympathize with the people that were tweeting and posting the note that when the would-be shoe-bomber showed up, we were all taking off our shoes at the airport the next day, and still do. But the needle on less violence via guns never moves.

7. The complicated role of access to mental health care in the US:

  • the stigma and the cost preclude many from getting it, which leads to instability of all kinds, not just violence
  • this piece from a parent of a child with mental illnesses that produce violent outbursts
  • this counterpoint piece pointing out its problems, including the added stigma the author uses and the hollow, misplaced solidarity attempts when people use language like, “I am [victim/perpetrator]”
  • my friend Lindsay, who, as always, brings thoughtfulness to the conversation and addresses both pieces

8. The race lines that are drawn when talking about guns in America, and the absence of the bigger picture that actually includes people of color and violence against them when we talk about massacres in predominantly white suburbs. A review of “Bowling for Columbine” from 10 years ago by Garance Franke-Ruta captures this well for me.

9. The tinge of frustration I feel when others point to how other countries deal with weapons. The reality is that American culture is different, and there are 90 guns for every 100 people in this country. Those that wish guns weren’t here are ignoring this reality. Buyback programs in other countries have worked; they could only work here with significant culture change accompanying them.

10. For all of my deep-seated belief in non-violence and my own unwillingness to have guns, I still believe that the way is through this, not against it or each other, not running end-games around it. I’m not convinced that our political system will allow for that.