Friday, January 25, 2013

Progress on gun violence requires compromise

I ask your indulgence—I’m inclined to enter a debate that is both highly polarized and highly publicized. I do not claim to be an expert on the issue, but I do claim a stake in the outcome. Before I dive in, let us take a deep breath together. We can both recognize there is a problem—evidenced in the nature of a debate. So let us look for answers.

Two words: gun control.

But that’s not the problem. That’s the debate.

As America mixes her tears with words of comfort and anger, never is there a doubt that the continuing bullet massacres are a tragedy (although even the word tragedy sounds weak). 

The question remains: what do we do about it?

I’ve heard cries from many sides—some blame the guns, some blame the bullets, some blame the hand that pulls the trigger.

I blame them all.

A report by the Congressional Research Service stated there were 294 million guns in the U.S. as of 2007. Guns are weapons and will continue to be used as such. They are designed to kill. We expect doctors to go to eight years of college to learn the tools to save lives, but when it comes to taking a life… All I ask is that we take guns seriously as the weapons they are—that we control them.

Then there are the bullets. I don’t know what makes me shiver more—the magazines that can hold off reloading, or the bullets designed to shatter upon impact. Both ideas aim at maximum damage. I can understand when these are made for war, but when they are stocked on the shelf? I do not understand that. I really hope you don’t either. What can be the excuse for widely available and large magazines—laziness? I will try not to scoff. If we cannot take a minute to reload a weapon, then I do not think we deserve to carry one.

And then there are the people behind the carnage. We struggle to understand and we seek revenge and justice. Sure—there is a satisfaction there, but what about prevention? Mental illness is as real as any gun. Before we spend any money regulating guns we have to stop cutting funding in the medical fields—especially for those who need help. 

Gun control is necessary, but it is only a Band-Aid. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four adults deal with a mental disorder in a given year. That is not to say a fourth of adults are a threat—not even close. I am merely trying to raise attention to the fact that mental illness is incredibly common and yet much ignored.

Take away all the guns, and people who use violence will seek another weapon. That is why there can’t be a one-sided approach to solving the problem.

In fact, I think there should be a four-sided approach: control guns, regulate bullets, do-not-ignore mental illness and care to change.

The last part is the trickiest, I think.

I’m sure you recognize the driving force behind this writing: the Sandy Hook tragedy. Do not believe that I waited until the end to mention Sandy Hook out of disrespect, or that I am using the incident to get political. I am not diminishing the lives lost.

I mourned every life lost—I attempted to forget the name of the shooter and instead memorize the children’s names. That is why I am pushing for change. I don’t want it to happen again. I know if we talk about how crazy the shooter was, and grab more guns to shoot back, it will happen again. Maybe if someone is shooting back, fewer lives will be lost. But it will still happen.

We have to care to change.
As America falls back into the gun control debate, I ask that you, that we, not get lost in it.

I ask that we see all sides, and realize we must advocate prevention. As much as we like to ignore, fighting fire with fire still leaves a burn. Fighting guns with guns sheds blood on both sides.

I believe there is a middle ground to gun prevention that encompasses all aspects needing reform. A polarized country and a gridlocked Congress cannot produce change. The middle ground can be home to many different opinions, because it is there that the change will have to occur.

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