Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Violence prevention and safety initiatives rather than gun control

English: Detail of Preamble to Constitution of...
Detail of Preamble to Constitution of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Gun control is such a contentious issue, with both sides refusing to listen to the other. Real understanding of the source of some very deep-seated feelings are going to be necessary if this country will ever be able to curb the kind of violence that fills front pages of newspapers across the land.

Opponents view gun control as a way to limit their right to bear arms--their  hard-fought patriotic freedom as they believe God and the country's founding fathers intended.

The gods and guns crowd are largely traditionalists that may have lived in the same place all of their lives--in many cases--occupying the land where their ancestors first settled. Many are educated in the same small town by teachers they have grown up with; reading newspapers run by their former classmates; and filling church pews with an ever-increasing number of extended family members. Their daily lives revolve around the best life has to offer; loving family and good friends. These are not folks that seek change; they like things just the way they are. They are a trusting lot--putting faith in anyone that is like them and being suspicious of those who are not. This trusting trait allows others to take unfair advantage. It is hard to recognize that which is unknown to you.

Their experience with gun violence and frankly many of society's ills may be limited to an occasional hunting accident or possible suicide by a troubled teen or war veteran. Such occurrences are easily justified as the victim 'having a problem.' After all, even perfect communities and good families have issues. 

Although they read the headlines that deal with much bigger issues related to gun violence, they remain untouched by gang warfare, mass murders, and serial killings that happen somewhere else. 

Cultural justification makes it easy to ignore the big picture. But the gun control debate is big and complex and growing.  

In my view, it is foolish to attempt to protect the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which is actually a poorly-worded, undefined, interpretive piece in a much larger document that has so much more meaning than that one entry. The U.S. Constitution is a framework of how to govern a society. It is far more important than the singularly focused right to bear arms. A much higher priority should be placed in the constitution's sister document's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights should not be infringed either, but to fear going into a public place and being blown away by some yahoo with a handgun in his pocket has become reality. It is one that has been exacerbated by an over zealous desire to arm every citizen with concealed weapons, assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets that turns a shotgun into a machine gun designed for mowing down multiple people in an instant and inflicting maximum damage to bodily tissue.

From my own observation, the discussion needs to be broadened--centered on violence--not just guns. The one place where I actually agree with the National Rifle Association is that violence in our society has gotten hideous. I abhor the violence on television, in movies, and through video games, much of which is inflicted by guns. 

First, we need to change the debate by changing the verbiage. The term gun control must be abandoned. It is too limiting and conjures up a notion of iron-hand dominance. Instead we need to embark upon violence prevention and safety initiatives.

We need to convey that our laws must not restrict gun-owners freedoms, but instead our aim is to expand overall freedom to include all citizens, no matter their view on firearms. It would be fool-hearty to wait for education through experience; to wait for violence to come knocking on more and more doors. We must change the conversation before that happens, by emphasizing freedom to be safe and secure in our homes and in public places. 

We must address growing crime. Why do thugs believe they can get away with walking into another person's home and help themselves to whatever they want? Why is there so little trust in our system of justice? Why do judges run for office as partisans? Do people trust their police force? Why are there cops on the take? Why in some instances is the penalty for growing marijuana more severe than that of the guy who brutalizes his wife? 

Violence in our society is a house of cards. Fixing any of these problems will lead to fixing so much more. If people aren't afraid to walk into a public place, they won't feel compelled to arm themselves. 

The bigger picture also includes a more critical eye toward the future. 

How many hunters are really sportsmen? How many shoot animals for food? Do we really need to kill animals in the 21st century? Wouldn't it be just as sporting to shoot clay pigeons or other non-breathing targets?

Just because we have long held traditions, doesn't mean we cannot or should not change with the times. The world is really a bigger place than the block where we grew up. Our thinking must also be bigger. We must also be cognizant that our home, a huge blue ball as seen from space, may seem huge to us, but that doesn't make it less finite. Let's face it; our home is our planet. It contains a highly diverse group of people, places, and things that must be seen in a larger context. Our future depends on it.


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