Once again, a horrific and pointless execution of young people has taken place in a school, and once again, the media (all forms of communication) are alive with demands for gun control or removal of guns from much of the population. Once again, the political gurus are predicting that nothing will be done. Maybe. This time, the young are involved, speaking out and marching. Change is often powered by the energy of youth, which, if it can be married to the wisdom of experience, can be formidable. The problem is that one thing has not changed; the issue is one dimensional. It calls only for more gun control or elimination. The problem is more complex, and all facets of it need to be addressed simultaneously if a solution beneficial to people is to be reached.
I have said before that I do not like guns; I would be happy in a society where they did not exist. Nobody needs a semi automatic weapon to go hunting, or even for personal defense. At the same time, I rarely get on bandwagons. On this issue as well, I am not on the bandwagon. As tends to happen with bandwagons, those not on them are often demonized for perceiving the weakness of the bandwagon and the territory around it.
The voices of the young cry out for justice. They deserve the protection they seek – as do we all. The NRA is vilified – the ultimate evil for opposing the regulation of guns, so that Congress will not act. Yet, there are many in the NRA who agree that military weapons should not be readily available for non-military uses, and that only those who can use them responsibly should have guns. By vilifying the NRA, we obscure the truth that it is those whose income relies on gun sales that are the problem, not the whole NRA. When we cast an issue in black and white, we make it nearly impossible to arrive at a true solution, which resides in the center, between the polarities.
It seems significant to me that these horrible shootings keep escalating, growing in both scope and frequency, while the cry for fixing the issue is limited to the reduction or elimination of firearm availability (I would like to say, firearms, but so far, a complete elimination has not been proposed.) Who or what wants no guns so much that they keep on promoting the shooting of innocent people until that goal is achieved? I have no good reason to say that there is such a causal connection, but it seems to be something of a harbinger.
The problem with simply reducing the availability of guns is that, by itself, it is simply a band aid on an even greater ulcer, and that once the band aid is applied, it is assumed that the whole issue is fixed. We need also, and simultaneously, to recognize and attempt to remediate the issues of mental health, the erosion of trust that divides us one from the other, the gradual atrophy of neighborhood and community in favor of larger, more impersonal and therefore impersonally regulated social units, the unequal distribution of money and resources, police violence, and all those broken ways of organizing ourselves. As is, a tremendous anger is generated, permeating individuals and society, resulting in the violence we see in schools and elsewhere. Taking guns away will not fix that. Criminals will manage to find them, and other ways of expressing the deepening anger will be found.
A friend recently forwarded to me a link to a blog by the mother of a disturbed child. Here is the link, for those who wish to follow up.
In summary, what she says is that from the time her son was tiny, she exhausted every resource to find him help. The final result of that search was that she was told that nothing could be done, and that she should wait until he offended (e.g., possibly shot people), and that then the law and courts would take care of him. Is she a horrible person for raising a monster? The FBI was alerted to the mental condition of the most recent shooter. They were alerted that he was planning an attack. The FBI did nothing; they waited until the disturbed shooter offended and was subsequently arrested. The caretakers of the shooter were censured, as if they were part of the plan. Why is there not help for those who are disturbed, especially when they are young and early intervention can remediate the disability? Why do we have to wait until they harm the innocent? These issues need to be addressed, not ignored because the problem is, supposedly, fixed by banning guns.
A part of this issue is related to money; no agency was willing to pay for help for the boy whose mother kept seeking it, and her family did not have resources. Poverty, ignorance and inequality are generators of the deep angers that contribute to violence. Yet, we pay no significant political attention to the growing economic inequality, and the diminishing access to services that the less affluent have. Can this be fixed simply by banning guns? However, the issue is related.
It can be illuminating to follow the money in this issue of guns. Who profits by weapons proliferation? President Eisenhower warned the nation about the growing military/industrial complex, but it seems that no one paid attention. It is the manufacturers of guns (not necessarily the distributors, who, if there were no guns, could distribute something else) who profit immensely from the sale of ever increasingly powerful weapons of destruction. This is true for the whole complex, nuclear weapons and all, but to focus on guns, it is the corporate manufacturers who enrich themselves by helping provide the conditions for massacres. Yet, we are vilifying an organization, and refusing to look at who profits and who bankrolls opposition. It would make a difference to specifically expose this connection, to make it visible to the populace, to be incorporated in the deliberations. It would make the discussion less black and white. This issue, too, is related to the whole.
History gives us examples of what happens when a disarmed population is juxtaposed with a highly armed police and military. One of the most recent examples is what is happening to the Rohingya. This unarmed population is in danger of being exterminated by the heavily armed forces of Myanmar. Yet, the current demand to ban guns is not connected to an equal demand to take military weaponry away from the police, and to limit it for the National Guard and other paramilitary organizations within the USA. Where are we allowing ourselves to head? There is already evidence of police using unnecessary force, especially on minorities, who are somehow considered less human. President Trump has publicly expressed approval and favor for giving the police even more access to excess military weaponry. Is the government now at war with the people? If so, will disarming ourselves solve the problem? It would be absolutely reprehensible to have a shooting war between police/National Guard and people; it would be equally reprehensible to have repression of dissent and draconian regulation of the movements and actions of people by armed forces against those with unequal resources of defense. (Is this not like what happened to the Native Americans?) Yes, prevent semi automatic weapons from getting into the hands of potential shooters; at the same time, do not allow those weapons to the police, and keep them locked away from military except in case of actual war. Is a one-sided “solution” going to serve us?
Let us stop to think before simply getting on the bandwagon. The issue is complex, and attention to it is overdue. It will not be solved by a single dimensional debate or solution. Let those of us who see the many facets speak, make sure that while protecting the innocent who deserve all of our protection, the underlying issues do not go ignored and unaddressed. These are also the voices that need to be raised, and to march beside our children.