BA on Assignment

December 20, 2012

Guns and Violence

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Written for: Communicado Magazine
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Over a three month period, we had three mass, public shootings: The Colorado movie theatre shooting, the mall shooting in Minnesota and most tragically, the elementary school shooting in Connecticut.

Parents, teachers, community leaders all say we need more strict gun laws; The NRA says it’s the fault of the health community and the entertainment industry. The health community hasn’t said much and the entertainment community has no defense for their contribution. If we look at this objectively, they’re all to blame…

I want to start with the NRA – The National Rifle Association. Here’s where they’re right… The second amendment guarantees all Americans the right to bear arms. Here’s where they’re wrong – The Constitution was written in 18th century when hunting for food was how you ate and life was much more primitive. Today we have full service grocery stores.

Hunters should be able to hunt. A family should be able to protect themselves from criminals where necessary. Neither situations require assault weapons or automatic weapons of any kind. We need to build in the element of reloading as a stop-gap measure. This should be the NRA’s position…

I get the need for assault weapons in combat. Our military needs to use the necessary means of deadly force to protect whole nations. I can even get the use of assault weapons in law enforcement – Criminals can be a challenge… But, we all have to question everyday use of assault weapons and automatic weapons by private citizens. When innocent children are being shot with automatic weapons, no explanation can cover that.

There’s even been some discussion of amending the Constitution to reflect today’s need for more strict gun laws. I’m not sure that’s worth discussion, but, I’ll say this… We’d likely have better luck doing away with the Presidency and installing a monarchy than changing the Constitution. Actually, they’re about the same – too difficult, would take too long.

What’s not difficult is to start from scratch, create a comprehensive federal gun law that addresses types of weapons, registration and permitted uses. This brings me to our leaders…

Our elected officials need to lead not follow on this issue. We’ve shot past the possibility for political posturing. This is no longer a political platform – it’s a full blown social issue now. The control the NRA has exerted in the political process has to end. Just like Mothers Against Drunk Driving took charge of their issue, teachers and parents need to do the same. Get grassroots. Blow it up so no one can overlook you.

MADD got mad and now we have breathalyzer tests for anyone who operates a machine. You can even buy them at grocery stores and administer them yourselves. See, the grocery stores again – it’s a wonder…

Politicians can no longer let the NRA buy their support. Get serious about gun control, be comprehensive about dismissing their power and they’ll have no choice but to re-think their positions.

Then once we have the administrative protections in place, we have to address the social obligations. This is where parents and the health care community bear the responsibility.

Each shooter in the above mentioned incidents had some mental or emotional difficulty. So my questions is this: Why was no one there for that person? The Aurora movie theatre shooter and the Connecticut school shooter’s mothers both had full awareness of their son’s instability. How much blame do we give them for not getting ahead of the instability? If nothing else, why didn’t they just hug their child and tell them they loved them?

Abandonment, neglect, isolation – these are the attributes that create mass shooting gunmen. And parents have the ability to minimize or even diffuse the potential for this kind of behavior. And while the healthcare community can help in treating people who are unstable, someone has to get them into the healthcare system to be treated. Back to the parents or guardians…

So again, the NRA is using the wrong scapegoat. In fact, using a scapegoat in this situation at all just makes them look even less credible. 6-year-olds have been gunned down… This is a full-service public relations opportunity for them and empathetic is the only direction to go – for everyone…

And while neighbors and colleagues have the capacity to be watchdogs and report unstable behavior, there’s no replacement for support, attention and affection from the people with whom you are the closest.

So here’s where I come down on this topic: Parents need to hug their kids. Period. More hugs = less unstable assault rifle shooters. Brothers and Sisters need to pay closer attention to their siblings. Friends need to be better friends.

It only takes one person to show they care to potentially stop a rampage… Strive to be that person…