Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Never has, never will

Posted on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 3:03 PM

It is understandable that individuals, like Nancy de Pastino, and advocacy groups like her "Moms Demand Action" are seeking solutions to the problem of gun violence in the wake of the horrifying Sandy Hook tragedy (see "Strength in numbers," Feb. 21). It is also understandable that individuals and groups who deeply value their family's gun heritage, the shooting sports and the right to use guns for self-protection are defending against possible reactionary laws that may come from this recent tragedy.

The buyback program that is being instituted by de Pastino and the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center is a non-controversial way to get some guns out of the hands of some people—people who are currently in need of food more than they are in need of a firearm. And this can make a lot of people feel better knowing they are participating in this gesture of reducing guns among the local populace. But will it have the effect of reducing gun violence?

Unfortunately, the groups that form around big issues and "fight against" things like drug abuse, teen pregnancy, terrorism, poverty, mental illness, drunk driving and gun violence have been largely unsuccessful in preventing or reducing these conditions despite their claims. I have often wondered why these groups, so well intentioned to bring about positive change, do not succeed in bringing about the change they work so hard for. I have come to the conclusion that it is because, as Albert Einstein said, "we cannot solve the problems of this world at the same level of thinking at which they were created."

Still it is important for us to take notice of what is not working and instigate new ideas that could resolve these unwanted conditions. But, I know for a fact that reactionary measures motivated primarily by anger and fear will never produce the desired results. Never has and never will.

Of course, anger and fear are natural reactions to a violent mass shooting. In fact, most humans, gun lovers, gun haters and everyone in between, probably had the same initial reaction to this tragic news. After the shock, horror and heartbreak, most of us started the natural process of trying to make sense of the senseless. We asked "why did he do it?" and "how could this have happened?" And then we started formulating hypothesis and some of us came up with reasons why it happened and in keeping with human nature, we started pointing fingers and blaming something or someone or some other group of people for the tragedy.

It's natural to want to do something so that we can feel "safe" and "in control" again in the face of something so terrifying and so out of control. Our fear for ourselves, our children and for our collective future motivates us to do something that we personally believe will help reduce the likelihood of a similar tragedy happening to ourselves or others.

Some gun enthusiasts and proponents of gun rights want teachers to be trained and allowed to carry guns into schools in order to dissuade mentally unstable people who may be fantasizing about becoming the next famous mass murderer. Gun enthusiasts often blame the violent entertainment industry, the general acceptance of the moral decline in society, the fact that more children are being raised in single parent families than traditional two parent families and other societal ills as the breeding ground for mentally unstable individuals who then commit violent deeds.

Some people who are not enthusiastic about guns want to try enacting more laws to limit who can have a gun and where guns are and aren't "allowed" in order to prevent or reduce gun violence. Gun control proponents blame the NRA and gun manufacturers for blocking what they consider to be "common sense" laws and rules that they believe would have the effect of reducing gun violence, such as outlawing certain type of guns and ammunition as well as penalizing and holding gun manufacturers and retailers responsible for gun deaths.

Unfortunately, in the process of trying to solve the universally agreed upon problem of gun violence, we angrily blame and attack whoever or whatever we believe is responsible for the problem. Until or unless we eliminate all these guns in our heads aimed at other people who want the same thing that we do but who hold different views, we will not solve the problem of gun violence—or any other social problems for that matter.

I fully support the goal of ending gun violence as do individuals on both sides of the gun debate. But until we realize that gun violence is not wrought by guns, but is wrought by desperate individuals who have lost their way, who have lost their connection to something bigger—to the whole of humanity and to themselves—and until we each see our own part in that larger dilemma, we will continue the fruitless debating, blaming and finger pointing and miss the solution altogether.

Wendy Mair


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