Friday, December 14, 2012

Tragedy and gun control

I love freedom. I love the freedom to get online and buy cheese made in Australia, or fruits that only grow in Indonesia. I hate that I can no longer get cigarettes that taste like chocolate or vanilla.

I love freedom.

Children being guided from their
school in Sandy Hook, CT, after
a shooting that killed 21 kids
But I hate what people are willing to do with their freedom. I want cheese and flavored cigarettes. But some people want to lash out their rage, and they lash it out on children. Whether those children are the direct victims, such as during the recent tragedy in Sandy Hook, CT, or the sons and daughters of the victims, as happened earlier the same week with a shooting at a shopping mall in Oregon, children are the victims.

Outside the Aurora theater shooting
One of the victims of the shooting in Oregon had a step-son, 13, who suggested that the reason she was shopping that day was for a gift for him, a gift he had requested. Is it right that a 13 year-old be burdened with that guilt? What about the survivors of the school shooting? Survivor's guilt is extremely common in mass shootings.

As a mother of two, you can't convince me that the kids near to each of these victims isn't riddled with guilt. My son, a cancer, cries if he even THINKS that something he did MIGHT result in someone's death or harm.

Now the debate is, already, turning towards gun control.

I have a very middle-of-the-road view of gun control. Living in rural Nebraska, guns are a way of life around here. It isn't "do you own a gun?" It's "how many guns do you have?"

We hunt a lot out here. I like the idea of DH and the kids learning to hunt. I learned to hunt and I regret not having more experience with that. I like the independence of bringing home food.

We also believe in protecting our own. Our friends, family, home and land - these things can and will be defended with a bullet, if necessary. But this can be done with the same rifle or shotgun used to hunt large game.

However, I don't agree much with handguns or assault rifles. I can understand handguns to an extent - in the city, you don't often defend your home and body with a four or five foot long rifle- but anything that has "automatic" or "semi-automatic" in the description is a little much for me. Essentially, hunting animals, good; killing people, bad.

The problem I have is this: the more that guns are available, the greater the need to defend oneself from guns. So then you have to have a gun, also. But that means that someone out there might perceive your gun as the threat and get one of their own. It's a psychological arms race, right here in America.

Some of the more recent shooters
Now, I have heard, and I understand, the idea of the 2nd Amendment and a militia. But a militia is a trained and organized group. Random people walking around with multiple high-powered handguns is not a militia, and never will be. And let me be perfectly clear, I do not believe in gun control that eliminates ALL gun ownership. Nor do I believe that any such law is even on the radar for any governmental agent or agency in the United States.

That said, this whole problem comes down to two things.

One, each person who owns or deals with guns needs to take responsibility for themselves. If you go out and "rid the world" of someone who you don't like, you have justified your actions to yourself, but not everyone may agree with you. Even worse is when someone else's justification results in the death of someone close to you, or someone like you, racially or religiously, physically or philosophically.

Take responsibility for what you do with the freedoms that you have, because freedoms can be abused, and no one believes that they are the ones abusing them.

Two, we need to work more towards solving the problem of violence that this country has. I don't mean locking more people up. That only results in more violent violence.

We need to start addressing the economic, social, and even psychological problems that lead to violence. The people who have committed these crimes have a reason for it. That reason may be dramatic or illogical to you or me, but they are valid to the perpetrator, and that's why people are dead.

Love is the cure
Some of the causes of violent crimes, just off the top of my Psychology-minor head, include: mental illness or depression, poverty, a feeling of hopelessness or bullying, a feeling of frustration or revenge, unfulfilled sense of entitlement, fear of the way the world is changing. There are so many more.

These are the problems that need fixing. The isolation that so many of us feel, the pressure to be more and more successful in the face of rising inequality, the hopelessness that many of us have in trying to better ourselves with a rising wage gap and higher costs of living and education.

Every little bit helps. Even a smile could be the difference in someone's life, and you would probably never even know it.

Related links:
Mother Jones - A Guide to Mass Shootings in America
A Timeline Of Mass Shootings In The US Since Columbine
Eleven facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States