In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, I am currently feeling rather fiery on the current gun control debate. I fully agree with Senator Diane Feinstein's quotation,
"Who needs these military-style assault weapons? Who needs an ammunition feeding device capable of holding 100 rounds? These weapons are not for hunting deer - They're for hunting people."
Perhaps it is due to the fact that I have six, five, and three year old children. As such, I cannot fathom what those families in Connecticut are enduring right now, having to lay to rest their children of similar ages. I rarely engage in political banter via social media, public forums, etc. I personally (generally) prefer to discuss such issues in more private settings (i.e. one on one with family or friends). Yet, I also welcome a healthy debate. Contrary to the popular American view that it is a faux pas to discuss politics in social settings, I think we SHOULD be free to discuss politics openly. Furthermore, can't we all agree to disagree on various issues? We should challenge one another with such discussions while respecting our differing points of view.
Many political issues (i.e. health care, economics, education) are rather multi-faceted with various historical perspectives, factors, and systemic considerations that lead one person to hold a position different from the next. Who is to say that one side is right or wrong in absolute fact? In my opinion, there are often valid points on both sides of political arguments. Further clouding the political landscape are the issues deeply rooted in religious views (i.e. pro-choice, pro-life). Some people feel so strongly about such issues that they may vote for the candidate with whom they agree on these issues alone. Although we likely lean more 'liberal' or 'conservative,' I find it entertaining when people seem to be so die-hard left or right. Seriously, unless we have no brain (or heart) of our own, I find it highly unlikely that anyone is going to agree 100% with either the far left or far right agenda.
Nevertheless, in the past election, I voted for Romney. This is not because I agreed with all of his positions and disagreed with ALL of Obama's. The scale simply tipped in favor of Romney after weighing their views and how they measured up with mine. Yet, I will say, if there is one issue on which I DO agree with Obama, it is that of gun control. I am not talking about banning all guns and withdrawing our 2nd amendment right. Our Founding Fathers instated such amendments for worthy reasons, and as Americans, we must recognize and appreciate the freedoms so many in other countries do not have the luxury to enjoy.
Yet, I think our freedom with respect to firearms is like a runaway train. Although there are certainly other issues to be addressed by our society (mental health screenings/care, our culture of hatred/violence, absence of moral/empathetic education, media glorification of such crimes), the excessive number of gun-related tragedies on American soil in recent history suggests that this freedom needs to be further examined. Am I a gun control debate expert? Absolutely not. Do I believe gun control is the only answer to these tragedies? Absolutely not. But I would like to question the validity of our need for weapons (whatever the official term for the guns or/or accessories that fire off hundreds of shots within minutes), for example.
Also, why should it be so easy to obtain firearms, if we are using them in a responsible, safe manner? Most of the mass shootings in recent years have been performed with legally obtained weapons, under respective current state laws. Wouldn't a rational person agree that some controls/due diligence are appropriate for the gun acquisition process (at least for the TYPE of weapons used in such massacres)? Apparently, restrictions are currently in place that prevent the sale of such weapons to people that fall into various categories (mentally ill, perpetrators of domestic violence, alcoholics, among others). However, the big question is HOW to prevent that such weapons fall into the hands of the mentally ill, when the current health care system is failing us in terms of screenings, diagnosis, and care? As a side note, my husband and brother are both avid hunters, and I recognize the value and importance in our right to bear arms. However, there are endless questions that need to be raised on this issue of gun control and regulation to reduce the frequency and magnitude of these recurring tragedies.
A friend recently shared an interesting WSJ article by David Kopel, "Guns, Mental Illness, and Newtown" (link below), that asserts that although gun-related homicides are at a lower rate today than in the past, random mass shootings have increased over the past 30 years. This trend is DESPITE the relatively tighter gun control regulations in place today. As such, this article suggests that tighter gun control is not the answer, rather greater funding and attention to mental health screenings/care, and institutionalization of the violently mentally ill. Additionally, this article deems responsible the sensationalized coverage by cable TV and the Internet today since they "greatly magnify the instant celebrity a mass killer can achieve." Whether you agree with Kopel's position or not, this article is a good read, as it provides further analysis and historical perspective on gun related homicides, gun categorization, and regulations.
Our children have a right to grow up and learn in a safe, nurturing, and secure environment. At what point are we willing to acknowledge that these 'rights' (to bear arms and grow up in a safe environment) are at conflict with one another in their current form? If Obama accomplishes nothing else in his second term, I would feel at ease with his re-election, if he moves our nation forward on this one. Our children deserve better, don't you think?
Attached are some links to some interesting articles related to the CT school tragedy....
CNN's "In School Shootings, Patterns and Warning Signs" by Katherine Newman
NYT's "Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?" by Nicholas D. Kristof
NYT's "Looking for America" by Gail Collins
NYT's "Guns and the Decline of the Young Man" by Christy Wampole
HuffPost's "Talking to Kids (or Not) About What Happened in Connecticut by Betsy Brown Braun
HuffPost's "Raising Moral Children: Keeping Them Safe From One Another" by Vivian Diller, PhD
HuffPost's "Somthing We Can All Agree On After the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary" by Eva Glettner
HuffPost's "Gun Control is a Parenting Issue" by Lisa Belkin