Monday, December 17, 2012

Maybe The Way Forward

The murder of 20 first graders and several adults Friday in Sandy Hook, Connecticut has weighed far more on me and for longer than mass shootings have in the past, maybe because my two grandsons are at that age.

Maybe this will be a tipping point in how we manage firearms in this country but I’m not so sure.  I agree with John Cotter and Dan Cohen that change begins with “see-feel” before some can move to “analyze-think,” but as George Marshall notes about climate change deniers, sometimes major tragedies merely reinforce belief systems.

The bodies of the victims had barely been autopsied before a Texas lawmaker popped off that the answer is equipping principals with Bushmasters Assault Rifles.  Sad is often mad.

I’m taken back instead to an op-ed in the Washington Post that I had first read and then saved the night of July 27th this year during a stop on my most recent 6,000-mile cross-country road-trip.

It was co-written by Jay Dickey, a former House Republican and NRA member, along with Dr. Mark Rosenberg a former director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

I think the article bears reading or re-reading because just as the effect of climate change on natural disasters has an odd way of reinforcing those who deny climate change exists, I doubt this tragedy will open minds about managing firearms better.

I own several guns, all with locks and firing mechanisms kept separate.  Two are rifles that belonged to my grandfathers and a 1920s German officer’s pistol my father brought back from WWII.  I grew up on a ranch and learned to hunt and enjoy target shooting at a young age, although I haven’t done either since leaving home.

Still it is beyond me why so many people including a few friends are so adamantly opposed to better managing firearms, even to the point of trying to make feeble arguments about automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons.

Nothing in the Second Amendment says we have to be stupid.

In their op-ed Dickey and Rosenberg point out that back as I was graduating from college in the early 1970s research was being conducted on ways to make vehicles safer to drive.  Since the mid-1970s the results of this research has spawned a wide range of safety devices and changes in the way we drive that have saved 366,000 lives between 1975 and 2009 without impairing our right to drive.

Maybe even if these most recent killings don’t break the stalemate over better managing firearms, it will result in deepening the kind of research on weapons that made driving safer.  It isn’t a question in my mind of bans or inhibiting the right to bear arms as it is better managing their use.

Coincidentally, we experience nearly the same number of firearm deaths each year (31,247) as we do motor vehicle deaths (32,885.)

We need to do something and maybe a first step upon we can all agree is to gain more understanding through research.  Hopefully it can move the discussion beyond the current stalemate by finding both/and solutions rather than either/or policies.

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