This article was originally published by the Madison Independent Examiner. A slideshow and the video that is referenced are available for viewing there.
Newtown, CT - December 14: Distraught parents await word of the fate of their children outside Sandy Hook elementary school. Images in public domain via Bing images.
In the wake of the horrible tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut, with 20 small children and seven adults shot and killed weighing heavily on the conscience of America, many will look for quick and easy measures that can prevent something like that from happening again. Stricter gun control laws seem like an easy answer, but that is not the solution.
More gun control legislation, while sensible on many levels, is akin to plugging a small hole in a dam that is already cracked and gushing. That simply will not solve the problem of gun violence in this country.
The latest in a series of mass murders involving firearms will undoubtedly reignite the debate about gun control laws. Many will validly argue that laws should be stricter and the emotions of most Americans will be with them. Unfortunately, stricter gun control laws are only a small part of the solution to preventing firearm violence, because it is too late for them to have much of an effect. Political, social and economic changes, while more difficult to pinpoint and achieve, are the only hope for ending the culture of violence that the U.S. has become known for.
Even if the U.S. banned the sale of every firearm to everyone, which is unrealistic, that would still leave millions of guns already in the hands of Americans. A 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service estimated that as of 2009, there were about 310 million nonmilitary firearms in the U.S. and firearm sales have skyrocketed since then. Banning the sale of guns, like illegal drugs, would only make matters worse by creating a truly unregulated black market for them.
Keep in mind that the weapons used in the recent Connecticut murders and the Portland mall murders were not purchased or owned by the shooters. Stricter laws regulating the purchase of firearms, therefore, would not have prevented the Connecticut school shooting because the weapons used were already out there. Potential shooters will still have relatively easy access to firearms unless every firearm is confiscated, which is even more unrealistic than banning sales of guns. Furthermore, any attempts at confiscating guns from legal owners would probably result in more gun violence than it would be intended to prevent. It may even ignite a civil war.
Many will correctly argue that the 2nd amendment right to bear arms applies to a well-armed militia to guard against tyranny, not to ordinary citizens armed to the teeth in schools, movie theatres, churches and malls. Many will argue that more guns lead to more murders, which is statistically true. Many will argue that legislation such as the Tiahrt amendments and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 tie the hands of researchers and law enforcement while protecting firearm manufacturers from legal repercussions -- also true. While all these arguments are valid and stricter gun regulation is becoming more popular, it misses the point.
The point is that America must embark on more deep and fundamental changes in order to end the culture of violence that has permeated American society throughout its existence. And that can only begin with a real examination of the social, political and economic circumstances that feed into the collective consciousness of American society and create the minds that pull the triggers. That will be difficult, if not impossible, but there are a few starting points.
Michael Moore, director of several documentaries including "Bowling for Columbine," which examined the 1999 Columbine school shooting and its aftermath, was one of the first to take to Twitter after the Connecticut school shooting and demand stricter gun control laws. He makes a lot more sense in the video at the left than he does with his tweets.
The points he made in the aforementioned film also go deeper than gun control legislation. Other themes in the film are the fearful heart and soul of America and the militaristic culture our leaders have sown. Ironically, Moore points out, Colorado is the home of several defense contractors, including Lockheed-Martin in Littleton that manufacture weapons of mass destruction.
President Obama's speech in the wake of the Connecticut massacre was warm and heartfelt by a nation in mourning. Americans should be thankful for a leader that can empathize with the victims and express that side of him. But left out of the minds of many are the amounts of children that have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several other nations over the past 11 years as a result of U.S. foreign policy.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London reported that from June 2004 to mid-September 2012, drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen killed between 3,017 and 4,517 people, of which 544 to 1,119 were civilians, including at least 247 children. And that does not include civilian deaths in the countries that the U.S. invaded.
Assault rifles were shipped to drug cartels in Mexico by the U.S. Justice Department in the "Fast and Furious" operation, and the cartel wars in Mexico have claimed up to 60,000 lives with another 10,000 missing.
Americans have been taught to ignore or become desensitized to news like that -- until something like it happens here. Then most wonder why. The same media outlets that are cheerleaders for the wars and virtually ignore the deaths of children in other countries, or describe it as collateral damage, are still engaged in nonstop coverage of the tragedy in Connecticut.
The same President who alluded yesterday to taking a closer look at gun legislation when the time is right presided over the proliferation of firearms to a neighboring country involved in a shooting drug war. The same leader who wiped tears from his eyes over the deaths of American children yesterday is the same one who said, "I have two words for you: Predator drones. You'll never see them coming."