Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the sad events in Newtown Connecticut where twenty children and six adults were murdered in Sandy Hook Elementary School. In this post I do not intend to get into a wide discussion about the pros and cons of gun ownership or gun control. Although I have definite opinions on necessary changes to current gun laws, it is a topic for a different time as emotion often clouds everyone’s discussion of the issue. I will only say this for now — gun violence is a plague on our nation that must be addressed. Since that awful day Congress has passed only one piece of legislation related to guns. That legislation continues a ban on “plastic” guns, basically those that are deemed undetectable in metal detectors.
I do not buy the facile arguments as to why the United States has such a high incidence of gun violence. Arguments that it is mental health, violent video games or movies, American attitudes in general and countless other stated reasons do not resonate with me. Indeed, some or all of those reasons may be part of the problem, but in my mind they cannot be the only reasons behind the illegal and murderous use of guns. My simple logic says that nations like us — Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and others — have mentally ill people, watch the same movies, play the same games and on and on and do not have anywhere near the incidence of gun violence found in this country. Those countries also have hunters and sports shooters and yes, criminals, yet there are significantly less incidents of murder by guns in those countries.
It would be helpful to study the issue in a non-partisan, unemotional way. There have been studies, and indeed earlier this year the president asked the Center for Disease Control to review the existing studies to look for patterns. Unfortunately the CDC cannot do their own reearch because in 1996 Congress passed a law pushed by the National Rifle Association banning CDC funding for any research to “advocate or promote gun control.” While this technically does not prohibit all research on gun issues, it has had the effect of severely restricting studies of this topic as those providing funding and doing the research are concerned about the repercussions.
It seems to me that rather than arguing over what the Second Amendment does or does not mean, we should first all recognize that there is a problem in this country concerning the illegal use of guns. Perhaps before we get into arguments over whether or how to control access to guns, there should be a “clean piece of paper” study by leading researchers, properly funded and free of political or lobby pressure to see how and why we are the only “civilized” country in the world with such a high level of gun violence. Perhaps then we can begin to confront the problem.
As this awful anniversary comes upon us, please take a moment to remember the families of those we lost that terrible day.