An Opportunity for Reflection

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, a heated debate has surfaced surrounding gun laws in our country. This debate is more of an eventuality than a spontaneous outcry. As we continue to suffer killing sprees and unsolicited violent outbursts in our public places, I’m increasingly bothered by the monotony of the arguments. The issue of the second amendment versus public safety is a long-standing and worthy argument to have, but is it the right one to have right now?

President Obama’s address to the nation this past Sunday contained a statement that stood out as unique from the usual rhetoric: “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that politics are too hard, are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children year after year is the price of our freedom?”

That idea, the concept of violence as an inevitability of our framework of rights and freedoms, laid clear the inherently flawed logic that has been the basis of our gun law debates for as long as we’ve been having them. It also made me look long and hard at a similar tragedy that occurred last Friday in China’s Henan province. On the same day as our own fatal school shooting, 22 children and one villager at an elementary school suffered a knife attack, which inflicted much harm but fortunately no fatalities. In a completely different part of the world, and in a completely different world in terms of rights and freedoms as many of us understand them, a nearly identical attack was carried out.

If we are indeed prepared to say that gun violence is the cost of our freedoms here, what excuse is available to provide to the wounded and traumatized children of this other non-gun-related attack? Would some series of knife-related legislation protect other children in the future? It is doubtful. After all, they weren’t killed, or alternately, saved, by a lack of weapons-related rights; as always manages to happen, another way was found to inflict harm.

It is a tragic and disappointing counter-balance to our own heartbreak here at home, but those events can present us with a broader picture of what can be done to prevent violent attacks in the future.  The question and the problem, I think, have little to do with the type of weapon used or the particulars of the victims. We might get more answers and solutions to this pressing and obviously global problem by viewing it from a completely different angle.

What view might be best is a difficult call to make; there are many compelling arguments for revisions of mental health care policy and of government’s responsibility in preventing terrible events like these, and these are all making some progress toward a solution, or at least an alleviation of suffering. We haven’t yet solved anything by pitting gun rights against other rights and freedoms, and it is becoming obvious that a radically different perspective is needed to prevent attacks like these.




Image source: Democurmudgeon