Career Calling

December 23, 2012

Sabbath, December 23, 2012

[On Sundays, this blogs looks beyond the work world in “Sabbath.”]

Simplicity and Lies

Everyone was shocked a little over a week ago when one man with a gun killed 26 people at a school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.  We can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing, which is logical since such actions betray any definition of reason.  The President and other officials weighed in on the event, and quickly the subject turned to how to prevent such event in the future.  That’s where it gets messy.

From Revolutionary War heroes to Civil War heroes to cowboys to tough guy detectives, America has always told stories of heroes that use guns.  Today’s action movie posters frequently show a well-known star holding a weapon he or she would never touch in real life. We are also a culture of hunters and sports shooters, law-abiding citizens who use guns to pursue happiness.  None of these examples are meant to knock guns or their owners, just to show how pervasive guns our in our cultural.

What can we do about gun violence?  I don’t know.  But I do know what we should do: Stop talking to each other like adults talking to young children.  Last week, the NRA and its allies claimed that armed guards or teachers could have stopped the killer.  There logic is that it takes “good people with guns to stop bad people with guns.”  Such a claim simplifies reality, and it is a lie.  The organization’s real goal is to prevent any kind of restriction on guns sales.  Rather than address that question, it turns to pseudo-moral language that clouds policy issues.

On the day of the shooting I was listening to political talk radio.  A caller said that we shouldn’t have any kind of gun control because the real problem is evil.  That kind of thinking is also a dangerous simplification through a false moral rhetoric.  If we say a problem is rooted in “human nature,” it cannot be changed.  The classic way of framing this claim is “Guns don’t kill people.  “People kill people.”  However, if they are doing the killing with a gun, if they kill more people at one time with guns, it’s nonsensical to dismiss the role of the gun in the murders.  In recent decades both Australia and England changed gun laws after mass killings, and the number of mass killings has greatly decreased in both countries.  My point is not to argue for any type of law.  It’s about language and how we talk to each other about solving a problem.

If we speak to each other in language that simplifies reality, we will never change.  In fact, we will move backward to a time where fear ruled over reason.  Do adults have the right to own any kind of weapon?  If not, what are the restrictions?  Should we have national laws, or should the laws vary from state to state?  This kind of question brings us to a place where we can debate specific actions.  White hat and black hat language is an excuse for inaction.  People who really care about the deaths of the children and teachers in Sandy Hook should honor their memory with honest language about the tragedy and its aftermath.

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