It’s not that I think a national background check on gun purchases is a bad idea. Nor is that I think it’s really necessary to own a semi-automatic assault rifle or that the right to purchase one is intrinsic to the Second Amendment. I don’t think either of these things and based on that, I find the actual policy proposals of President Obama regarding guns to be fairly benign. What is troubling, if unsurprising, is what’s omitted and its solutions that might actually matter and it’s an honest conversation about all facets of gun violence in this country.
I know everyone’s heard the phrase “guns don’t kill, people kill” over and over, but does your fatigue with hearing the cliché make it any less true? You’ve heard that criminals are not going to suddenly turn in their assault weapons because the government told them to. Well, isn’t the notion that criminals don’t obey laws pretty much an indisputable fact?
What if, instead of arguing about the instruments used by the killer, we started asking ourselves what possessed them to commit atrocities like Adam Lanza committed in Newton, and why they chose the targets they did.
We know Lanza’s mind was fed on a steady diet of high-violence video games. If we’re going to blame the gun he chose at the end of his journey into the Culture of Death, should we not also examine the role of the video game that was there at the beginning?
And why do deranged shooters, from Colorado to Connecticut pick the venues they do, from a movie theatre to a public school. Lanza didn’t try and go into a courthouse, where there are metal detectors and armed guards. Do schools merit any less protection?
I live near Milwaukee and the city’s sheriff, David Clarke, made waves when he said after the shooting that it was time to put armed guards in the school. He was condemned by the local political Left here, who accused him of exploiting the tragedy—although apparently the president of the United States having signing ceremonies with children in the background and using them as props doesn’t qualify as exploitation. But in the Milwaukee Public School System, at-risk schools have metal detectors in place and gun violence has decreased. Unlike gun control laws, there’s a cause and effect here that suggests a solution that really does work.
If the president of the United States wants a genuine national conversation about how to stop future tragedies like Sandy Hook, then all sides have to be brought in, and the actual results of policies have to be examined. It can’t be a feel-good exercise. By all means, include talk about background checks and assault weapons in the national conversation—I don’t hold to the view that says a national conversation is only about the opinions I agree with. But incorporate guns into a broader conversation about beefed-up security at schools and the culture of violence in Hollywood and the gaming industry. If a tragedy is worth solving, it’s worth taking some time to work everything through.
There’s saying that goes like this—when you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. The meaning is that when you put pressure on an object you bring out what’s inside. The tragedy of Sandy Hook put some pressure on the White House. And what came out was a one-sided conversation, insignificant proposals and hiding behind kids as props. Impressive Mr. President, very impressive indeed.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com