Another day, another truly sickening mass murder in the US.
This time, a man managed to kill 27 people, including 20 young children, during a shooting spree in a Connecticut elementary school. His weapons of choice: two handguns and a Bushmaster .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle.
Nobody really expects things to change after this. Even though this counts as one of the worst gun outrages in US history, the power of the NRA, along with blanket opposition to gun restrictions means that the only outcome is likely to be a few extra lines in America’s grim firearm mortality records.
People, who should never be let within an ass’s roar of a powerful weapon, will continue to purchase firearms with impunity. The building up of private arsenals will not abate. The senseless murders will persist. America will lead the developed world in gun violence.
Any sensible person should be able to reason that mass murders like this, and murders in general, are unconscionable in a civil society. Presumably, it is the will of the vast majority of people that something be done to reduce these horrific statistics as aggressively as possible. It is also reasonable to assume that things can be done, given the right circumstances.
Gun violence, like most other things, is driven by certain factors. Identifying these factors and implementing policies to manage them or eliminate them is therefore both judicious and necessary.
Let me digress for a moment. Forty years ago, Ireland had some of the worst road death statistics in Europe. At times during the 1970s, over 600 people died on Irish roads. This was at a time when car ownership was far less than it is today. Today, the road death rate is less than 200 – a decrease of 66% on those grim figures. The reason for the drop, in Ireland as well as many other countries around the world, has been due to a raft of different measures from penalty points, to random breath testing, to airbags, to better testing and training. Road deaths were driven by multiple factors. Identifying and addressing all of them, in a comprehensive way, helped to control the problem. There are many other examples of initiatives such as this making a real and substantial difference in improving health and avoiding early mortality.
America is stuck in a situation where a cool-headed analysis of the root causes of gun violence has not been sufficiently translated into any sort of sensible public policy. Instead, the country has been happy to let rhetoricians and lobby groups hold sway. Rather than doing whatever it can to address and reduce the incidents of mass murder, the citizenry gets soundbites, right-wing propaganda and slogans.
Rhetoric and sloganeering will not solve the gun violence problems of America. Sensible initiatives, from a wide range of perspectives, will do it. Comparing America’s experience to initiatives in different countries, and implementing similar policies locally, will help. Keeping all factors on the table and identifying the real root causes is essential.
It’s time that people stopped presuming that their sacred idols are above reproach or beyond sensible analysis. A wide range of initiatives should be implemented and supported. Some may work, others not: but that is how science works. These initiatives need to encompass gun ownership, mental health, advertising, gun-culture, arms manufacture and trading, among many others. In this way, America’s gun-murder problems can be solved.