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Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?

What will it take for reasonable conversation about changes to our gun culture? Patch columnist Heather Borden Herve asks if the number of Newtown’s dead is finally reason to say, “Enough.”

 

I’m tired of the rhetoric, from all sides. I’m tired of the pro-gun statistic fight against the anti-gun statistic fight.

There comes a point where ‘this’ quote citation to defend constitutional originalism and ‘that’ quote citation to defend constitutional interpretation is basically like arms buildup. I’ll see your statistic and absolute proof that the Founding Fathers wanted us to keep our guns, and I’ll raise you my statistic and historically empirical evidence that they never could have imagined semi-automatic, rapid-firing reloading guns in the hands of citizens!

Quite honestly, I can’t decide if I’ve intentionally used that ‘arms buildup’ pun or not. Because I just don’t know what makes it through the rhetorical barrage anymore.

On each side, we find our numbers and quotes to defend our position and we’ll continue having the same argument unless we say, “Enough.”

Can we consider the possibility that a document that is almost 226 years old might need us to legitimately reconsider the context of 2013 when figuring out how to move forward? Can we consider that the unfathomable slaughter of 20 children and 6 adults in a school, a place once considered a safe haven, is a price too high to pay to ignore that?

Because while we may debate the certainty of what the framers of the Constitution really did want when it comes to the Second Amendment, what I think we can all agree on with absolute certainty is that the individuals who wrote it did respect thoughtful consideration, reasonable debate, and discussion without absolutist decree. If they were content with failure to change, we never would have had found ourselves independent of England’s rule to begin with.

The closest thing I’ve found to even begin to approach reasonable discussion about the gun rights debate is an article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg — a link to which was posted in one of the 110-plus comments of a Wilton Patch article I wrote last week about a local group that met with state legislators to talk about the issue. (I’m sure the reader who made the comment and link will be surprised that I’m citing it here, as he and I stand, by and large, on opposite sides of the debate.)

The Atlantic piece asserts that there are steps which could be taken to reduce access to guns and ammunition “for the criminially minded, for the dangerously mentally ill and for the suicidal, and that measures could be taken that sensibly restrict access to weapons and ammunition that “have no reasonable civilian purpose, and their sale could be restricted without violating the Second Amendment rights of individual gun owners.” However, he concludes, these efforts would be noble but “too late” to have any meaningful impact on the rate of gun violence.

He writes that it’s too late because of the number of guns — 280 to 300 million — in private hands in this country.

While I disagree with much of what the Atlantic writer asserts — from an emotional standpoint — I have to give the writer credit for speaking to experienced people around the country on both sides’ frontlines of the gun discussion: victims of gun violence, researchers, law enforcement officers, gun enthusiasts, and lobbyists and activists.

It’s a step toward acknowledgement of what each side believes; it concedes that each side has some ground, at the very least; and it starts to establish a foundation for how pro and con advocates might be able to stop ramming each other and start listening, if not conceding, to each other, “You’ve got a point.”

I acknowledge that I tend to come at this issue from my own, emotional perspective. Even this opinion column has to take a side, by definition, if not just by its headline. But the emotional arguments of gun-control crusaders that get belittled by the gun-rights activists are just as outsized as the fear-mongering assertions made by those same extreme gun-rightists meant to stop anti-gun advocates in their tracks.

But I suspect there are plenty of people in the middle who would like to figure out a way to move toward this rational discussion about how some changes can be made.

Haven’t we had enough of the killings to try? I guess not when some people think we don’t have enough guns, as if the solution to gun violence is more guns. Or that it’s too late to do anything about it because there are too many guns out there already, so why try anything at all?

We can keep headed the wrong way down the road, where more deaths are sure to happen, and just continue going the wrong way because we’ll eventually get to where we need to go. The world is round so all we have to do is circle the globe, we’ll get there eventually. But by then, there won’t be enough of us left on either side who say, “Enough.”

The Atlantic piece ends with Goldberg writing about gun-control advocate Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign, who asked, “’In a fundamental way, isn’t this a question about the kind of society we want to live in?’ Do we want to live in one ‘in which the answer to violence is more violence, where the answer to guns is more guns?’” Goldberg adds that in a nation with 300 million guns, it’s an irrelevant question.

That’s exactly why my initial question — “Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?” — needs to be seen as anything but irrelevant. It’s become the most relevant question of all.

Darryl January 08, 2013 at 12:07 PM
I'm more concerned with taking care of the mental illness problem. In many of these cases, the individuals that go on these killing sprees are heavily medicated, or were supposed to be heavily medicated. The VA Tech killings. Aurora, CO. Many of these atrocities included suicide and mental health issues. If they don't have access to guns, they will use whatever they can get hold of to inflict as much damage as they can. We really need to take better care of the mental issues and not be swept into the drama of controlling guns. If you control guns they will run over people in a vehicle. It iis the person doing the killing and not the tool.
chris bailey January 08, 2013 at 01:29 PM
From a statistical stand point, deaths from gun shots are minute. If we are concerned with non natural deaths there are several other areas to focus our attention on. 2.5 million people died in 2011. 34,677 people died in car crashes. Three times the number of people shot by a gun, 11,101; not counting suicide. Why not focus all this energy on the more statistically significant number? I guess taking peoples cars away, or forcing them to learn how to drive is not as sexy as saying "gun control!" Fix the big stuff first...over 500,000 people died from heart disease....all this ruckus for less than .05% of deaths...meh.
Mark January 08, 2013 at 03:28 PM
In China 20 people where stabbed in a school does that mean we need to take away all knives. A drunk person killed someone with a car, does that mean we need to take away all cars or stop selling liquor. Two people were pushed off a subway platform, do we stop all subways or just stop people from going on the platform. It seems that in most of these cases the person responsible had the problem and was at fault, not the tool that he used. Maybe we should look at the psychological issues these individuals had and see how we could prevent other individuals with similar problems, before making a rash decision on gun control. The rash decision or a bad law based on emotion has an effect not just the people that use guns in the legal way, but effects the thousands of people that support their families with the jobs that the gun makers provide.
Leah Salomoni (Editor) January 08, 2013 at 07:20 PM
"Shouldn't the title be '20 Children and 7 Adults? -no matter what side of the issue you are on another life was taken that day, Nancy Lanza was also shot and killed........." - Vivan Kudej (Comment transferred from Shelton Patch Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SheltonPatch)
David Broder January 09, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Common sense gun control that allows people to defend their lives and their property but also protects people from violent acts like that at Sandy Hook Elementary should be the focus. Unfortunately, what we get is one side saying there needs to be a complete ban on private ownership of firearms and the other side talking about the sanctity of the 2nd amendment. What is scary for both sides is that one fears guns and gun owners (many of them the most extreme leftists in congress) the other side fears the erosion off our personal liberties. The reason we have the 2nd amendment is so that we citizens can defend ourselves against our own government should we need to. If the question to be answered then is how do we all live without having to fear an attack like Columbine or Sandy Hook, or Virginia Tech then I don't think further gun control is the answer. We can not predict criminal or psychopathic behavior, but we can't, through the media pigeon hole guns and gun owners as creators of the problem either. There seems to be these days a backlash against guns in the schools, politics and social circles where now if you are a professed advocate of gun ownership you must be silent or be vilified. Unfortunately, most of the gun laws passed in this country are created by people with very little knowledge of guns or gun owners and they resist the NRA or any other gun group in helping draft legislation that will be enforceable and effective.
Leah Salomoni (Editor) January 09, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Thanks so much for commenting, David. I think you bring up a really good point about gun owners being "silent or vilified."

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