Picking the right targets

Diverse City
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  December 31, 2012

I'm a mother of a 7-year-old in grade school and a 20-year-old in college. School shootings get my attention like that of any other parent. So, it's not much of a surprise that the murder of 26 people — 20 of them children aged 6 and 7 — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, moved me to tears. My thoughts and prayers still go out to all involved.

Still, this isn't my first time at this rodeo.

Hell, it's not America's either, by any means.

As tragic as this shooting was — and yes, it was horrific — it's only the second-worst campus-based mass murder. It's easy to forget in our fast-paced and short-term memory culture here that just five-and-half years earlier, at Virginia Tech, 32 people lost their lives. That they weren't little children may make it less horrific, but it's no less wrong.

More importantly, it's a lesson.

Now, some of you may think I'm about to go on a rant about banning guns.

I'm not.

Sure, I'm against the gun culture in the United States and the proliferation of firearms, but that doesn't mean I'm against sane, sensible, and responsible ownership of guns.

Besides, banning guns isn't the answer. Going after the bad guys isn't the answer either; looking at the period from 1982 to 2012, Mother Jones found that at least 61 mass murders were carried out with firearms across the country, with nearly 50 of those involving legally acquired guns.

What we need to do is to get at the heart of the problem. Why do we own so many guns? Why in this country are we so eager to use them?

Since the Newtown shooting, there has been talk of gun control and talk of arming everyone. There has been a call for being tougher on criminals and being more attentive to mental-health care. There has been the irony of the National Rifle Association blaming virtual violence and virtual weapons in video games while promoting the dissemination of more real weapons and suggesting all schools could benefit from armed guards and bulletproof backpacks.

The problem is that many people don't want to acknowledge that we have a multitude of targets to aim at to solve the problem of gun violence. Moving targets at that. Too many people want to insanely insist there are only one or two targets.

Yes, we are desensitized to violence in this country, but cleaning up movies and video games isn't the answer. Increasing lack of community, family estrangement, and antisocial interaction is the problem.

Gun ownership isn't the problem. Ready access to too many guns and making it too easy to own so many, including assault weapons, is the problem.

Shutting down access to mental-health services and replacing that with a prison culture is a large part of the problem. Caging people in violent places often makes them violent, even if they weren't before.

And those are just a few of the many massive individual problems we need to solve to reduce gun violence.

Our unwillingness to put things in perspective is the real problem. My hometown of Chicago looked ready to break 500 homicides for 2012 last I checked. Some 40 deaths a month, many of them gun-related. But many people only notice the isolated events with a lot of deaths at once.

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  Topics: The Editorial Page , Gun Control, children, shooting,  More more >
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