Sunday, December 23, 2012

Whoa, buddy...

So I've kind of taken a while to digest the events of the last week.  Frankly, they needed time to be digested.  Last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, was not the first mass shooting, not even the first of 2012.  But it did involve some of the youngest victims of a mass shooting to date, and it has brought up a plethora of concerns from violent video games to guns to mental health.  There has been a lot of talk about guns and gun violence in the past week, and as much as I would love to see better gun regulations in the US, that's not the only thing to think about, and just regulating guns is not going to prevent the next incident like this. 

Mental illness is horribly stigmatized in the US, and diagnosis and treatment are often difficult to access.  We do not provide adequate support for people afflicted with mental illnesses or developmental disorders, and we then make it difficult for family and friends to help those about whom they are concerned.  We use words like "crazy," "insane," "retarded," and "screw loose" as colloquial and derogatory terms.  We most definitely need changes to our mental health care system, but those changes will take time to implement, as well as funding, infrastructure, and a change is societal attitude.

Entertainment today is filled with and glorifies violence and destruction, and we've talked about desensitization of kids for years now.  They have training uses to practice uncommon situations, and they allow gamers to let off some steam in a harmless fashion.  Music and TV shows depicting violence have won awards and prestigious nominations in spite of or because of their violence.  Again, this issue will take time to address and huge outside pressure, as the entertainment industry profiting from these media have solid lobby groups. 

Guns have a legitimate place in our society, and the right to bear arms is a protected right under the second amendment.  Does that mean assault rifles are a right?  Does that mean owning a small armory is a right?  Can guns and ammunition be taxed similarly to cigarettes and alcohol?  Does that mean high capacity magazines should be anywhere and everywhere?  I don't know, but these are discussions that we need to have.  And frankly, this area is the area that has the greatest potential to have fairly quick pay-back on making our society safer.

School security is another area where improvements can be seen fairly quickly, although this would cost and isn't sure-fire.  Columbine had a guard on the campus, as did Virginia Tech.  "Not sure-fire" is a far cry from "won't work" but it is something to remember when considering various options.

Of course, the option isn't simply to ban or not to ban, it isn't even what things to ban.  There's always the options of taxing, registration, fees, and testing/courses.  None of these solutions should- or could- happen in a vacuum, but instead in concert with one another.  This is not a simple problem that we're facing, this epidemic of mass shootings, and a simple solution will not address the matters at hand.  But this is the US.  We can put a person on the moon, we sure can fix this problem, too.  We just have to find the political will to do so.

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