Gun Problem or People Problem

Mass shootings are an absolutely atrocious and largely unique part of our country’s culture. With the San Bernardino and Planned Parenthood attacks so fresh in our minds, we are all, once again, drawn to bickering about what the “problem” really is.

I have seen anti-gun-regulation arguments that cite examples of other violence (sans guns), saying essentially that bad people will still kill others, whether they have guns or not. One that seemed particularly off-topic to me referred to Cain killing Able with a rock.

I’m not here to argue specifically against the idea that people will do bad things. I think pretty much everyone agrees that there are plenty of people who commit terrible acts with or without access to guns.

But I do take issue with this particular argument because it is fatalistic. Almost none of the people I see making the ‘it’s a people problem’ argument are out there advocating for or otherwise supporting those ‘bad’ people.

Americans are woefully misinformed about issues of mental health. I would even take it a step further and propose that Americans are also generally lacking in emotional intelligence and empathy. We, as a culture, create and enforce systems of oppression, stigma, and self-loathing that essentially create these attackers.

So, sure, it may be a ‘people’ problem. But the people I’m talking about aren’t just the perpetrators of violence. They are the ones all around us, the people you and I become when we live in a place of competition and fear.

I think what makes me most upset about the gun control opposition is that they offer no counter solution. No gun law could possibly keep guns entirely out of public access. But I do believe that we should be treating guns like the dangerous weapons that they are. Regulating their sale and requiring a knowledge and/or skills test seems vital to me to acknowledge the power and responsibility that comes with being a gun owner. The absolute best comparison I have heard relates guns to cars. We’ve all accepted that we must pass a driving test and register our cars with the DMV; I don’t understand how doing the same with your gun is infringing on your rights in any greater way.

We need to recognize that the problem is multi-faceted. It IS a gun problem because automatic weapons kill much faster than most other weapons. It is also a culture problem, and we can’t ignore that piece of the puzzle.

To me, if you’re still arguing semantics about what the problem is, you’re a part of it. The focus ought to be on solutions that tackle both sides of this coin head on. I really believe we all play a role in this cultural epidemic, which means we all have a lot we can, and should, be doing already.




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