Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Emotion of Gun Control

This abandoned old house held a family when I passed it on my bus ride home each day in elementary school.  As I took this photo the other day, my mind drifted back to my childhood in this rural community.  Guns were very much a part of our lives back then.  My father had an old rifle to shoot at the rats which frequented the chicken coop next door to our house,  My best friend's father was an avid hunter.  Most of the boys in my class at school were taught to hunt and given guns of their own as soon as they were old enough to use them safely.  They were a fact of life -- a rite of passage -- and the only gun deaths were unfortunate hunting accidents.

Our schools were safe.  Some of the boys in our class may have been a little wild, and fist fights often settled arguments, but none of us EVER worried about being shot to death in school.

Our world is very different now, and my opinions on guns have run the gamut since those early years when they were just part of the background of my everyday life.  As guns developed into the more vicious assault rifles we see today, I supported the banning of assault rifles.  As I reeled emotionally from the increasingly common mass shootings in schools and public places, I believed that increased regulations on the sale of guns in the form of strict background checks was necessary.

And yet, part of me questioned if guns were the problem at all.  I still remembered all those boys from my childhood who had guns, and I wondered.

After the horrendous school shooting in Connecticut in December, suddenly everyone was talking about strict gun control laws; our NYS Legislature passed a gun law seemingly overnight.  And, suddenly, the questions being raised loudly and angrily were those of gun owners worried about the loss of their Second Amendment rights.  While I feel the NRA and many of the nation's gun owners have gone beyond reason in their vitriolic rhetoric, I do feel that we walk a slippery slope when we begin passing laws without proper debate and thoughtful consideration. 

Another question arises with more stringent background checks -- we talk of required reporting of anyone with psychological issues which point to violent behavior.  Once again, while this might be a particularly worthwhile tool in the prevention of these violent shootings, aren't we possibly violating the civil rights of our citizens.  What about the Iraq veterans with PTSD -- will some of them be placed on this list because of the anger they struggle to deal with?  What about the troubled teen who goes for counseling and is forever labelled as a possible threat?  What is the best way to protect our citizens?

The larger question in my mind, though, is the lingering memory of those boys throughout the 19th and 20th centuries who had guns, and yet, did not turn them on each other or on society in general.  What is the key difference in our world today that causes our young people to commit these horrendous acts of violence?  What flaw in our society or in our parenting creates an anger so intense that it explodes into a killing rampage?

In our rush to solve the problem of gun violence, we must not focus on the long-time gun owners, or trample on the rights of average citizens to purchase guns.  We must put more time and effort into determining the causes of the mental state which allows a killer to coldly plan and implement the killing of innocents.  We should look into the music, movies and TV shows to which our children are exposed -- there are very few with any redeeming moral lessons.  We should examine the video games our children are playing, and their computer usage. We should make sure our schools provide psychological services beginning in early elementary school to any students who seem to be struggling with anger, neglect, poor performance, etc.  As parents, we must make the time to provide a strong family environment of love, discipline, moral responsibility, and compassion.

There is no easy answer to this dilemna, but we MUST make it a priority to find the root causes of this violence, and work to correct the problems.  Every minute we spend fighting over gun control is wasting precious time in prevention of the mental problems that drive our young people over the precipice, and endanger our society as never before.

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