Developing a balanced perspective on the gun control debate
As I mentioned in my last blog post regarding the “return to work debate,” my opinion is that no matter how difficult, how emotional, or how political an issue is, the key is to truly take the time to listen to multiple perspectives and understand all sides of the issue. The more people can listen to one another, and really HEAR and UNDERSTAND one another, the better the chances of finding some middle ground and making real progress.
Okay, at the risk of making some individuals uncomfortable, let’s look at various perspectives and try to avoid saying “I don’t understand where you are coming from!!”
One side of the issue: Increasing gun control is not the solution
Some individuals view the right to have guns as clearly stated in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and doing anything to suppress that right is totally unacceptable to them. They argue the country was formed with a basic distrust of the central government (e.g. King George and England), and there needs to be a focus on preventing the government from ever becoming too powerful and attempting to suppress our independence. They believe that the “good people” need to have guns to protect themselves from the “bad people.” It is interesting to note that when asked if they believe it makes sense for individuals to have access to assault weapons, many will agree that they are not personally in favor of assault weapons, but outlawing them could result in a “slippery slope,” whereby once assault weapons become illegal, less lethal weapons could then be outlawed. On the issue of mass shootings, they often state that the problem isn’t the availability of guns but rather the lack of adequate mental health care. Many believe that criminals are not deterred by stricter gun laws because they can always find a way to illegally obtain weapons, and we must be prepared to protect ourselves.
Another side of the issue: We need significant gun control
Other individuals view it as unacceptable that in the U.S. – one of the most developed countries in the world – 45,000 people die from gun violence every year. They point out that gun violence is the largest cause of death of children in the U.S., and that it as an epidemic. Many of these people are not against the idea of people owning guns, but they question the need for assault weapons. They argue for the need for functional background checks, red flag laws, and increasing the age to at least 21 before being able to purchase a gun. They look at the tragedies that occurred in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas, and last week in Highland Park, Illinois as unacceptable and avoidable.
Okay, so what is the “right thing to do?” The first step is to truly listen to one another and try to find some common ground. Recall that there was substantial gun legislation passed in 1996 (28 years ago) that was overturned ten years later. One request I have (and yes, you may accuse me of being either overly idealistic or naïve) is for all politicians to spend less time sticking to strict party lines and asking themselves “what is the right thing to do?” I personally find fault on all sides…..as a former mathematics major, I find it statistically impossible that virtually all 50 Democratic senators are in favor of stricter gun control and all 50 Republican senators are against it. Where is the individual self-reflection on the issue? Why does this issue need to become a partisan political issue? One would logically expect that some proportion of each side would independently come to their own personal view of “what is the right thing to do?” Clearly that is not happening, which makes it very difficult to get anything accomplished. Yes, some recent progress is underway, but I find it to be completely inadequate.
- So what if…..there was a proposal to ban assault weapons BUT it was written in a way that no further bans could be enacted without a constitutional amendment (I have no idea whether that is possible, I am just trying to think out of the box).
- So what if……we significantly increased our focus on mental health as a country, and helped to minimize the number of people that wanted to harm others.
- So what if……we asked parents to become better parents and monitor the amount of violence that their young children are exposed to in movies, social media and video games. (I am personally shocked at what children and young adults have access to without any parental oversight)
My final thought is to ask each and every one of you what you are personally doing to keep your children and grandchildren safe. I say everyone because as I remind my Kellogg students, when we ask who are the people that are going to solve these issues, we usually assume there is a group called “those guys”….well, my strong belief is WE are “THOSE GUYS”….the men and women who can make a difference. As I always ask my students when discussing challenging issues: Are you “watching the movie” and complaining, or are you going to “get in the movie” and focus on how to make sure we actually solve the problem?