December 18, 2012

On Gun control and community

Like many Americans, I have been thinking about this latest mass shooting.  Clearly the dynamic has changed since Friday, and some of that is probably good.  I am not completely sure why the 20 dead kids are that much more tragic than the 6 dead adults (excluding the shooter, of course, though that is also tragic).  Certainly no less tragic than the KC Chief player shooting the mother of his child and then himself to leave that child parentless.

But that aside, one thing I really like is that the conversation in certain circles is really honest and thoughtful.  Some liberals and progressives are genuinely asking about gun control and not just assuming that it is automatically going to help.  Josh Marshall asked about studies that purport to show lower violence in states with more restriction (can't find the link, sorry).  James Fallows and Jeffrey Goldberg are engaging with the idea that gun control may not be able to do what we want.  Talking points published this informed discussion (I think posted this the other day) on the changing nature of the gun culture, and that Fallows link also lists some reader responses trying to educate the non-gun public on the perils of restricting scary looking guns (as evidently the assault weapon ban did) rather than anything meaningful.

There has been more than our share of stupidity.  Mike Huckabee and James Dobson have both claimed that we are witnessing the result of moral decline, and Megan McCardle evidently (I didn't read the entire thing) suggested that we teach our kids to rush gunmen.  Ugh.  Tennessee and Michigan both moved to allow teachers to arm themselves in classrooms.  Double ugh.

But around the periphery of this discussion, I think, is a discussion about community.  I think it is completely reasonable to suggest that gun restrictions are no more helpful to society than our war on drugs--though I am not sure I completely agree.  But there are absolutely legitimate 2nd amendment issues at play here--regardless of what liberals believe.  I get that.  But the suggestion that teachers need to arm themselves struck a chord about community, or the lack there of.

Consider it this way.  On one hand, we are being told by conservatives that gun restrictions won't work and should not be used--but many of those same conservatives are also pushing to reduce elements of our community fabric.  Less money for cops and firemen--and of course less money for public health and mental health facilities.  In that context, telling the teacher to arm themselves sounds more like outsourcing than some Rambo approach to teaching.  It sounds, to my ear, as conservatives saying, "we won't pay for those things that might help, and we absolutely won't give up our right to purchase whatever crazy gun or bullet we want--but we will tell you that you are on your own and you better provide your own security."

Perfectly reasonable, as many of my conservative friends have said, to suggest that gun control simply won't make us safer.  But less reasonable to then ignore that Republicans are purposefully cutting programs that might make us more safe and which have nothing to do with guns.  Mental health professionals have told me that assistance for families dealing with mental illness is often one of the first budget cuts.  Putting more cops on the street is unthinkable in a context where raising taxes just a few percentage points is harder than getting authorization to invade a country.  And think about all of those health clinics that have closed over the past two decades.  Not saying that all of those in place would make us immune from school shootings, but those are policies that have a track record of helping communities be safer.

Focusing on the guns misses that broader connection, I think.  Part of our battle here is between conservatives who really don't want a broader "we are all in this together" and liberals who, however misguided on banning handguns (for example), who believe that that individual right is running straight into a crowd of innocent people.


Bob said...

This is one of your best posts. You were more generous to gun rights supporters than I have been in the last few days.

Arming teachers IS like outsourcing our safety. Good way to put it.

steves said...

Excellent post. I had avoided commenting on the previous post because some of the articles quoted were somewhat distorted.

I disagree about the teacher thing. I don't think we should force them to be armed and the bill that was vetoed wouldn't have allowed teachers to carry unless the administration approved. My question is who should ensure the safety of our kids? The police? This would be too cost prohibitive. Private security? They have the same training requirements as the rest of us.

steves said...

I agree that the GOP, especially Gov. Engler, did a lot to harm the public mental health system in this state.

Streak said...

My argument, Steve, is that we have to shoulder the broader cost of security together. It isn't just policing, and it isn't just mental health, and it isn't just reasonable gun control. It is also the economics of the gun market and the politicizing of the gun culture.

This is not an easy situation. And I haven't even raised the issue of white privilege and the clear fact that most of these are white males who clearly have grievances.

I believe we have to embrace the reality that we are all in this together.

steves said...

I agree. I can't find the article right now, but two Yale Law professors talk about the tribalism in the debate. Essentially, both sides seek out like minded people and ignore the outsiders.

Tony said...

I appreciate very much a thoughtful discussion. I have been saddened by what I have seen the past several days and FB has exploded with right wing nonsense of such I haven't seen since Sarah Palin (forgive the comparison).

But I truly think you have struck a chord here, in that the issue is about community and not so much about guns. I suggested to a FB friend that this really had not so much to do with the 2nd amendment as it did all of us bearing some sense of responsibility toward one another and living in a broader context than our own shallow little worlds. Our actions have consequences. As much as I would love to see greater gun control, I know it won't help. The answer is multi-faceted and everyone and I mean everyone needs to work together.