By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the horrible shooting in Aurora, Colorado. A few quick thoughts on the event:
(1) As tempting (and predictable) as it might be, it’s pretty unlikely that this event will motivate any kind of sweeping reform in our country’s gun laws. So I hope you weren’t expect that. It’s a losing battle. Rest assuredly, fighting assiduously to legislate the availability and purchase of assault weapons would only lead to a blossoming underground gun market. In the end, the only ones hurt by aggressive gun laws are the ones not nutty enough to shoot up a movie theater.
There is a notable shortage of strong evidence suggesting the effectiveness of aggressive gun control. Some studies have findings that are inconclusive, while other studies show how certain models work and how other models don’t; neither of which having strong enough research designs to explain the phenomenon. I know what some of you (mostly my liberal friends, I’m sure) are thinking. But I think it’s entirely possible to question the efficacy of gun control laws without necessarily conceding to the powerful gun lobbyists. Sometimes, common sense simply trumps the visceral response that comes from a mass shooting tragedy.
(2) After this story – and countless other shootings like this – I think it’s time to change the narrative as it relates to violence and cultural identity. When black people commit violent crimes, it becomes an indictment on the entire culture. Arabs who commit violent crimes are considered terrorists. When whites commitment violent crimes, it gets folded into the mental illness discussion. I will say this, isolated killings in the ‘black community’ can be considered different (to some degree) than a single, massive killing in a place like Aurora. Perhaps that motivates the perceptions and takeaways from the incidents. But I suspect there’s more to it.
(3) As a student of public policy, I tend to question the sensationalized discussions that come immediately after a tragic episode of violence like the one in Aurora. The shooting in Colorado was horrible, to be sure. But gun violence occurs every single day in this country. This shooting will only be the latest in the file away in the national media’s frenzy. But people will die today at the hands of a gun. Per capita, my hometown of Flint is considered the most violent city in the entire country, where homicides are on pace to break our annual record. There were over 250 homicides right in President Obama’s old backyard of Chicago. Philadelphia has clocked over 200 homicides. None of this has captured the country’s attention. I suspect this is the due to two things: first, most violence takes place over an extended amount of time, rather than in one mass killing and second, the fact that most of those victims are African-American men in urban areas. The issues contributing to this epidemic of violence (poverty, racial isolation, insufficient resources to address mental health, and lack of jobs, an absence of educational and economic opportunities) are socially systemic and can’t be solved by gun control laws.
(4) If it ain’t guns doing the killing, something else will. As I just mentioned, save the occasional Aurora, most homicides take place one at a time. Often in those cases, something other than a gun is used. Many of these killings were stabbings. Or vehicular. Or strangulation. Or beatings. Or guns small firearms. All that said, shaping the narrative around assault weapons and gun control may help to reduce the number of random and mass killings. But it won’t do a thing to address individual killings, which continue to grow.
Thing is: I ‘m not against sensible gun control. I agree that it is a very necessary thing. However, I AM against the mechanized and predictable policy discussions that always seem to emerge after a mass shooting. Supporting gun control should not preclude advocacy of other responses to violence. Conservatives need to ease up on the defending all gun rights, especially since it’s clear that even though guns don’t kill, people with guns do. Liberals don’t have to always subscribe to their failed policies either. Perhaps it’s time for us to rethink longstanding policies to accurately reflect AND address today’s climate. I don’t claim to have the answers here. But I can identify the ideological problems pretty easily. Based on that, I’ll end my rant on this note: even if gun control can help in curbing some violence, it’s certainly not the only viable solution.
(5) Side note: I saw the Batman movie last weekend myself. The sheer awesomeness of the movie aside, I’ll admit I found myself occasionally wondering at which point of the flick the shooting took place. I imagined what scene those victims were watching the moment before they experienced undoubtedly one of the most frightening things in their lives. I shuddered a couple of times.
My thoughts and prayers are with the folks in Aurora and every person/place impacted by violence; whether the country is paying attention to you or not.