I had not intended to write about guns anymore. The killings go on endlessly. Every day 93 people on average die from guns in the US. Most go un-noticed and are accepted as normal in this country. Oh, we express outrage and grief over the mass killings that garner national media attention but within a few days it all returns to normal. Just a ritual that we play out. Sort of like going to church – well, that is taken care of and we return to our regular lives. Nothing changes.
But after the Florida killings a group of kids stood up. They demanded to be heard, not as victims but as advocates. They refuse to be pandered to and then dismissed. They are doing something we are not used to. They are acting like responsible adults, in sharp contrast to our so-called leaders. I do not know if they will succeed in any meaningful way. The $30 million a year that the NRA spends to buy politicians is a huge obstacle and they and their co-conspirators are masterful at turning what should be a rational discussion about how to make us all safer into a culture war.
Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association, said that those calling for gun control after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., “hate individual freedom" and were involved in a socialist plot "to eradicate all individual freedoms.” Just the kind of considered, thoughtful discussion that we need when confronting the scourge of 30,000 deaths a year.
Is it hating freedom to want to save all those lives? Is it hating freedom to want children to be safe? Is it hating freedom to not want to see another grieving father or distraught mother?
What does it say about us if we need to have a gun to feel free? What does it mean to be free? More than 20 years ago after a mass shooting, Australia banned most guns and instituted a mandatory buyback program. Since then there have been no mass shootings in Australia. I have been to Australia, walked its streets, hiked its country side, talked to its citizens. I did not discern a lack of freedom. If freedom means being able to travel where you want, vote in elections, read what you please and speak your mind freely than these people are free. And there is no greater freedom than feeling safe while living your life. If you need a gun to make you feel free maybe you need a different kind of help.
Will the kids from Florida and their supporters effect meaningful change? It is unlikely. At best they will get some window dressing measures - raising the age to purchase to 21, prohibiting bump stocks, etc - that are unlikely to reduce the violence significantly. There are already over 300 million guns in the country so it is not like there will be a supply shortage.
There are two models to look to that might hold some promise. Things that have actually made a difference in other areas that might be applicable to gun violence. One is to make gun violence (not guns) a public health issue. It is not about the second amendment or freedom or rural vs urban or red vs blue. It is about saving people's lives, children's lives. The model here is smoking. If 25 years ago you had told most people that smoking would be banned in virtually every public building, restaurant, office, bar and park in the country they would have thought you delusional. Yet in spite of the nearly unlimited resources of big tobacco companies it has happened; smoking has declined dramatically and millions of lives have been saved. The same needs to be done for the violence caused by guns. Like the gun issue, smoking advocates tried to characterize it as about individual rights and personal freedom. That didn't fly then, and the same approach needs to be applied to gun violence.
A second model is automobiles and driving. Just like cars and drivers, guns and their owners should be registered, tested, licensed, inspected regularly and most importantly insured. The insured part is critical. Insurance companies for all their greed, bureaucracy, and bad service have driven life saving measures such as seatbelts, air bags, child safety seats and ABS brakes. If liability insurance was required for gun owners as coverage for any death or injury resulting from the weapons they own, you can bet that trigger locks would be mandatory, smart gun technology common and fewer deaths would occur. Traffic fatalities have declined for many years on American roads. It is time to do the same for America's schools and streets.
You don't have to hate freedom to want to save lives.
One Small Voice
© Copywrite 2016- 2017 All rights reserved