We Must Change

The tragedy that occurred in Newtown, CT - a town about an hour away from me - this past Friday has obviously and understandably been on everyone's mind. Over the past four days, I've been reading, and watching, and listening, and thinking, and I have some thoughts.

My first thought is that everyone who says that our continued violence epidemic in this country is a multifaceted problem is absolutely correct. I believe that the way we address the issues of guns and mental health are both heavily contributing factors, as well as the media reaction to events such as these. I'll start with guns since - even though I am not nor do I have any desire or need to be a gun owner - it feels more in my wheelhouse.

It's important to remember that the 2nd Amendment was written at a time when none of the following things existed: street lamps, telephones, cell phones, home alarm systems, police forces, automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, and basically any weapon that allows you to load more than one bullet at a time. It was written at a time when a person couldn't simply pick up the phone and call for help, and someone couldn't fire more than one bullet at you before having to reload. In no way could the founders have predicted or foreseen the kind of resources available to us today in terms of communication, protection, and safety, or the kind of firepower that is currently so easily available. This is why the Constitution is a living document, and (assuming that amendments 18 and 21 are a wash) why it has needed to be changed 25 times. Rejecting this fact is simply willful ignorance and evidence of residence in an alternate reality.

But even if the above paragraph were not the case, the amendment says, "a well regulated militia," and any serious look into overall government regulation into guns will show that it has been anything but "well." It is more difficult for a person to obtain and keep a driver's license than it is for them to acquire and use a gun. In the past four days I've read the idea that every gun owner should be required to be licensed and as certified as any police officer, and I agree. Think about this: no guns of any kind are allowed around the president of the United States unless it is being carried by a fully licensed, certified member of the Secret Service or other law enforcement agency. Why? Because they recognize how dangerous these weapons really are. The rest of us citizens, however, are not afforded the same protections.

Other ideas such as advanced technology and biometrics that only allow for the registered gun owner to fire a specific gun are also intriguing and should be discussed more, but here's one that I really like, courtesy of my neighbor: if you're a gun owner and your gun is lost or stolen, then you lose your right to possess one - either for a period of time or permanently. Why? Because by losing it or having it stolen, you have proven to society that you do not respect the weapon enough to keep it track of it, and you can no longer be trusted to manage one safely.

Another problem that we have to address is the lack of access to mental health resources in this country. Due to my relative unfamiliarity with the subject, it is difficult for me to suggest ways that this can be addressed, but the fact that it can be easier to get a gun than the help of a mental health professional must be addressed. Minds are like any other part of the body that can need attention, but too often we find it far too easy to simply slap a label on someone and move on. People are much more complicated than that, and its a disservice to everyone to not give it the attention is deserves. Show me one person who in their entire life could never benefit from access to mental health services and -- wait, no one like that exists. We can all use it at some point in our lives. Some more than others? Sure. But all of us at some time.

And let's not forget the media's role in all of this. There is a quote going around Facebook attributed (supposedly) to Morgan Freeman that talks about how the media's elevation of these shooters catches the eye of other would-be shooters who want the same kind of fame and attention, and thus creates a continuing cycle. Not a completely unreasonable point. Should the media be giving any screen time at all to the perpetrators of such terrible acts?

Sunday night President Obama said, "We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change."

I couldn't agree more.

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ