I haven’t written anything here but I need to get back to work and help enlighten the rest of the world In particular I need to take today to enlighten the United States.
I find lots about the States to complain about but let’s face it in the entire world it is one of the better places to live. There is relative peace and prosperity. The police are not very likely to just shoot you and dump the body. The local clergy may condemn you but they will probably not actually stone you to death. If for some reason I had to leave Canada the States is definitely in the top ten spots I’d consider moving to. Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, most places in Europe are other possibles. That being said the states does have a violence problem.
The terrible mass shooting in Connecticut has once again blown this up into the national media as a worthy story but that is where the first part of their violence problem starts. If every mass shooting in the states was allowed to go un punished there would still only be a few hundred killings per year. The fact is, however that they shoot about 30,000 of themselves every year.
After 9-11 Bush beat the drums of war and away they went again on another crusade to rid the world of some evil. That was because of approximately 3000 deaths. Ever since then they have continued to shoot 30,000 citizens a year and that does not count the military deaths in the wars they are fighting overseas.
The outcome of this latest mass shooting is entirely predictable and as usual entirely unhelpful. One side stood up before the bodies were cold and began demanding the disarming of the population. The other side, spearheaded by the NRA immediately began wailing about their 2nd amendment rights and crying that the best way to protect the population was to make sure everyone is armed.
I want to be clear here. I am entirely in favour of guns being regulated and people having to get a background check in order to be allowed to own lethal weapons. Thoe with mental illnesses and those who have already shown a predilection for violence and crime should not be given the right to have guns. I’m also fine with the idea of limiting magazine capacity and getting rid of assault weapons etc. I don;t know any hunters who really want to go out after Bambi with a full on machine gun. Most hunter I know are proud of their ability to shoot well and accurately and take some pride in being able to score a 1 shot clean quick kill. Even most target and recreational shooters are more interested in accuracy than fire power but there are also a certain element that like blasting away in action shooting games.
I also want to be clear that I like guns. They are among the best made products in the world. Well made Remingtons, Winchesters, Rugers, Brownings, Glocks, and many others are products that with reasonable care will last generations and perfprm their intended functions wonderfully for hundreds of years. I also spent quite a bit of time in my teens at shooting sport. Pretty much all of it at bullseye target shooting but I also dabbled in skeet and a tiny bit of hunting but with very limited success.
All that though is beside the point. Those who wish to avoid another mass shooting are for the most part attacking the problem in an old, time tested, and useless manner. They want to limit the supply of guns. This is the identical method espoused over year by those opposed to drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, abortion, etc, etc, etc. If we have learned anything, and often I feel we have not, it is that you cannot solve a behavior problem by trying to limit supply. As long as there is a desire for the thing someone will find a way to supply that demand and people will find a way to get what they want. The limiting of the supply of whatever has been a failure everywhere it has been tried on everything it has been tried on.
When I first went to university in 1968 we had as part of our teaching programme at Brock a seminar system. Large courses were split up into small 10 to 15 student groups and we discussed and studied topics of interest and importance for the course In all the seminar rooms we used everyday the tables around which we met for these discussions were always supplied with ashtrays, because of course, people smoked and needed a way to safely dispose of the buts and ashes. If anyone had walked in then and said that in less than a generation no one would be allowed to smoke anywhere inside the building let alone in a small room full of a dizen students we all, myself included would have assumed they were nuts. Yet here we are. over the course of my life the tolerance for smoking has been eroded to the point that it is now known to be harmful by any reasonably intelligent person and it is banned in virtually all public spaces in north america.
The battle however has been won not by trying to ban cigarettes but by changing peoples minds about the propriety of subjecting others to smoke they don’t wish to consume. And again lets be clear. The battle is not over, there are and always will be people who are going to keep smoking and the use of tobacco, like that of other drugs and other risky behavior is never going to be completely eradicated.
The same is true for the use of guns and violence. This problem will never be completely ended and it is most certainly not going to be ended by trying to limit the supply of guns. THe only way progress is going to be made here is in changing the mind set of the population till the use of violence is looked at as wrong.
Many will of course suggest that we already know it is wrong but that is in fact not the story we are presented with every single day of our lives. In America in particular I would suggest the archetypical story we are shown is of good and decent person, who wants to go about their lives doing what is right but is forced to eventually resort to violence to solve the problem. For every time we see a show like “the Good Wife” where people struggle with each other through a court system, we are presented with ten shows where the triumph of good is achieved through violence. Whether it is the cops killing a criminal, or the citizen defending his home or family, or the business man defending his business, or the secret service saving the president, the gun are drawn and the problem is solved violently.
This has been the American “story” since the beginning. Old cowboy and indian movies showed the settlers circling the wagons and defending themselves against the savages. The wars are always started by other evil people and we have no option but to take up arms and shoot back. The space aliens are a threat till we can kill them with our ray guns. The beasts are a threat till the bear can be shot . The gangs take over and terrorize a community till either citizens or cops or both take up arms and slay them. We are shown this scenario over and over for our entire lives but then people seem shocked when someone decides that they have had enough, of whatever it is that plagues them and decides to solve the problem violently.
I don’t believe in a simplistic, if you watch violent movies or play violent computer games you’ll end up violent behavior scenario. I do believe however that if you are shown thousands of times the heros of your entertainment resorting to violence, it will affect you. If you are told over and over and over that it’s ok to go to war as a way to solve your international relations problems, it will affect you. If you think your police are drawing guns and shooting people every single week in the execution of their jobs, no pun intended, it will affect you.
We have been shown better ways to solve these problems. Ghandi and Martin Luther King showed that non violence can and does work. Non violence however is a slow way forward. The Dalai Lama has been peacefully advocating for Tibetan independence his entire adult life and it seems no closer now than when he started but it is in fact closer. Everyone in the world now knows who he is. Almost the entire western world believes and accepts his views about Tibet. At the time he left for India no one n the west had any idea who he was or what he wanted. Will he see his goals realized in his lifetime. I doubt it, but it will happen eventually. All we need to decrease the violence and shooting in America is the belief that slowly we can make a difference in changing the minds of people about whether violence is acceptable.
Trying to ban guns will never get to the root of this problem. Changing attitudes over time will finally overcome the obstacles. Think again to the advances in tolerance we have seen in our lives. Our world is far from perfect. It will never be perfect, but we have now seen a black man elected president. In Canada the majority of our premiers are women rather than men. Gays although certainly still paced with hatred and violence are now getting rights and the freedom to be who they are and most people now realize there is nothing inherently evil or wrong about that. Likewise if we start telling stories about peaceful problem solving, if we refuse to try to take the quick and nasty violent solution, we will eventually change the minds of most people so that they will not turn to guns as the way to fix their troubles. Then these mass shootings will become rarer and rarer and more importantly, we will stop shooting thousands of people every year.