Friday, December 14, 2012

More Senseless Gun Violence

At an elementary school. What the fuck is wrong with people? And how many more people need to die before we can seriously talk about gun control?


  1. I've been thinking a lot about gun control lately. Probably because I grew up in a community where hunting and shooting was commonplace. Many fall mornings as a kid I'd eat breakfast to the sound of gunfire outside as my neighbors and friends were out hunting for deer. In high school, my friends would bring their kills to school in the back of their trucks or print out pictures and share their accomplishments. Although I never was drawn to hunting myself, I grew to appreciate how important it was to my friends - they enjoyed the thrill, ate what they killed and sometimes I benefitted with some jerky or bologna myself.

    After pursuing a PhD in Biology, I learned that not only was hunting an important part of rural communities, but it also plays an ESSENTIAL role in our ecosystems. Without hunting, prey like deer would overpopulate and devastate the lower levels of the food web because we eliminated their natural predators many years ago (see the wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone as a case study in favor of prey control - elk in this case). That being said, I also work in academia where many of my coworkers are very anti-gun due to their progressive leanings or the fact that they did not grow up around guns. If my peers did grow up with guns it was in a large city where the more common association with guns was not hunting and free food, but rather the fear of being assaulted or homicide. Having now experienced both sides of the coin, I can say that there's a big disconnect over what both sides view as "gun control."

    For one, using the term gun CONTROL is a big problem for gun proponents because it immediate makes them think that someone is trying to eliminate the second amendment. Until both sides can agree that eliminating the second amendment IS NOT the best solution, we won't be able to have a civil discourse on the matter. The best solution, in my opinion, is a more measured approach and one that views guns as a tool for hunting and target practice (a sport in its purest form) rather than killing. Laws can (and should) be put into place that make it more difficult for your average person to gain access to a weapon - even if it's something as simple as instituting a waiting period. Also, do we really NEED assault weapons in the hands of every day citizens? These guns were not built with hunting or target shooting in mind - they were built for war.

    I guess in the end it all comes back to compromising, and this is one issue that is in dire need of our attention. As a passing final thought - guns weren't the only issue at work in Connecticut this morning. The mental health of the gunman was also to blame. Maybe we should also start thinking about fighting gun violence by paying more attention to the health of our citizens.

  2. D,

    Thanks so much for the comment, and the point on mental health at the end is one we don't take seriously enough at any level. We are also increasingly privatizing mental health services, and making the problem worse at the state level rather than giving it further attention and resources that are desperately needed.

    There are plenty of really difficult policy issues that are hard to tackle and or find broad consensus. To me, "gun control" just isn't one of them.

    I understand that there are people who grew up in a different world from me where hunting is a way of life. I also think that most people (including hunters) can understand that we may need a different set of laws regulating guns in Garrett County than we do in Washington DC. I'm also pretty sure that stopping people from owning assault rifles or semi automatic submachine guns, limiting the total number of guns owned by one person, or making it as hard to buy a gun as it is to drive a car is regulation that most people (even gun users) could get behind. Could be wishful thinking there, but this poll of NRA members gave me hope (

    So on policy grounds, to me the framework of a consensus should be clear, and it is groups like the NRA whose lobbying positions are far more radical than their members (like the chamber of commerce and climate change) attempting to stop it. They've been successful in stopping any legislation from passing after a sitting congressman was shot in the head, so I'm not holding my breath for how successful this next push will be.

    With all that said, I really do think there is something to be said for debates about even handgun ownership vs hunting rifles. When so much killing is related to either heat of the moment anger or genuine mental illness, I struggle to think of what the solution is. If Jovan Beltcher had access to a knife (or even a hunting rifle) rather than an handgun, I think they'res a good chance he and his wife are alive right now. I think this is a much more difficult subject, struggling with the fact people who own guns for home protection are more likely to kill family members than intruders, and where the united states sits among the rest of the world in murder rates. I don't have any easy answers there, but I do think it's worth questioning our assumptions about the unique place guns have in the united states.

    Anyhow, without getting too far into that tangent, I think the middle ground on this (from a policy perspective) isn't that hard to find, and is something that plenty of people can get behind. Not optimistic about it actually passing, but it is at least a positive sign that a commonsense approach like that exists, where it is much harder to find on other issues.