Our country has been staggered over the past month by back-to-back mass shootings.
The raw numbers of dead and maimed are mind numbing, and the escalating number of attacks are blurring our ability to cope with one tragedy before another explodes. Most Americans feel tremendous frustration at the nonstop violence, and at our collective inability to identify signs of future tragedies or deter their instigators.
Proposals on dealing with the climbing body count run the gamut from banning all weapons, banning some but further regulating others, intensifying background checks of weapon purchasers, barring sales of extended magazines and instituting nationwide weapons buy-back programs. Inexcusably, our elected officials have descended to finger pointing and blaming gun control advocates, the president, the NRA and others for these atrocities, selectively citing mass shootings in Republican-majority states (El Paso and Dayton) to call for gun control, while ignoring others mass murders in Democratic strongholds (California and Chicago) that inconveniently undermine their narrative.
As a nation and as a people, we need collective, unified state and federal leadership to address the cumulative horror generated by these attacks. Constitutionally protected, citizen ownership of sidearms, rifles or assault weapons inevitably enable some who ignore legal restrictions, who are socially marginalized, who carry deeply-rooted, long-burning hatred toward others, or who fantasize about committing wide-scale violence to access those weapons and use them in unspeakable atrocities.
There are no simplistic solutions to such complex problems. Solutions will never be perfect, and those that are tried will inevitably infringe on jealously guarded rights. include a broad series of measures that seek to keep weapons out of the hands of mass murderers, or empower family, neighbors and co-workers to identify for law enforcement investigation and potential intercept of those perceived to be “at risk” to commit similar acts of mass violence.
Before we can stop the violence, though, we first have to stop the war. Our elected officials from both parties must set aside their political feuds, ratchet down their self-serving dialogue, and stop their bickering over who is to blame for these tragedies. Together, we as a people need to initiate a national dialogue about our gun culture and the violence it is generating. We should discuss how we will respond to these tragedies, and how as a nation we should try to turn around our uniquely American culture of violence. All ideas should be seriously and realistically discussed, including the impact on civil liberties of identifying and intercepting people whose actions and public statements signal imminent violence toward others.
We should also debate whether our republic should maintain, amend or curtail the Second Amendment in this crisis, and expand that discussion to include our entertainment industry. We should examine the impact of graphic film and computer game violence on mass casualty tragedies and debate whether we should require our entertainment industry to cease producing mass-shooting movies as part of a collective revulsion against mindless violence.
We cannot hope to solve these problems if we cannot discuss them. In our present climate of political hatred and recrimination, we have to stop fighting among ourselves in order to start grappling with our response to the murders playing out in our midst. Stop the war. Start working together as leaders to initiate a national dialogue rather than exploiting mass violence for personal or political party benefits.