Typically when I write my blogs, I don't necessarily like to add my voice to the hottest topic of the week. Mostly that's because someone else probably already has said what I would say better than I would have said it; and it's also because I like to reflect on more "out-of-the-way" topics, things that might otherwise not get so much notice. However, this week, I am making an exception to my usual practice, and adding my voice to the growing chorus that is demanding our government start acting on gun control.
I was inspired [like I often am] by Nicholas Kristof's column Lessons from the Virginia Shooting, and his point that we need to start treating gun deaths as a "public health crisis." The statistics are appalling, the carnage "ongoing" [as he says], and the resistance to even the most basic, logical and minimally invasive regulations maddeningly frustrating. What in the world is going on here? I keep asking myself, "How did the NRA gain such power on this issue?" Why are they stronger than mothers, lovers, parents, teachers and even our president who can't seem to gain traction with this issue?
Well, the answer, of course, is that they are not. However, for some inexplicable reason, the vast majority of Americans have been content to express only "passive horror" at the increasingly and terrifyingly common event of a public shooting, to say nothing of the tragic incidents of domestic violence. We mourn, we offer regrets, we pray and we wring our hands, and then we shrug our shoulders and wait for the memory to fade--until the next time, when we repeat that cycle over and over again.
The fact is, gun control isn't a tipping point that signals an irrevocable loss of individual freedom. Instead, it is a welcome part of what it means to live in community; it's part of the social contract we all sign that signals our belief that we recognize the importance of others' safety and well-being, not just our own; and we agree that we need to monitor our own behavior for the protection and flourishing of our neighbor. Here's an example: I may, at times, feel like driving 70 miles down my residential street, but I don't, because I care about the lives of the children who live on that street, and who are counting on my attention and good will. Speed limits are there as external reinforcements of that social contract: if we were perfect [and without sin], we wouldn't need them, but we do.
So, analogously, I might decide that I need a gun RIGHT NOW [and, frankly, I'm suspicious of that impulse in any case...], but for the sake of my [hypothetical] neighbor who has a mentally unstable son, or an abusive spouse, I agree to wait 48 hours and be subjected to a background check. Those laws could help reinforce our shared social contract--why do we resist them?
It's time for that to stop; it's time to say enough is enough--and to challenge the NRA to see if they really are as strong as they think they are. I think not. Contact your representative: Find US House of Representatives; Contact your Senators. Speak up, and speak out. It's time for all of us to start talking about this and refuse to stop until we see some meaningful change. As Kristof says, "Surely we can regulate guns as seriously as we do cars, ladders and swimming pools."