Thursday, December 03, 2015

Aren’t We Better Than This?

I know I am not the only person in the nation who opens her computer to news of yet another mass shooting in America and asks herself when we will try to find solutions to the terrifying cycle of gun violence in which we seem to have trapped ourselves.  We are a violent society, a fact that we don’t seem inclined to discuss.  There is no easy solution to the problem of gun violence and mass shootings, a fact we do acknowledge before we move on, hoping that the most recent shooting will the last.  Many of us seem to realize this is magical thinking.  We hope that the most recent shooting will inspire our leaders to take political action.  When nothing but moments of silence and offers to pray for the victims and the first responders materialize, we sigh and move on.

How many of us sigh and move on, just a little more afraid of the nation we have become?  The leaders of this nation and our states didn’t come to power in a vacuum; we chose them.  This is our nation and this problem belongs to all of us.  It’s time we took action.

First of all, we must recognize the fact that while mass shootings attract the most attention, seemingly indiscriminate gun violence kills people every day in America.  On average, 88 people die from gun violence each day the sun rises in this nation.

Second of all, let’s acknowledge that the guns are already out there.  Most of the guns used in high profile mass shootings are legally owned.  Any action we take will not be an immediate, magical solution.  It must be the first in a series of policy adjustments that will begin the process of reducing the amount of guns in the hands of our fellow citizens.   The task at hand might seem overwhelming but we can't continue to do nothing.

There is action we can take.  Public opinion polls show consistent and increasing support for expanded background checks for prospective gun owners.  There is growing support for repeal of a Congressional prohibition on the collection of social science data and research on gun violence.  Read more about that here.  Strengthened background checks and quality data on gun violence will not immediately stop gun violence or mass shootings.  But they are a step in the right direction at a time when mass shootings are on the rise.  If you want to know additional action we must take, you'll find that list here.

We must not accept the status quo.  Contact your state legislators, your governor, and your members of Congress and tell them you want action against gun violence.  Ask them to sponsor and support legislation to require more vigorous background checks.  Tell Congress they must support NIH and CDC research on gun violence.  Hand-wringing and prayers are not enough; we must be better than this.

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