We can do better


The recent gun violence in Las Vegas goes far beyond the horrific. Fifty-eight innocent victims, and one extremely troubled shooter, died in what we are now calling the “worst ever” for this type of event. Statistics abound detailing those who have lost their lives to a shooting. But for every statistic comes a debate over a cause and what can be done. Powerful forces battle it out while more individuals are killed each day. In the end, it seems that the merry-go-round of carnage and ineptitude continues unimpeded. How can this happen in a land that has placed a man on the moon, cured illnesses, created amazing technological gadgets, and offers hope around the world? Millions continue to ask such questions.

Some point to mental illness. Others point to assault style weaponry. And then there are those who point to a ‘gun culture’ that permeates the country. Each stance has advocates. In fact, some assert that a combination of all three are in play. While the debates proceed nothing appears to get resolved. To make things even worse, politics, fear and money all help contribute to establish an atmosphere of malaise. Not only is this heartbreaking to hear that nothing can be done, there are voices proclaiming extremes that exacerbate polarization.

Why can’t we talk about such things without resorting to blame? Why can’t we enter into an honest debate without demonizing at the first hint of disagreement? Why can’t we try to listen rather than hide behind entrenched and preconceived notions?

Most of us are well versed with the arguments that abound regarding firearms. In some way, all of these truths add up to a lie. They are lies because believing in them has created an “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude. Reciting amendments, history and statistics will only go so far. Without cooperation, empathy and a willingness to do the best for all, futility reigns. We need to go beyond that which affirms our belief set. We need to call upon our “better angels” for help.

There probably will never be a perfect solution to the violence caused by guns. While this is most likely true, there can be no excuse for falling back to fears, prejudices and isolation. No matter which side you might gravitate towards regarding this issue, it goes without saying that we all grieve for those who have lost their lives to gun violence. We can do better than that which has been done. Doing nothing is shameful. Isn’t it about time that doing the right thing is more important than our need to be right?

Folks should be able to protect their homes. They should also be allowed to hunt and shoot at targets for recreation. Gaining access to military type assault weapons is not necessary. Getting bogged down with ridiculous extremes (banning all guns or giving the OK for over-the-top weapons to the general populous) results in doing nothing. If you’re not for sensible gun laws how about compassionate ones?

If you think the government is going to take your guns, it is already too late. If they want to they would (will). You are no match for S.W.A.T Teams and drones. Also, if you think abolishing all guns will solve the issue that is equally absurd. Bad guys do not abide by the laws–they will get guns. Can’t we be fair? Can’t we be compassionate? Let us show future generations that caring for others exceeds our own limited worldview.

Do we really believe that nothing can ameliorate gun violence in America? Do we really believe that our ideas are so superior when compared to those espoused by others (that we shut them out)? Finally, do we really believe the over-exaggerated vitriol emanating from media sites that pour kerosene on the fires of fear? With all of the access to information at our fingertips we have come to this. To make matters worse, some people don’t want to change. We need to find things that bind us together. In the words of Elvis Costello “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?” You tell me.

A recent TIME magazine article cited that 98% of mass shootings are conducted by men. In addition, the vast majority of these incidents are conducted by men who are white. As we struggle with travel bans, walls and whether or not our previous president was an American, perhaps there are other things that need considering. Obviously, that is not going to happen anytime soon. Such discussion will likely create polarization. If only we could all see that these issues might be solved through cooperation. In the end we recycle blame. In the end nothing gets done. Don’t you think it is about time we all put an end to the thoughts that divide? Searching for fault and assigning blame might feel good (for some), in the short term, but viable answers rarely come when these are our most desirable solutions.

A frequent contributor to these pages, Robert Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich drug program.


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