Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Politicizing Tragedy

After the school shootings in Connecticut, there were some calls for gun control, followed by some accusations of politicizing the tragedy, with the response coming that politics is essentially how things get done, so what these naysayers are doing is essentially ensuring nothing ever gets done when there is energy to do so.  People responded to things like terrorist attacks politics; why not something as horrific as the killing of a score of children?

And I agree.  If someone genuinely believes that tighter gun control laws would prevent or mitigate events like this, and is willing to work diligently to pass them, then by all means go for it with my admiration.

But, risking some offense against charity, this is not how I would categorize much of the advocacy I've been seeing.

A lot of what I have been seeing is an effort to pin the tragedy on Those People who oppose gun control.  There's some mention that some gun control might stop this, followed by an immediate lamentation that such a thing would never happen here, because, you know, Those People would never let it.  The invocation of 9/11 gives the game away.  I suspect most of those making such an argument would not regard the period following 9/11 as the zenith of policy-making wisdom.  Why would we want to repeat the process that produced two wars, the modern TSA, color-coded terror warnings, torture, the Patriot Act, and probably a bunch of things I'm not thinking of?  This is less an argument for the wisdom of policies than a whine from a younger brother that his older brother got to overreact to a tragedy, so why can't he?

On the morning of the shootings, Conor Friedersdorf wrote what I think is a prescient post about how cultural traditionalist need to make persuasive arguments rather than simply expressing disgust.  If you really want to enact controls to stop attacks, it won't do to just talk about how awful the NRA is.  You're going to have to do the hard work of convincing people, and working some changes through the legislative process.  Those willing to do that have my admiration; those who stop at name-calling do not.

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While common sense does suggest that reducing access to powerful weapons would at a minim um make such massacres more difficult, I do think we need to go deeper.

As a pro-life veteran, I have heard many times that simply banning something does not remove the desire for it.  That those wishing to end something must also work to address the root causes of the behavior, and work against those.

Our society is apparently producing people who think shooting up a kindergarten is a swell idea.

That reveals a fundamental sickness -- not just in the people who commit these crimes, but in our society.  That someone would entertain such a thought for half a second reveals a radical disconnection from children and what care goes into them.

Tighter gun control laws may limit the damage such people can do, and that is certainly a worthwhile goal.  But it addresses a symptom, not the disease.

Of course, the problem is that I don't know the best way to treat this disease.  I have some ideas, mostly grounded more in how we treat each other in daily life than federal policies, but I honestly don't know if that will work.

I wish I could say the problem is that Those People won't let us enact sensible gun control, but in my heart I know that's not the fundamental problem.
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