Sick as I am of hearing about the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I’m still thinking about what our response should be, and have been listening for ideas that might bring more light than heat.
I won’t put up a bunch of graphs or statistics here, there’s plenty available though; I like some of the reporting Mother Jones has done on the subject, and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is a good source. On the other hand, the National Rifle Association has one of the slickest websites I’ve seen anywhere. The problem is that the two sides seem to operate off two different fact sets, and then, there’s the problem that people get emotionally invested in causes and become immune to facts altogether.
As a radical centrist, I’m looking for common ground. I think I heard some tonight from the Harvard School of Public Health’s David Hemenway on Public Radio International’s “The World.”
Hemenway says our kids are not more violent, aggressive or depressed than other kids around the world but with so many guns in their environment they are many times more likely to be victim of murder, suicide or accidental shooting. When people hear about gun control they think that somebody’s going to take their guns away but when you ask about specific policies such as universal background checks or one gun a month rules, to keep guns from high gun states from going to low gun states, that most gun owners, even most NRA members, are in favor of such policies. So it’s not a matter of people’s preferences but rather it’s our political system, it has to do with the single-issue lobbies.
The NRA spent over twenty million dollars on campaign contributions, lobbying and outside spending in the last election cycle. The Brady Campaign spent $65,800.
Lobbying, campaign finance and concentration of media ownership; the three-headed monster: after a tragedy such as this, we of course look for ways to do better, if not for solutions. But as we debate the issue, these forces combine to do what they’re designed to do, and we end up with the usual product from the sausage factory. The NRA public relations machine might be lying low this week, but their fundraising operation is probably going into overdrive, and gun sales will probably hit another peak as the year runs out.