Responding to mass shootings!


Guns! Once again they are making national headlines. In fact, they are making headlines around the world.

It seems it doesn’t take long after a tragedy for politicians on both sides of the political spectrum to come out and exploit the situation to promote their political agenda. It happened only moments after the tragedy in Sandy Hook, only moments after Aurora and San Bernardino, and only moments after this most recent tragedy.

Can I take a moment here to interject something? Can we not wait, even twenty-four hours before we start the political posturing? Must we begin the rhetoric so soon after these tragedies? Can we not at least take a moment to remember those who’ve been affected? A moment to acknowledge those who were tragically killed and the families that are still coming to terms with the shock?

121216013447-07-newtown-reax-1215-horizontal-galleryI remember being at my office in Vancouver, Canada on December 14, 2012, it’s a day that I honestly don’t think I will ever forget. I had stopped to get a coffee in the break room when I saw the news of the Sandy Hook shooting on TV. I remember being overcome with emotion while watching the story!

Having two children of my own, one of whom was the same age as many of the children who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, I couldn’t keep back my tears. I couldn’t help but think how I would feel if it had been her school, how it would feel to be one of the confused and worried parents standing outside the police line, hoping against hope that their child was not one of the victims.

Mine were tears of sadness but also tears of anger; anger that something so terrible could happen to the most innocent among us, that such young children had been specifically targeted in such a truly horrendous way.

I wanted nothing more than to be there, to hold the survivors, to hug and comfort those children who survived and the families of those who hadn’t. I wished (unrealistically, like most of us probably did) that I could have been there to stop this from happening, to save those children. What angered me the most, though, was how quickly the usual rhetoric started. It was exactly the “opportunistic exploitation of a tragedy in the service of a long standing agenda” that Robert Higgs called out so eloquently.

It took only moments for the gun control advocates to “come out of the woodwork with knee-jerk, detail void, rhetoric on the need for more gun control. Even the response from those rebutting gun control arguments seemed distasteful to me. At a time like this, with so much pain being felt across the country and around the world, people needed to come together, to care for those who were affected, to counsel, to help, to support. Instead, each side used this occasion to push their political aims. In what was may have been well-intentioned zeal, they changed the conversation and in doing so, they took the attention away from the families – changing focus to what divides us rather than what unites.

I’m not writing this to defend guns and I’m not writing this to dismiss the magnitude of the damage done by these mass shootings. I am writing because we need to have a real discussion on what can be done to help prevent these situations.

Robert Higgs, a Senior Fellow in political economy at the Cato Institute, wrote about Orlando:

“Every time some homicidal Muslim lunatic lets loose and kills a bunch of people, the predictable response is, from one side, to ban something (guns) and, from the other side, to bomb something (a Middle Eastern country). Both proposals are merely opportunistic exploitation of a tragedy in the service of a longstanding agenda. Neither holds any real promise of achieving a decent, worthwhile objective, in general, and neither holds any real promise of diminishing the frequency of such wacko-perpetrated mayhem, in particular. Sad to say, each such tragedy becomes, for most Americans, only another day’s hike in the long march toward making the world a worse place than it needs to be.”

Gun control legislation would not have stopped Adam Lanza from carrying out his attack in Sandy Hook, at least not the kind we hear our politicians promoting. It wouldn’t have stopped the San Bernardino shooting and likely wouldn’t have changed the actions of the shooter in Orlando.

This type of behavior is not exclusive to America either. In Kunming, China, close to 30 people were stabbed to death and another 130 injured when several men went on a knife-wielding rampage at a train station. There was another knife attack that took place at a school in the village of Chenpeng around the same time as the Sandy Hook shootings, which sadly took the lives of 23 children.

Why does this happen? Believe me, I would like to know more than anyone. I don’t want to see another person – especially not another child – harmed by depraved people that seem determined to commit these horrible actions.

On the other hand, should we dismiss the concept of gun control arbitrarily? I don’t think so. However, let’s take the entire conversation out the hands of the politicians, out of the realm of over-simplistic “solutions” and rhetoric, and bring it into the hands of those who can study these cases. Lets put this into the hands of those who can look at these situations and give advice based on facts, not emotion or political preference.

This is a complex issue, a deep issue, and the reason we so quickly rush to “blame guns” is because its an easy answer, a “band-aid” that can make us feel like we’ve done something about the issue. However, if we are honest, we would be forced to admit that we have no idea why these things are happening.

I would like to see a task force made up of experts from various fields: psychologists and mental health experts, sociologists, historians, experts on terrorism, lawyers, religious scholars and police investigators, people with expertise who, after all the facts have been studied, can help us to come up with some rational solutions to such a complex problem.

We need solutions that we can reconcile with the rights given in the Constitution. Solutions that “We the People” can bring into “the civil public square” for vigorous discussion, and hopefully, can bring about practical change.

So let’s leave the rhetoric where it belongs and start having the kinds of conversations we need to have today before we see another horrible tragedy like this tear someone’s world apart. I care because that world could be mine!


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Arthur Cleroux

Arthur Cleroux likes to ask questions in an attempt to understand why we do what we do and believe what we believe. He balances idealism with a desire for an honest, logical, and objective approach to issues. Arthur has always found it difficult to accept dogmatism and sees the pursuit of truth as his highest value no matter how controversial that truth may seem.

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