Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mass Shootings, Gun Control, and Politics ... some thoughts

I posted a link on Facebook to a website with mass shooting statistics for 2015. In response, a friend (who I really like, and with whom I disagree on any number of issues) asked a question privately. My friend asked what my perfect solution would be. Here’s my response to my friend’s question, expanded from what I responded on FB messenger.

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The trouble with this issue (mass shootings that happen in our society) is that it's way more complicated than anyone seems to want to admit, especially politicians and others with a financial stake in any part of it. But here’s what I’d do.

I would probably advocate first (for non-politicians) that people put down electronic devices, get out of their houses and out of the friend groups that *only* reinforce what they already believe. I'd advocate that we interact with our neighbors, that we sit down and eat with people we don't know and with people we don't agree with. 

I'd want to require politicians to have dinner with a member of the other party at least once a month, and prohibit them from talking politics during that time. 

Both of these would help us to recognize that the people who might disagree with us are still people, valuable members of society. 

Further, I'd shorten the presidential and congressional campaign season and set a limit on political fundraising, getting big money out of politics and preventing elected leaders from becoming so beholden to corporations and wealthy individuals. 

Without doing those things, or something else that would achieve the same results (less animosity between individuals of different parties, less money in politics), we won't ever be able to come up with sensible regulations (of guns, of individuals' mental health, of corporations, of militias) for much of anything, and we'll keep yelling at each other instead of listening to each others' pains and struggles and joys and celebrations. 

It's not only about the mass shootings ... they're just a symptom of the dysfunction that is our political reality these days ... and after years of continued prevalence of shootings, nothing had changed - we've just gotten accustomed to people shooting each other, and that's not ok (imho).

However, while it’s not only about the mass shootings, that is the presenting issue … and along with the mass shootings, we must address our nation’s gun regulations.

We already live with gun regulations. For instance, I can legally own a handgun and a rifle and a shotgun. Some convicted felons, however, are prohibited from owning any of those. That’s regulation. And I’m relatively certain that I am prohibited from owning anti-aircraft weaponry. That’s regulation.

So the question for politicians to address is what kind of firearm regulation is appropriate. However, when politicians have received huge contributions from corporations and individuals who have a financial interest (for instance) in selling guns, they’ll have a tendency to vote against stricter regulation. When politicians have received huge contributions from individuals who have experienced personal loss as a result of firearms, they’ll have a tendency toward enacting stricter regulations.

The more money there is in politics, the less elected leaders are able to actually listen to constituents.

Further, and this is critical, when we see people who disagree with us as the ‘other’, we’re easily able to vilify our enemies, seeing them as less than us.

At the same time, if we have spent significant time with people who are different from us, we begin to recognize that they’re not too different from us. We begin to recognize that they’re people, too. We begin to recognize that it’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ … it’s all ‘us’.

The thing is, I have to believe that politicians really do want the best for our nation, for our society. If I didn’t believe that, I’d simply sink into despair … so I really do believe that they all want the best for all of us.

So, to the guns. If politicians recognize that their opponent is a real person instead of simply an enemy … if politicians recognize that everyone wants the best for our society, and we simply disagree with each other about what that means … if the huge sums of money are removed from the whole political process … then the elected leaders might be able to sit down, actually listen to each other’s thoughts and concerns, and then come up with a reasonable solution.

But right now, it seems like no one actually listens to anyone else. Which is why I believe it’s a much bigger problem than just the guns.

$0.02

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