Just about everyone in America is in favor of gun control.
None of us want children running around with hand grenades. None of us want our neighbors to walk through the grocery store with an AK-47. None of us want strangers to wear sidearms when they visit a first-grade class.
There are extremists who want no gun laws whatsoever, but they are a small minority, and they need to be ignored.
On the other side, almost no one wants to get rid of guns. In spite of the NRA-fueled rumors that “Obama (or Clinton/Gore/Kerry) is going to take away our guns,” very little action has been taken to restrict firearms purchases or ownership in recent years, regardless of which party is in power.
A few extremists may want to ban guns, but they too are a tiny minority who also need to be ignored.
In the center is the vast majority of Americans who believe in the right to bear arms but also in the need for common sense gun control.
The real debate should not be whether we need gun control, but how much and what kind.
Unfortunately, the debate has been hijacked by the extremists, to the point where even ridiculous arguments — arming teachers, for example — are treated with respect they don’t deserve, and the paranoid kooks who want machine guns to protect themselves from the government are given a soapbox in the interest of covering “both sides.”
After another horrific mass murder, too many Americans take stupid positions: either that guns are the whole problem, or that gun laws should play no part in our response.
Clearly, gun violence results from a combination of factors, including unrecognized or untreated mental illness, abuse, addiction, dysfunctional families, poverty, recidivism, genetics, and plain old evil. Many who want to kill are going to find a way to do it. Getting rid of guns will not get rid of tragedy.
But just as clearly, guns make it far easier to kill. Reducing the number or accessibility of guns would reduce the number and severity of tragedies like Sandy Hook.
To claim that guns play no part is to ignore the obvious: America has far more guns per capita than any other civilized country, and far more gun deaths — from accidents, suicide and homicide.
The catalyst in the mixture of mental illness and guns is a culture that glorifies gun violence as a means of solving problems.
It’s not just Hollywood. It’s in our history books and on the front pages of our newspapers. It’s in thousands upon thousands of TV episodes, action movies and video games. A hero, beset by evil, picks up a gun and dispatches the villains, saving the innocent community. From Lexington and Concord to Dirty Harry to Die Hard, it’s the same story — the central story in our cultural mythology.
Americans are immersed in stories of justice via gun. As a nation and individuals, we are quick to take up arms. We don’t just have more murders than other countries; we also start more wars.
Cultural myths that are a mere diversion to sane people are models of behavior for evil men who lack empathy, for delusional boys who can’t distinguish reality from fantasy, and for ignorant children who can’t comprehend consequences.
Give them a gun, and they’re heroes in a Hollywood revenge flick.
Reduce their opportunities through common sense restrictions on access to guns, and some will find the help they need.
Brett Larson is the editor of the Messenger.