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Perspectives in Progress

Tom is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, single father, and long time resident of Oak Creek, who writes regularly about human interaction and perception as it relates to social issues, value fulfillment, and introspection. Tom encourages and challenges the reader to engage new perspectives; believing that through open and honest evaluation of all sides of a debate, conflicting parties can communicate with greater efficacy and more productive outcomes.

Freedom, Violence and Education

 

Change is primarily defined as making the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone. It is also defined as to give and take reciprocally; to interchange.

Like most species on earth, we are creatures of habit. Being antithetical to habit, change leaves most feeling uncomfortable, anxious or uncertain. However, because we are also a species of mostly higher intelligence, we have the ability to adapt to change greater than any other on the planet. We always have, and always will. Each of us has endured individual and societal changes and adapted as needed.

The preface of change is relevant to this blog because it’s clearly time for change.

As both a gun owner and the father of a young lady not more than a year older than most of those murdered in a Connecticut classroom last Friday, I find myself at a loss and painfully conflicted.

The politics of gun control were inevitably brought to the table again. A point could be made that the discussion is happening too soon, but the reality is that we are far too tardy in trying to define the change that needs to take place in order that we minimize the instances or magnitude of tragedies like the one to fall upon Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning.

There is logic to be found in both sides of the discussion. Discussion is the key word there; this is not and cannot be an argument if we wish to both preserve our freedoms and address a concern that is growing in horror for many.

I think it’s important to recognize a few facts, to include the history and importance of our constitutional freedoms, the nature of the world we live in today, and the truth that the issue at hand is very complex and involves more than just guns.

A few things to consider:

Those with intent to kill will not be stopped by laws telling them they cannot. There are millions of gun owners in America who do not commit crimes every day. It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens.

Another consideration is neurosis. Mental illness carries a stigma in our country and has been ignored, persecuted and made difficult to remedy because it has not been made a priority for those who need treatment for the changes in behavior that come with various forms of neurosis. This has to be made part of the discussion.

Autism is not a mental illness, it is a neurodevelopmental disorder; I mention this because there have been initial reports that it played a part in Friday’s events, and linking it to mental illness. This is grossly inaccurate. In fact, there is no direct link between Autism and violence and this article related directly to the shooting discusses just that.

With all of this said, denial is one of our greatest enemies in the fight against violence of this type. Nobody wants to believe it’s possible yet it continues to happen, and now it has happened in a way that many including myself would consider our worst nightmare.

Nobody wants to believe that someone they love would be capable of this, yet in every instance the immediate hindsight uncovers countless warning signs that went ignored by those who could have prevented it.

We absolutely cannot leave the recognition and appropriate treatment of those suffering from neurosis off the table when having the discussion around violence in our society. In most cases, this violence is as much or more a healthcare issue as it is an issue of gun control. Guns are just an implement, an extension of a greater problem.

With that said, we need to be conscious of the fact that the implementation of guns by those who intend to use them to kill is a very real concern. Because of that, the control and types of guns available must be as much a part of the solution as the treatment of mental illness.

(I have to put away the point that some choose to make that we next get rid of cars to avoid drunk-driving deaths. While it is a horrible problem in this country, those who drink and drive didn’t acquire their vehicle with the intent to use it to kill dozens of people; by contrast every person who has committed acts of mass murder like last Friday has somehow acquired and used weapons with the intent to kill. The comparison between cars and guns in this discussion is flaccid).

This discussion gets tricky because of the passions and perceptions of our constitutional freedoms.

Consider that the second amendment was written at a point in time when our government was gaining independence from tyranny and righteousness, and was determined that the fabric of a new nation’s core values would include protection from that nation becoming again tyrannical toward its citizens.

The framer’s intent could also be understood that "well regulated" militias, that is, armed citizens, ready to form militias that would be well trained, self-regulated and disciplined, would pose no threat to their fellow citizens, but would, indeed, help to insure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense.

It would be impossible to argue that domestic tranquility doesn’t also include protecting our kids at school, or ourselves in a movie theater.

From the constitutional perspective, the right to bear arms implies to protect us from a greater martial attitude of our government, which is not necessarily the situation we find ourselves in today. We are more than 230 years from the tyranny that precipitated that. We find ourselves more in the latter situation, domestic unrest and instability. And because of that, our inherent right to self defense can still be deduced from the second amendment. This should not change but consideration has to be given to the definition of that in the year 2012 as opposed to the perceptions of the world in 1775.

There needs to be greater accountability when it comes to existing regulations, or the tightening of regulations where the loopholes make it easier for criminals or those suffering from illness to acquire them legally. Furthermore, only a ban on particular weapons can work to limit the chances of them being acquired even illegally. This report gives a brief overview on firearms laws and controls in the United States. Most states rank very poorly.

We should better understand the reasonability of what the word “arms” means in today’s world with respect to the second amendment.

Assault rifles have been the leading cause of death in almost every mass casualty tragedy over the last decade or so. It’s time for discussion on the practicality of weapons like this. Also consider that the first assault rifles weren’t invented until the late 1800’s, more than 100 years after the second amendment was established.

In a world where our government has technology like drones and equipment like tanks and fighter jets that were not a part of 1775, arming ourselves equivocally against that is irrational and impossible. There simply is no need for assault rifles to be in circulation for the general public. It is illogical and counterproductive to the higher virtues of an innocent and overriding peaceful and free society.

I believe it’s hard to find a sensible argument for the absolute need for assault rifles by American citizens in 2012. I have not heard a reasonable need for one yet.

Lastly, we are not in Beirut, Mogadishu, or Kabul. We are small town Americans in places like Littleton, Newtown, Columbine and here in Oak Creek. Much has been stated about arming our teachers. I don’t believe that is the answer, but arming our schools should be.

The solutions are going to have to be give and take; that is the nature of compromise and it’s the solution to enigma we are now faced with.

I’d rather see my local police department increase its staff and have an officer stationed in every school than have my teachers armed. Will this increase property taxes? Yes, of course it will, but by relative pennies to the average taxpayer in most communities. How much is your child’s life worth to you?

An officer in the schools provides for an individual whose entire training base is one to confront conflict, non-lethally or lethally if necessary. By their presense alone, they are a deterrent to violence in or toward our schools.

Children are used to the idea of a police officer being armed, and knowing they are prepared to confront “bad guys.”

Children are used to seeing their teachers as advocates of communication, compromise, compassion and example; not armed with a Glock and a chalkboard.

I want my daughter’s teachers focused on her lesson plan as well as enhancing her intellectual and character development; not on how quickly they can get to, unlock and load a handgun in the middle of reviewing multiplication tables.

A teacher’s job is difficult enough; they should not have to worry about qualifying themselves as tactical officers also. They do enough to nurture and protect our children already.

I have done my best to be sensible and objective here. Still, there will be those who will sit polemically at either side just as they do with most issues and refuse to acknowledge a middle ground that addresses all points of concern and clearly exists as a reasonable way to work towards achieving it.

We need to address the truth behind the healthcare piece of this problem, as well as the sensibility of the weapons that create mass destruction. And, perhaps more than anything, we need to address our denial. We need to live in today’s world with today’s challenges, and we need to address those challenges with the benefit of the knowledge that history has given us.  

We need sensibility and courage, not rhetoric and fear.

 

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