We need a real conversation, not more knee-jerk reactions from left and right


Today we touched on three of the issues connected to the Newtown tragedy…guns, a culture of violence and mental health. But despite those efforts to take a comprehensive look at the problem, the national policy conversation inevitably reverts  to one single issue: gun control. And that conversation is always the same: the left pushes, the right resists. Well, that conversation isn’t working. Here’s why.

If you truly believe that guns are the problem, then the only intellectually honest argument is to eliminate them all. Focusing only on assault weapons is a cop-out. In 2010, a mere 2.8% of homicides were committed with an assault weapon, while 42.6% were committed with handguns. And during the 10-year federal ban on assault weapons, numerous mass shootings–including Columbine–still took place. Making it harder to obtain a gun is (sorry about the wording) half-assed. Adam Lanza apparently stole his guns from his mother, who legally purchased and owned them. Gun control advocates should want her guns, and all legal guns, banned, too.

“Gun free” zones don’t cut it either. Because would-be murderers like Cho Seung-Hui, Lanza, and Major Nidal Hassan, don’t respect those artificial boundaries. But aside from the constitutional impossibility of eliminating all guns, prohibition hasn’t proven to be useful in eliminating, well, much of anything, including illicit drugs and, yes, illegal weapons. There are mass shootings even in countries with the strictest of gun laws. And someone intent on killing a lot of people doesn’t need a gun to do it. So if we know that banning certain guns won’t stop gun violence, that gun-free zones don’t protect the people inside them, and that eliminating all guns is impossible and ineffective, then what workable solutions are gun control advocates actually bringing to the table when they say they want to have a “real conversation?”

A real conversation has to start with the broken mental health system that’s failing our young people. We have to talk about teen suicide–there are 12 a day–depression and bullying. We have to talk about the over-medicating of our children and a lack of access to health care and resources. Instead, we get the knee-jerk call for more gun laws on the left and the knee-jerk defense of guns on the right. That’s not a conversation, that’s a stalemate. ”We will have to change,” the president told us from Newtown over the weekend. And he’s right. We all want to prevent another tragedy. So let’s have a real, serious conversation about it. For once.