Sitting around Easter morning, I was perusing the internet and finding many articles, statuses and photos to commemorate family, love, and Christ. Near the end of my search though, I noticed a small link about Colorado. The link was an archived article from Time Magazine, about the Columbine shooting, which happened fifteen years ago on April 20th, 1999. It’s a sobering thought that such a terrible event occurred and it is even more of an awakening to reflect upon how things have changed since that terrible day. The times we live in are very different now from back in the 1990’s.
At the time, it was believed that Columbine would shift the entire debate on Gun Control in the United States, and it clearly has morphed the debate. It has shifted from gun to mental health to life style choices and continuously spins in this cycle, with very little improvement going through. Recently, the debate has been between background checks and mental health, although the issues seem to matter less and less to some folks. What we see now is a debate that simply has the label of “Gun Control”, an arbitrary, misleading label that leads some to infer safety of all citizens, but to others a slippery slope leading to the ultimate goal of abolishing the Second Amendment. To be frank, both of these inferences are distorted at best, but primarily due to the labeling of the debate.
The debate is not solely about guns, it never has been. When all of the rhetoric as faded and people seriously sit down to discuss the issue, the primary goal is reduce the violence in the United States. Guns do attract a lot of attention compared to other weapons, since guns are used much more often in homicides than other weapons, but reducing gun violence is merely a component of the debate. Mental health needs to be another component to address why so many folks decide that the only escape is to harm other people to address their own struggles with life. Evidence also suggests that poverty leads to violence, so how can we help more citizens escape poverty and avoid a life style that could lead to violence. These are not simple issues, but we cannot ignore them because of the politics.
My suspicion is that part of the politics of the debate simply stems from the word “gun” being in the title of the issue. “Gun Control” worries Constitutional advocates who worry that the Second Amendment will be trampled on. While I sympathize with the worry of these advocates, the debate really isn’t supposed to be focused on that issue. It is supposed to be focused on just ensuring a safer environment for all citizens. That is why I propose changing the name of the issue into Violence Control.
With Violence Control, there is no longer a focus on just guns. We can just objectively look at the laws and regulations currently in place and make amendments where there could be some. For instance, regulating ammunition by requiring background checks. Or perhaps banning the sales of all weapons on websites such as Craigslist or Ebay. Both of these proposals are going to impact gun sales, but nothing is being done to bar law abiding citizens from guns, they just need to do it in a safe manner.
Beyond issues of sales loopholes, mental health care needs to be addressed. The Affordable Care Act has expanded mental health care for many low income citizens who are now on Medicaid. This fact as slipped under the radar of the “Gun Control” debate, due to the fact that politically, it would be detrimental the Republican platform since mental health care is an issue that Republicans have claimed Democrats have not worked on. It also would mean that Republicans would need to admit that the ACA did something right. If the issue of Violence Control were being debated, it could help lead to a debate on successfully amending the ACA to expand coverage to even more Americans, reducing the amount of undiagnosed mental illness nationally.
Even the debate of poverty and the violence within poverty stricken communities could be a less contentious debate. Instead of Michael Bloomberg and the NRA investing millions of dollars to convince Congress to stall on “Gun Control”, there should be a more constructive debate where there is a discussion on investing in communities, improving schools, and helping low income families succeed in the United States. This is a completely different debate being discussed in the nation right now, but we could allocate more time towards this debate and add an additional talking point to it by adding Violence Control into it. If we can help folks out of poverty, offer students an education that can help them move up in the world, and increase an emphasis on community, we can reduce violence.
The politics of Gun Control has left a bitter debate that appears to just leave everyone angry and misinformed. Fifteen years since Columbine, and still we are struggling to prevent violence in this country. While the United States is an outstanding country, we are hardly better than developing nations in stopping the domestic violence in our communities. Let’s scrap away with the Gun Control debate, leaving it to the extremists who really don’t care about making citizens safer, but instead wanting to just be right. Together, we can take things in a new direction, debating Violence Control, and hopefully make progress to ensure the next generation won’t have to deal with their own version of Columbine. This isn’t a political issue, this is an American issue, and we each have the responsibility to reduce violence in this country. Be thankful for what you have, and be sure to help others.