Today I am in despair, afraid that Americans don’t have the courage and persistence to address gun violence. We feel horrible when another massacre happens like the one in Orlando. We deplore the murder rates and stray bullets flying around in the Twin Cities, Chicago, and other cities. Sometimes we react by going numb. Often we are cynical. Regularly we tune out the nonstop news of a massacre, because we can’t bear to listen and we feel powerless to change the situation.
Without intending to be, we are complicit. Essentially, when ordinary Americans don’t demand change, we become accomplices to the mass murderers. We’ve provided the setting in which acts of mass murder are easy to commit. We’ve accepted that guns and violence are part of American life. We’ve allowed gunmen to kill in schools and on college campuses, in churches, movie theaters, military bases, neighborhoods, and nightclubs. No place is sacred. No one is completely safe.
I don’t know how to fix the problem of gun violence, but we have to try. Feeling bad isn’t enough.
The solutions will have to be multifaceted, because the problem is complex. Our attitudes and American culture, as well as laws, regulations, and more have to change. Common sense gun control and better support for mental illness treatment are good places to start, but the solutions need to go deeper. We need cultural change. As Americans, we need to re-examine how we think about our rights to have guns, protect ourselves, and exercise our freedoms.
I know this won’t be easy and it will take time. But we have to try.
As Americans, we have changed how we think about alcoholism and drunk driving. We look at both issues differently than we did 40 years ago. We’ve made some progress. Not enough, but some.
We’ve raised awareness and begun to change how we view child abuse, domestic violence, and rape. Obviously, we have a long way to go, but 50 years ago we were in the dark ages on these issues. In those days, many people thought that parents could discipline children as they saw fit, that a husband beating his wife was a private matter, and that women who were raped did something to cause it. Too many people still hold those views, but our culture has begun to change.
As with those social issues, gun violence will begin to change when ordinary people start having the conversations that challenge cultural assumptions and attitudes. Change will happen when our state and federal legislators hear from us and understand that we’ve had enough.
Change is possible, but we have to insist on it.