It was recently announced that Florida prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Nicolas Cruz, the young man accused of killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last year. In the wake of that tragedy, as we begin to heal, we are also desperate for answers regarding how such incidents can be avoided in the future. Unfortunately, it’s likely that our desperation makes us vulnerable to placing our faith in comforting but unrealistic solutions.
I don’t see a viable reason why a private citizen in the United States needs to have the ability to own a semi-automatic or automatic weapon. I also don’t think eliminating them eliminates violence. That makes me a pretty unpopular guy.
Social media has given everyone a degree of public presence. We each have immediate access to an audience of hundreds or thousands of other people, and we all have more voices than that coming back at us every moment of every day. It is not surprising then, that in such an environment, moderation and reason get pushed aside for extremism and sensationalism. It’s not surprising that the notion that a sensitive subject is not easily resolvable with one extreme response or another is not well-received.
Mass shootings are tragic. Both sides of the gun control controversy agree on that, so it’s as good a place to start as any. The primary focal point of any discussion on mass shootings is and should be the victims and their families. The grief must be processed, and the victims must be properly mourned. At times, this appears to get brushed under the rug as we hurry past it to the controversy of gun control, but I choose to believe this is only because we’re not sure what, if anything, to say about the loss of the victims themselves.
This, I believe, drops us at the doorstep of the controversy, which I think begins with two questions that aren’t necessarily the same, but are often treated as being the same: “Why did this happen?” and “How can such a thing be avoided in the future?” Because the first one is uncertain and complex and possibly results in some answers with which we are all very uncomfortable, I think we tend to focus primarily, and sometimes exclusively, on the second one. We even often act as if suggesting an answer for it is an adequate manner for addressing the first question.
The answer from one side is a well-known refrain: “Gun control.” The theory is that if some people (or…