Monday, December 17, 2012

We Must Do Better

As we set Friday's edition to publish, a horrible act was already happening in Newtown, Connecticut.

Twenty-eight people, including the shooter, died Friday in Newtown, the eighth major example of gun violence this year in America. Sadly, it's only one of thousands of acts of gun violence in our nation annually. Sixty-two acts of gun violence in the last thirty years have been mass shootings, killing four or more people. Fifteen of the twenty-five worst mass shootings in the world over the last fifty years took place in America, with five of them happening since 2007.

All this unnecessary death, and yet most of the time, on the topic of gun violence and gun safety, our elected officials simply stand around screaming at each other while more people die every day.

As Americans, we need to admit that our gun safety laws are garbage. The laws we have were specifically tweaked by attorneys and lobbyists to NOT work effectively. The last batch of potentially smart gun safety laws? Got shelved due to politics, that we know was influenced by one of the most powerful and feared lobbying organizations in the country. The fact is, we have too many people in America who have guns that don't respect them and don't know how to use them properly. We need better, more effective gun safety laws - something that about 85% of non-NRA gun owners agree and about 75% of NRA members agree with.

Our mental health care system also bears a great deal of responsibility of our gun violence, though thanks to ObamaCare it will be getting a great deal better over the coming years. That said, America is currently both the most heavily armed nation in the world and the most violent. Instead of pushing people to get mental health care when necessary, we still stigmatize it - and that's stupid. If you're sick, get healthy.

Neither our gun safety laws or our mental health care system have been helped by our lobbying and political finance laws. As we already noted, three quarters of NRA members want more effective gun safety laws. The NRA obviously doesn't care what their membership wants, though. As a lobbying organization, they've made it clear that their primary goal is to make millions of dollars a year to spend on political campaigns - not to make gun safety laws. We must reform the lobbying and political contribution laws, and get the money out of its prominent role.

Our media ethics are also garbage - both on the entertainment side and on the news side. We glorify violence in our entertainment media, and run like cowards in dealing with it responsibly in our news media.

Much of the time, things that are labeled as "news" aren't news at all. They're designed to look & sound like news, but at the same time not upset viewers, listeners, and advertisers. We are ashamed of how some of our news media colleagues have handled this disaster - and how they handle themselves daily. As members of the media, we must put getting it right above getting it first. If advertisers don't like that...? They can take their money and find someone else who will reach the same audiences we do. We know they won't be able to do that.

As for our entertainment colleagues, they also share responsibility in many of these shootings. According to the coroners' reports in Connecticut, the shooter shot the kids accurately from a distance. Other reports make it clear the shooter had significantly less training than is considered necessary to be as chillingly effective as he was. How did he attain those skills? Likely, video games. It's how we improve our professionals in the military. But we'll let anyone - even the mentally ill - play the same training games at home.

Finally, while our economy is improving, we can't ignore the the toll the recession has take on families over the past few years. We have parents who work three jobs, who can barely keep a roof above the heads of their families, let alone parent well. Being able to earn a living wage - and give parents the time to guide their children properly - should be an American right, not an unreachable goal.

As we've said in these pages before, and as President Obama himself reiterated last night during his address in Newtown, America can and must do better. To throw up our hands and say "This is just the price we pay for having lots of guns," is a cowardly and ignorant way of living.

America can do better.


  1. Thank you. #26Acts pay it forward. I'm a left handed, California Republican, hunter, Woman, the only one in the state. I need a shotgun for pheasants and a rifle for deer. I only need one shot. I'm that damn good. Nah, the prey runs after I shoot. But I'm not going to mow down 20 kids and 6 adults. I'm totally for gun control of assault rifles. aK 47s etc. I don't need that. Law enforcement against bad guys. But I don't need 100 rounds to mow down Bambi. Just one. You have my vote and support. CathyGumina Odom, Napa Valley, California.