Thursday, April 18, 2013

Common Sense

The death of a child is a tragedy. The death of an adolescent is a tragedy. The death of a teen is a tragedy. The death of an adult is a tragedy. The death of a senior citizen is a tragedy. Let's face it, to someone, somewhere, the loss of any human life is tragic. Unfortunately, many politicians have decided that some deaths are more tragic than others, for nothing more than furthering their own political agenda. Parading the victims of gun related violence around like trained circus monkeys is criminal. Yes, their pain is real, yes, the horrors inflicted on them are real, but is their tragedy any more tragic than that brought about by any other method?

Recently, a four month old little girl died as the result of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Take a minute and think about this. Was this crime any less horrific than what happened at Sandy Hook? I think not. Both events were the acts of a person with a very sick mind. And yet, because a gun wasn't used, there is nowhere near the coverage of the death of that little girl. There is no politician fanning the flames of public opinion on the matter, there is no politician demanding that every male be castrated least he decide to take indecent liberties with a baby...and yet, the fact remains that her death was no less horrific, no less tragic than the deaths of anyone else.

Don't get me wrong, what happened in both cases was absolutely vile and offensive, uncalled for and possibly even preventable. Mental health problems are at the core of virtually all of these heinous crimes, but instead of focusing on the real cause, we find ourselves being told that we need to blame an inanimate object for an act committed by a human.

Yesterday, a very sick individual or group of individuals decided to use a household pressure cooker, some nails, some ball bearings and other assorted benign objects to craft a series of bombs, which were then unleashed against a crowd of harmless, innocent victims. The explosions wreaked havoc,  causing the loss of both life and limb, forever changing the lives of countless people. Was there an immediate cry from anyone demanding a background check on all persons purchasing pressure cookers, nails or ball bearings? No...we instead realized that it wasn't the inanimate objects used, but the deranged mind of the perpetrators what was responsible for the carnage. Why is it that virtually everyone can understand the proper blame to assign in this instance, but they can't seem to employ the same rational thought process when a firearm is involved?

If a drunk driver runs a stop sign and crashes into a loaded school bus, killing and injuring dozens of children, do we immediately seek to ban cars? If an individual driving down the road, playing with their cell phone, plows into a crowded restaurant, do we seek a ban on phones? If someone walks into a grocery store and starts stabbing people with a butter knife, do we seek a ban on cutlery? Obviously, the answer is no. We look to the cause of the problem, the human behind the act and precede accordingly. You don't arrest cars, phones and cutlery, you arrest and prosecute the criminal that committed the act. 

Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the nation and yet gun related crimes there are statistically astronomical compared to the rest of the country. Banning guns does not stop crime, if anything, it serves to intensify it. I honestly think we need to sit down and evaluate our current laws, determine what the failing points are, and correct and (and even more importantly) enforce those laws. Something is very wrong with our system when a murderer spends less time in jail than a teenager caught with a "joint" in his pocket.

The time has come to look to some real solutions to these problems:

1. If you commit a crime with a gun, you go to jail...not for 5 minutes, but for a meaningful period of time. Twenty years sounds like a good starting point.

2. If you kill someone during the commission of a crime, you go to jail...forever. No parole, no pardon, no country club incarceration, just four cold, grey walls and eternity to reflect on your actions.

3. If you sell the gun used in the commission of a crime without following due diligence to ensure that the buyer is entitled and able to own a firearm legally, you go to jail alongside the criminal, with the same sentence.

4. Get rid of the foolish notion that banning things solves problems. (If you don't believe me, look back at history, Prohibition...didn't work, ban a book or film in Boston and you have a new best seller or the hottest movie ticket in town. There are countless other examples, but I think you get the gist of it.) Our current laws prohibit virtually all private ownership of actual military weapons. (This includes things such as machine guns, fully automatic weapons of any type, bazookas, landmines and hand grenades) Regardless of what anyone says, you can not go into any store in the United States and buy an "assault weapon".

5. Stop using the ignorant and inflammatory term "assault weapon". Shy of the military items previously mentioned, they don't exist. The term was coined to incite hype and fear. A customized gun is no more dangerous than a customized car. Composite stocks, folding stocks, hand grips and the like do no more to up the so-called "killing power" of a gun than 20" rims, low profile tires, pinstripes and carbon fiber hoods do making a '98 Buick Regal into a "race car".

6. Fix our broken system of mental health care. It is painfully obvious that our current method of treating people with mental illness like there is nothing wrong is woefully inept. Being "politically correct" and denying that mental illness exists is insane. There are people out there that need help of competent, trained professionals.

7. This one is beyond politicians. We need to get back to being responsible parents. Shutting your child in their room with the latest iteration of "Mortal Kombat" or "Call of Duty" for 16 hours a day or longer is absurd. Set boundaries, teach them that no means no, that there are consequences for their actions and stop rewarding failure. Life isn't always fair and we further complicate it when we refuse to acknowledge our children making mistakes. Part of the process of growing is learning that you are not always going to be number one.

I think we all realize that something is broken in this country. We need to fix it, but we also need to work in a reasonable fashion, addressing root causes and not trying to repair a ruptured appendix with the application of a cast. The problems facing America are not Republican or Democratic problems, they are American problems, which are best fixed by good old American ingenuity. (Surely it still exists!)


  1. Well said seems inadequate. But it is the best I can do.