Saturday, October 10, 2015

Can we -- no, we must -- TALK!

Pronghorn antelope, Yellowstone National Park North Entrance, Gardiner, MT
Canon EOS 7D, 500mm f/4L 1.4x

Another murder.  Another mass shooting.  Another wacko killing innocent people.  And the same old, same old response which is more like a non-response.  One "side" will gasp and say we must do something about gun control while another "side" recoils at even the suggestion.  Of course, nothing gets done and the same story will play out again -- and again.

As sad and disturbing as this example is it clearly illustrates what's wrong with our political and social environment today:  our minds are like concrete -- all mixed up and permanently set -- and we  simply don't and won't talk.  Worse, many of us will simply (or rudely) dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with us, devaluing them as well as their ideas.  Truly we may well have met the enemy and he is us.

With respect to gun violence another problem is that both "sides" are ostensibly "right."  Connecticut has strict gun laws but that didn't protect those innocent children at Sandy Hook.  Conversely all those gun totin' Arizonans did squat to help Gabby Giffords.  There may be some truth somewhere in between those extremes but I sure don't know where it is and I doubt anyone else does, either.

But that doesn't mean we should give up searching for that truth even if we may never find it.  And we should not give up respect for each other in the process.  

Folks who favor more firearms restrictions must realize that "When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns" isn't entire a simplistic dismissal.  Making, selling and possessing heroin is illegal but it hasn't stopped the epidemic of heroin deaths.  As the Dixie Chicks ("Goodbye Earl") reminded us passing a law is no guarantee that it will be obeyed ("He walked right through that restraining order and put her in intensive care").  

On the flip side that doesn't mean we should abandon all hope.  The nation's highways are dramatically safer after tougher drunken driving laws and a shift in public attitude toward impaired driving.  While many people are still killed and maimed by drunken drivers the number is less than it once was thanks to tighter laws passed with public support.  So, no, we can't stop all tragic episodes with firearms but maybe we can agree that some additional restrictions could at least prevent a few of them.  Maybe we could agree that it makes little sense that we have background checks and waiting periods when you buy a gun from a licensed dealer but none of that applies when buying from a private party.  Maybe we could agree that you should do a little more than take a class and send in $50 and some box tops to get a concealed carry permit.  Maybe we could agree that we need to look a little more carefully at prospective gun buyers to determine if we have an undiscovered "nut job" waiting to explode -- and maybe we need to make sure better records are kept so that they have less of a chance of falling through the cracks.

Maybe, just maybe, we can talk this out, realizing that no law is an insurance policy against tragedy but having no laws is also just as impotent.  And maybe we can can the hostile, simplistic rhetoric long enough to engage in this dialogue.  Together, we are stronger.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Who has the will to take it?

Lewis Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Fujifilm X-E1, 55-200mm