There's been a lot of noise and thunder, significant of nothing, expended on gun issues the past several weeks since Newtown. But without expressing much of an opinion, I have observed four themes emerging. How they might play out is anyone's guess, but they only scratch at the interconnected issues and underlying complexities wrapped up in these issues.
1 - We are going to see continued calls and pushes for more armed security in schools and institutions. Problematical, but may very well happen. But it's symptomatic of America's historical leaning towards solving violence problems with escalation.
2 - We are going to revisit the complex questions surrounding gun control legislation at the federal and state level. Going to be loud an contentious. Anyone's guess how this plays out. NY State just pasted some pretty stiff restrictions bound to trigger our state's rural gun-advocate sort's "oh HELL no" response.
3 - We REALLY ought to revisit how mental health is addressed in this nation, now mental health treatment is provided and accessed. It's been commented on that it's MUCH easier and cheaper to buy assault weapons in America than get mental health treatment. But this will be a slow moving issue, as anything impacting the healthcare system will be resisted due to perceived costs and pathological hatred of Obamacare on the Right.
4 - We may, and absolutely should, over time be able to evolve our American Gun Culture into something safer and saner. Ideally we should grow to a place where responsible gun owners can own and use firearms ethically and responsibly, but those who choose not to be gun owners should not be fearful of gun violence. We grew as a nation out of a frontier mindset, and carry that culture and mythology. Now we're incessantly pressurized by a news, media and marketing culture that capitalizes on fear to manipulate the populace for marketing and political purpose. Combined with ever tightening economic opportunities for the 99% - that leaves us with a pressurized, fearful, and stressed-out population with ever decreasing access to assistance. This will take literally GENERATIONS to work through.
That last is a truly tall order in a rapidly changing world with National and Global challenges undreamed of when my generation were kids in the 60s. Global economic meltdown. Resource Depletion. Peak Oil- or rather peak everything. Environmental degradation. Sustainability. Climate Change... but that's for another diary.
I've tried to keep my own personal politics (mostly, anyway, I am posting here...) out of this and keep my opinions to mostly observation, but these are the areas where I think the debate will play out, no matter our personal stances on any of it.
"...an authentic version of that discussion — not the ersatz one we have after every mass shooting — would include an honest examination of why so many Americans feel the need to own guns." - Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post, 17 Dec 2012.
Good question. For my own money I don't have an entirely satisfying answer at hand.
Today we've seen the President's responses to the issue with his recommendations to Congress and 23 Executive Actions. Bits of it address all of the above themes.
Of the Presidents recommendations, it's the mental health stuff that stands to do the most good. It's also actually the toughest nut. Mental health initiatives would be the most expensive, and the most politically difficult to fund, with the current opposition to anything even remotely connected to the Affordable Care Act. But it's still potentially the most helpful avenue of pursuit, considering that shooting up Theaters, Schools and Shopping Malls is not usually considered sane behavior. But the Health Care – most specifically the health Insurance Industry – is even more corrupt, chaotic and oppositional than the NRA on a bad day. Good luck with that.
All but the Executive Order stuff is also likely just plain dead on arrival in the House at it's current oppositional temperament, especially the Assault Weapons ban revival. Many of the Executive Order items may still face GOP challenges and possible court actions.
Still Possible - some of the record-keeping and the expansion of background check provisions. Tightening up the loopholes on weapons sales. Also, yes, let's DO get a proper head of the ATF; and while we're at it, let's FUND that cash and resource starved agency so they CAN do their job.
Doug Muder in the Weekly Sift takes on some of the sticky core issues on his blog.
"But gun-advocate rhetoric takes place in a binary frame where (1) no restrictions and (2) total confiscation are the only real options. So when Vice President Biden said that some action might happen through executive order, gun-nuts went nuttier: Obama was threatening confiscation by executive order!...I rather wonder if this is truly the case.
"The most extreme part of the gun debate isn’t about hunting or home-defense at all. It’s about the right of the People to overthrow the government by force — even if it’s the government the People just elected."
- Doug Muder, "Too Simple", The Weekly Sift
We come back to the sticky point of how do we make the public, particularly the innocent, safer while respecting the 2nd Amendment or making the USA a massively armed camp? If the ownership of military style weapons is to be completely unimpeded, how do we keep them from the hands of some seriously wrong people?
That's STILL unanswered to my satisfaction, from either side of the debate.