Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Can Americans Change The Conversation From Guns To Violence?

The Onion has been proved correct: the Aurora slaughter has turned political right on schedule. Further, both the LA Times and the New York Times have articles contending no political will exists to change gun laws. No politician seems willing to discuss changing laws.

Cory's Madville Times post and the accompanying comments illustrate that people have plenty to say about guns but seem unwilling to change their minds. A fact Alan Jacobs alludes to with this series of tweets:


Those facts and examples aside, Dan Baum made an important admission that few seem to have the courage to admit. Writing in Harpers, Baum contends:

It’s true that America’s rate of violent crime remains higher than that in most European countries. But to focus on guns is to dodge a painful truth. America is more violent than other countries because Americans are more violent than other people. Our abundant guns surely make assaults more deadly. But by obsessing over inanimate pieces of metal, we avoid looking at what brings us more often than others to commit violent acts.
If the country is not going to deal with guns at the official level and the public debate will generate more heat than light, perhaps it's time to ask a few questions that stem from Baum's contention.

First, is Baum correct?  This question is not a value or a policy question. Statistics will probably show Americans commit more violent murders and assaults than Europeans or Canadians, 

Second, why are Americans more violent?  This questions is far too deep to develop fully in blog post and far above my skills at committing sociology and philosophy without a license.

Third, do Americans want less violence? That discussion hasn't been had. Everyone claims to desire safety but these same people also seem to value more abstract concepts above safety.

Fourth, if Americans don't want less violence, what level is acceptable? If Americans, want to become less violent and more like Canada and Europe, what are they willing to sacrifice to reduce violence?

Answering these questions need not be a political exercise that allows people to retreat to their talking points. True, they accept the conservative premise that guns don't kill people; people kill people. Liberals, however, claim gun control will reduce crime; these questions focus the debate on reducing crime.

I've already admitted that I can't answer the second question.  The third question and the responses to the answer require a public debate not a pronouncement.  The comments are open.

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