We have a gun problem in the U.S. And if we can't agree on that statement, then at the very least we have a people-getting-shot problem. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there were 9,146 gun-related homicides in the U.S. in 2009 (or 3 per 100,000 people). Those numbers are tremendous when compared with any other similarly affluent country.
This problem can be all too easy to ignore when there aren't a whole lot of shootings at once because chronic problems all too easily become background noise. But now we've had three straight tragedies in a few short weeks.
From The Dark Knight Rises Massacre (and all his copycats) to the shooting at the Sikh temple to yesterday's Texas A&M shooting, gun violence is in the news now more than ever. That's why now is the time to talk about it.
Not so that we overreact to a few select tragedies, but so we remember the cost of our current gun laws. Especially since there is significant evidence that stricter gun control correlates to fewer gun deaths and that a greater number of guns correlates to a greater amount of homicide.
I'm not suggesting any sort of policy here. I don't know what the best solution is. I'm simply saying there's a problem and we need to try to fix it.
The reason we never seem to even try to fix this problem, I think, is that we have no idea how to talk about it. Gun control advocates do no understand what guns mean to the people that own them and the people who cherish the right to own them. They have no understanding of gun culture and so don't know how to talk to people who enjoy guns. On the other side, the NRA is completely and utterly insane and views the mere mention of gun regulation as an attempt to take away people's guns.
Guns are regulated in this country and should be. No matter how you feel about guns, everyone needs to understand that everything is regulated. Treating guns like other items is not an attack on the Second Amendment. Guns are a deadly machine, no matter how important they are to a person, they still have the ability to kill. Similarly cars are deadly machines. We regulate cars. Before you can get a car, you need a license saying that you are capable of operating it, you need insurance, you need to take precautions the state has decided necessary to keep the road as safe as possible while allowing you the freedom to own and operate a car. Why shouldn't the state take some similar level of precaution when it comes to guns?
Some level of gun control is necessary. I think everyone can agree that private citizens should not be allowed to own nuclear weapons. That's a pretty extreme case so it shows this isn't an argument over whether a personal liberty exists or not, but over where the line defining that liberty should be.
But the problem is that the discussion is controlled on one side by people who make no effort to understand the other and on the other side by people who are extremists.
Furthermore, there likely is no national solution. Having a gun out in the country and having one in one of the densest cities on earth mean two completely different things. We need to accept that in some areas gun are more of a threat than in others and that in some areas they function better for responsible recreation than in others.
But never mind why we don't get anywhere, because we never even get started. We can't even have a conversation. People who want to talk about gun control are not trying to take people's guns away and are not exploiting a tragedy because they believe said tragedy could have been avoided by stricter gun laws. The truth is, government exists to serve the people and when so many people are being gunned down, it behooves the government to at the very least look into it.
Let's all take a deep breath, calm down, and have a honest discussion about guns, their role in our society, and how we can best limit gun deaths. It really shouldn't be that hard.