Today is one of the saddest days in the history of the United States.
And not just because 27 people will be laid to rest today in Connecticut, 18 of which were between the ages of 5-10 years old. Not just because another domestic terrorist struck once again, and just one week before Christmas weekend.
Today is a reminder of the stagnation in this country. A reminder that this country, in recent history, is more characterized by fracture than progress.
It was brought to our attention by none other than Bob Costas on Sunday Night Football, when he mentioned that there should be a discussion over gun control policies that may have prevented the crime, citing a columnist's piece in a Kansas City area newspaper.
The result? A media split, the same that we always see in politics, on any issue. Two attitudes on one topic that are, in the eyes of American viewers "equal". The result of this, however, is simply more of the same.
More of the same is more guns.
But there isn't a split in this country on gun control. There may be a threshold, but we probably share more similar views than we give ourselves credit for.
According to a 2002 study titled "Public Perspectives: Public Opinion about Gun Policies " by Tom Harris, published by the Princeton-Brookings institution, Americans are quite clear on their attitudes towards guns.
80% of respondents reported they favored background checks, longer waiting periods, and mandatory registration of handguns. 58% supported banning manufacture of some types of handguns, including small, concealable, inexpensive guns, with 80% wishing to limit or ban manufacture of semi-automatics like the AK-47.
Those numbers were the same in 2006, in a University of Chicago study on attitudes toward gun ownership. Again, over 80% of respondents believed that more background checks and waiting periods, and much fewer high-powered guns should be manufactured.
How about now? An article published by Thinkprogress shows the exact same statistical trend, independent of whether you are an NRA member or not: Again, 80% of respondents, with around 70% NRA member respondents, all favored restrictions, controls, and limited access.
There is no need to explore the actual data over shootings in the United States, although it is not surprising to see that states with the highest per capita gun crimes are mostly states with more lax gun laws. And the data versus other 1st world countries is beyond comparison.
What needs to be explored are the attitudes of those that continually come to the aid of the tool designed to do one thing and one thing only despite there not being any attempts at restriction since the Clinton era.
How and when can we have this conversation? Because these are the answers we get.
"Look at all the genocides in countries where citizens didn't have guns.....Guns don't kill people.....It doesn't stop criminals from getting guns...Drugs are illegal and they are still everywhere..."
These statements may, in some cases, be true (although an owner of a heroine needle has never walked into a school and killed 27 people). The problem is these statements are not a means to a conversation. They are a dissertation on the right to bear arms, the right to be left alone, protecting the norm, and the persisting belief that no conversation should ever take place to the contrary.
They are damaging, fracturing.
And they are a microcosm of what is wrong in the United States. They are what we see in politics, attitudes towards our environment, towards our health.
Most Americans value a clean environment: 70%-90% of all people in the United States are worried in some way about pollution and protection of our natural environment, yet we have not seen any new environmental policies or strategies passed that are at the very least a change, despite being nearly tied as the world's biggest polluter (China only recently eclipsed us, and they have 3 times the people).
Most Americans do not oppose abortion: A CBS 2007 News poll about abortion showed that 30% of Americans believe abortion should be permitted, another 30% in cases of rape and incest only, and another 16% believe it should be allowed but should, in general, be more regulated. However, we hotly debate this topic every single election cycle, with people considering this to be an important issue.
Most Americans value their health: Everyone wants to have a healthy body and mind despite the fact that 2/3rds of the entire nation is overweight.
While we share similar attitudes towards issues, we see very little progress. The attitude of inaction is bleeding into all areas of our society.
So, here's the question. Why do you have a problem with policies that get put in place to ensure we have more access to healthy food and less access to unhealthy things? Why are policies aimed at reducing pollution and progressing towards cleaner, more efficient options such a hot issue? And why is it not okay to talk about the issue of guns that is once again the paramount issue?
Today should be left to think about the horrible tragedy that has ruined the lives of so many parents and people living in the community in Connecticut. However, we must move forward with the conversation. We should all be questioning how we manifest our attitudes towards guns into actual action in the United States.
And we must stop being falsely led by the idea that we must all live by the way of the gun.