February 16, 2018

Trying Something Besides Thoughts and Prayers to Reduce Gun Violence

It isn't like we haven't tried "thoughts and prayers" before. We've tried them after every school shooting, terrorist attack, or natural disaster. It is clear that many prefer this method to taking action. I suppose that is to be expected. Taking meaningful action would be much more difficult, expensive, and unpopular in some circles. "Thoughts and prayers" cost nothing and require little effort. Unfortunately, they also don't solve any of the problems we say we'd like to solve. Perhaps it is time to abandon them and try something else.

But what if we try something else, and it doesn't help either? Whatever else we might try could fail. But it could also help at least to some degree, and we already know that "thoughts and prayers" are ineffective. Trying something else at least has a chance of helping, and this is more than we can say for "thoughts and prayers."

In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, I was happy to see a few people on Twitter suggesting some of the other things we might try. It was a welcome change from the outrage and scripted narratives that made up most of what I saw. I've included an example below.

Donating to some of these organizations is one option. Another would be to sign up with them in order to receive relevant legislative alerts to make it easier to contact one's elected representatives. I'm not sure how effective such efforts will be but do I suspect they'd be far more likely to help than more "thoughts and prayers."

I realize that not everyone reading this is ready for gun control of any kind. Admittedly, this is a complex issue with more than one side. I think there is a real risk that if gun control legislation ever happens, it might be hasty and not terribly sensible. It seems like that is why it should be hammered out slowly in a thoughtful and hopefully bipartisan manner. I suspect those who are determined to fight against any form of it might someday look back and wish they had been more willing to participate in the process. Thus, I'd recommend that everyone from gun-rights proponents to those who would like to ban most guns come to the table.

In order to reduce gun violence, it also seems that we in the U.S. need to look at what other countries are doing. The scope of our gun violence appears to be unique, and that means that other countries either never developed the problem or have adopted effective measures for solving it. We should see what we might be able to learn from them. Instead of insisting that the problem is insurmountable and continuing to do nothing, we could look to see how other nations have solved it.

Working to reduce gun violence is a political issue in that our elected officials will need to play a role in writing and passing legislation and appropriating funds. But reducing gun violence is far more than a political issue, and we cannot reasonably expect our government to solve for us without our involvement. It is also a social issue that has to do with our culture, how we raise our children, our attitudes toward violence, our unwillingness to provide the level of assistance needed by our neighbors struggling with mental illness, and all sorts of other things we've been neglecting. In short, this is a problem that is going to require a significant investment on our part. It is also one that we really need to solve.