Complicating gun control

OXFORD, England – I spoke to my brother for the first time in a long while the other day. He told me all about the last few weeks of his life, about how his medical school applications were going and the upcoming interview he had. I in turn told him about my plans for a trip through Eastern Europe during the upcoming spring break. We talked about family and such and eventually, like always, the discussion turned to politics.

Since both of us had been McCain supporters, we commiserated about the tragedy that was Super Tuesday. He told me that he’d probably go on to vote for W., which was mildly disturbing, but it wasn’t nearly as disturbing as what he said next. Todd told me that for the first time in his life he had given money to a political cause. Knowing my brother I figured it was maybe our local congressman, who is a family friend, or perhaps even the Republican Party. But I was wrong. Todd told me that the beneficiary of his political activism would be the National Rifle Association.

It seems my brother feels that the recent interest in gun control arising from events in Michigan and elsewhere is a bit of a red herring. He argued that guns have been available for quite a long time but it is only recently that children are using them to kill other kids. He suggests that the cause of such violence may lie elsewhere.

Now, I’ve always placed my faith in gun control. I’ve always thought that if real legislation existed – legislation that included handgun registration bans on certain weapons and background checks – there would be a serious decrease in crime. I felt that those who criticized gun control and pointed to the media and the entertainment industry as responsible were proposing censorship, deluding themselves and defending constitutional rights I thought unnecessary at best and nonexistent at worst.

But my faith has been shaken. My brother made an interesting point and it was his emphasis on the cause of violence that got my attention. I keep asking myself the question: Why do people commit violent crimes? I don’t know the exact answer, but it certainly is not just because they have access to guns.

There is no denying that the media and entertainment industry certainly have some responsibility. But to apportion all of the blame to these groups is to miss the point. In actuality, blame isn’t even the right concept. The truth is that because of multiple factors – whether societal such as the decline of stable families or economic as in the declining condition of the poor – violent crime has become more and more of a problem. This is what causes crime. Easy access to guns is more of an enabler.

Gun control treats the symptoms of violent crime. It does not address the underlying causes of it. That said, when one has the flu one still takes aspirin to cut the fever. It may not cure the disease, but it certainly makes you feel better. Similarly, serious gun control will alleviate a good bit of the problem right now. But, unless coupled with attempts to treat the causes of crime, it becomes a hollow measure and the disease will remain. Both the left and the right have got it wrong. Both refuse to make a single concession because they fear being saddled with the blame. And, as we watch, things get progressively worse. As usual, I don’t have the answers, but I think I can forgo owning a pistol and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger gratuitously kill 50 people if it’ll help.

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