Today’s Topic: Guns in America

I saw on a MoveOn.org post, that meetings were beginning to be held at the neighborhood level to talk about the gun issue.  First, let me say, MoveOn.org is not my normal cup of tea, but I try to keep up with them and about 20 other organizing groups of various flavors and causes so I know what’s being talked about in the world.  Since I don’t watch television news, or listen to any radio, the internet is my news-stand.

no-assault-weapons1Anyway — this page was talking about the gun question, and it offered a database search of such meetings — and I discovered that one was going on at that moment, while I was reading, just 20 minutes from my house.  I wrote to the meeting organizer with my regrets at not having known about the meeting in time to attend, but that I would like to be notified for future events.

This is the email I received this morning from the person who hosted the meeting:

The meeting we had yesterday turned out to be quite a success. We had a ratio of about 3 from the gun lobby to one MoveOn member, but the conversation was civil and valuable. After initial questions and comments, small groups representing both the gun people and Move On discussed what they want to see done. Most attendees want to continue the conversation on violence in America society, with a focus on mental health. They want more understanding of their views. The next event, with a date and time still to be decided, will be a speaker from the mental health crisis area. You will be contacted about that. Please email me if you have any questions I have not answered. Dianne

One more thing.
The next event may not be organized through MoveOn or not exclusively through MoveOn as it is important to keep the conversation going with people with dissimilar views. Email me if you want to also be a second list which includes non MoveOn members (and they will most likely never be).
The [_] News and the NewsTimes were both present so look for news articles about the event. Thanks, Dianne

At first reading, this appears to be a pretty flat, standard mail-out to let people know what went on at the meeting.  So I started trying to formulate a response.  But as I wrote, I realized that responding to what was actually said in her summary of the meeting was more difficult — and even kind of sad.

I haven’t mailed a response, but these are my thoughts so far:

I didn’t realize members of the gun-lobby and associate groups would even be part of the conversation so early in the process.  And, I also did not nra-gun-control1realize that the conversations would be tilted so thoroughly toward mental health issues as the pivotal point of discussion (as your summary indicates.)  While mental health is an excellent point of conversation, and certainly an area needing much attention in this country — I am not sure that it is the single most important or pivotal issue in reducing gun violence.

That seems a bit like tackling the problem of excessive sick days taken by adult workers by attempting to cure the common cold. The solution might very well reduce the number of sick days taken, and even improve the quality of life on the whole planet — but — the expense, research, and manpower required until then would be enormous; the number of sick days taken until that cure is found would not reduce at all; and even when the cure for the common cold was securely in hand, it would only affect a fraction of total sick days taken by adults.

Even if we solved the problem of “mental health” (a vague, nebulous term and which umbrellas dozens — if not hundreds of specific issues) — the solution would not curb the actual problem of gun violence now, and would cost so much in time, energy and money that it is doubtful conservatives would actually vote to fund it.  And even when addressed — it would not solve the lion’s share of the problem.gun-control

So — If the conversation has already been changed from “preventing gun violence” to “violence in American society” — or with a focus on mental health, then it seems that the gun lobby has already changed the conversation sufficiently for their own purposes.  To say that gun violence is not about guns in America, but rather about violence in America, is a way of zooming out to a big, slightly fuzzy picture — rather than zooming in to focus on a specific, clear, solvable problem.  If the focused question of guns in America has already been transformed into a great unmanageable discussion about mental health, societal attitudes and responsibilities, and federal funding into causes and treatments, then I doubt I have much to contribute.

701999774The problem is — I’m not actually sure that focusing on the very specific issues of gun ownership, licensing, resale, concealment, etc; or the details of magazine size, military vs hunter’s weapons, automatic/semi-automatic weapons, etc; or even common sense issues like storage and basic safety will make any difference.

Like they say — if it were an easy question, we’d already have the answer.

I’m still not sure what the question is, much less what an answer might be.

But I’m pretty sure that attending a meeting with 3-to-1 members of the gun lobby isn’t going to get me any closer.

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