Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Many are talking, but who's listening?

Are we having a conversation?

I’ve never seen anything like it.  Since the election November 6th, 2012.  We have a whole country of people, most of whom have an opinion.

Many are talking, but who’s listening?

There was a terrible shoot-out in Newtown, Connecticut, and 20 children and seven adults were killed.  Right away, people started talking about gun control.

Others, fearing that the “gun control nuts” would prevail, went out and bought guns.

The sides began to take shape.  The people who zealously defend their right to bear arms dug in their heels, and did everything to deflect any suggestions of “gun control”. 

The people who feel that the first action after one of these mass shootings should be to control guns went on the offensive. 

Commentators big and little, left and right, Liberal and Conservative, NRA and anti-NRA, all had a solution, and were quick to pronounce non-solutions by the opposition.

People who live in quiet, comfortable towns, like here in Rockport, and presumably in Newtown, CT, were inclined to see the solution as banning the ownership and sale of guns.  Especially automatic rifles and large magazines. 

People who live on farms, or in little towns in Texas and Wyoming, who have lived with guns all their lives, see this as yet another attempt by the Liberals to stamp out a basic freedom.

People who live in the inner city, where gangs frequently attack one another, and people often die from gun shots, perhaps see this whole discussion as so much noise about nothing.

NRA people continue to tell us that it’s not the guns, but the people.

Gun control advocates are sure that if we can ban all weapons, the problem will lessen. 

NRA people reply that when all guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns. 

NRA people dig in their heels, and refuse to concede even the slightest hint of limiting the right of Americans to buy, sell, keep and use firearms.   They suspect, and perhaps with good reason, that the opposition would gladly take away the right of all Americans to bear arms.

Surely, there are those who see no reason for anyone to have a firearm.

The NRA people correctly called attention to the point that events like Newtown, and Aurora,  Tucson, Virginia Tech and Columbine are all carried out by people who are somewhat deranged.

All or nothing.  Who is having a conversation?  Who is listening?  

In terms of finding a way to lessen the possibility of yet another mass shooting in a school, or a movie theatre, or at a mall, shouldn’t we be talking about trying to reduce ALL of the contributing factors?

What if we did a much better job of identifying people who demonstrate certain characteristics of mental illness?  In our digitally-connected world today, we busily collect all manner of data.  Shouldn’t there be some way of creating a data base of people who have demonstrated mental illness?

In that same digitally-connected world, we can enter the VIN number of any automobile and find out where it is, where it was last sold, and if it were ever involved in an accident.

Why shouldn’t we be able to track any firearm from manufacturer to dealer to owner? 

And for collectors, or anyone who has more than a few firearms in his possession, shouldn’t that be something that local law enforcement knows about? 

Why shouldn’t it be possible to create a system whereby any prospective gun owner must submit a nationally recorded application?   And, if that applicant has a criminal record or a report of mental illness, shouldn’t he be singled out for individual handling?

In most small towns, and perhaps even in large cities, the police have a list of the bad eggs.  They know the guys (and perhaps some gals) who continually run afoul of the law.  Drugs.  Firearms.  Domestic abuse. Petty theft.  These people deserve protection from unlawful search and seizure, and all the other constitutional protections, but still these people should be on a data base, so that when they try to acquire a firearm, signals go off.

I realize that in creating such intersecting data bases, we would be heading into a diabolical world where Big Brother knows everything about everyone.  But whether we like it or not, we are already there.  It’s just that Big Brother knows a lot, but is missing some things that could serve to protect the public.

How do we maintain the individual protections to keep each of us free from being hauled in for questioning and imprisonment without due process of the law?  How do we continue to protect the innocent, when we know so much about everyone?

And, while we know so much about everyone, shouldn’t we be able to know those additional bits which may prevent the next guy with a history of mental illness getting his hands upon an arsenal of weapons, including high-capacity guns and magazines? 

It’s time for us to examine our constitutional protections, and think about them in the light of providing the right of each of us, even little children, to that most basic right—to life.

The Personal Navigator.

Noah Pozner, d. Dec. 14, 2012

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