The classic rebuttal to calls for gun control — repeated by many even in the wake of Friday’s Newtown, Conn., massacre of children — is that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Americans’ response should be a collective, “Duh.”
Our society is deeply broken. We see it in mass murders. We see it in the less-publicized but daily shootings on the street. We see it in bomb threats and domestic terrorist plots. We see it in broken families. And we saw it in Newtown and Aurora; in Tucson, Blacksburg and Columbine.
No question, guns would be little threat in a society that was not so riddled with evil.
But this is the society we’ve got. If there are solutions to the root problem, they are long-term and complex.
So yes, the best solution would be to fix our society. The fact that we can’t figure out how to do so is not a reason to ignore other problems that contribute to mass murders.
One of those is the ready availability of guns.
Even that solution is not simple. A disturbing percentage of Americans feel their inability to purchase a rifle that shoots 30 rounds as fast as the trigger finger can twitch is an unacceptable abridgment of their liberty.
Gun manufacturers are so determined to profit that they share their proceeds with the National Rifle Association, which uses the money to influence politicians. Honest political debate is impossible in Washington because so many kowtow to NRA voting scorecards.
So it’s a difficult solution, but one we know can work. The United States has the most lenient gun laws among developed nations, as well as the greatest number of mass killings. Australia, in 1996, reacted to a mass shooting that killed 20 by banning semi-automatic rifles, imposing other gun controls and buying back guns. Mass shootings, as frequent there as in America before 1996, immediately dropped to zero.
The people of most developed nations have concluded unrestricted freedom to own guns is less important than the freedom to live without fear of them.
Removing every possible barrier to treatment of the mentally ill is another solution that, while difficult, is doable. The Affordable Care Act would expand treatment of the mentally ill, both through conventional insurance and Medicaid. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley is trying to block the reforms. He also closed two mental hospitals.
Yes, we live in a broken society. Yes, the fundamental problem is not guns but people who want to kill people.
Given that we can’t solve those problems, it is time we found the political will to tackle the problems we can.