Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Since the massacre of 20 children and 6 adults in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a few weeks ago, there has been a great deal of howling on both sides of the debate as it pertains to guns and gun control. Those who advocate for gun control are, in many cases, calling for an outright ban on weapons and most particularly assault weapons. Those who oppose gun control argue that it is a knee-jerk reaction to a terrible tragedy to impose such a ban and that it will be more harmful to the citizens in the long-term.

Unfortunately, both sides talk at each other and neither side is particularly inclined to listen to the other as they are both deeply entrenched in their views. The result is a failure to find any progress toward resolving the problem. Making things worse, of course, is when people go to extremes to make their views known. The Journal News, a newspaper in New York, is one such example of going to extremes. The paper set off a firestorm of criticism when it published an interactive map of all registered gun owners in several counties in New York. The paper then defended itself from criticism by stating that it felt it was important to share information about gun permits with its readers, indicating that it wanted to provide even more information. As if printing the names and addresses of people without their permission simply because they have gun permits (it did NOT address whether they even had guns!) was not enough?

No, what the paper did was cross a line. While the information was available via a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, it did not need to be - and should not have been - published by the paper. In spite of their professed desire to make information about gun permits known to the general public, they instead set off a furor about the rights of individuals to keep their personal information, well, personal. Instead, they attempted to frame citizens with legal gun permits as criminals. How is it relevant to "out" people with gun permits because the very act of doing so then renders them as perceived future lunatics and criminals who will all want to go out and shoot up their local malls and schools - in spite of the overwhelming odds against such? What happened in Newtown was a tragedy and some serious introspection is due by the nation as a whole but when one side attempts to paint with a wide brush all they do is tarnish their own arguments and render it impossible to look at the issue rationally.

And, just to be fair, Wayne LaPierre is equally guilty of such when he makes arguments that we should arm the schools? Currently, there are many schools that do have armed security on site and, while the school in Newtown did not, that does not necessarily mean that the tragedy would have been averted if armed security had been there. But the idea of having armed guards at elementary schools is not one that is really reasonable, either. After all, it's one thing to see the number of television shows and movies with wanton violence (guns and otherwise) for children, it's another to see them at school which is intended to be more of a nurturing and protective (not protected) environment.

There is a great deal more that I can say here about the idea of gun control but I do not want to get into arguments with people who are unwilling to listen. Instead, the main point here is that demonizing those who have philosophical differences with you will not solve the problem. Subtly criminalizing them when they have done nothing wrong nor illegal (such as The Journal News did) is more reminiscent of making Jews wear the Star of David in Nazi Germany than the freedom purported to exist in the United States.

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