As Vice President Joe Biden began his task force on gun violence, Hiram College professor Jason Johnson discusses the prospects for gun control after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook.
Hiram College professor Jason Johnson was quoted in the Philadelphia Tribune about the prospects for gun control following the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
The current 112th Congress is anxious to wrap up testy fiscal cliff negotiations that could be pushed off into next year. Members presently stuck in D.C. for the “lame duck” session are eager to return home for the holidays, budget deal or no budget deal. Gun control is the last thing politicians want to stomach at the moment.
“[I]f you believe the current national mood will be the same in the coming weeks, you’ve got another thing coming,” griped a cynical Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.
Hiram College political scientist Dr. Jason Johnson is also doubtful. “There’s no legislation that can be offered that would have actually worked [to prevent the Newtown shooting],” argues Johnson. “If you think about it, current gun laws, in a very technical sense, actually worked despite the tragedy – since the shooter didn’t legally acquire those guns.”
When 20 kids get slaughtered on a Friday afternoon many people across the nation are justifiably upset, concern and horrified. No one in America, no matter how conservative, judgmental or how cynical actually thinks that children dying, of any color, in a hail of bullets from a crazy man is acceptable. And understandably the president, public health officials, law enforcement and educators are all interested in finding a way to make the mass shooting less likely or prevent them entirely. Various policy ideas are being thrown around — some good, some not so good, but all of this begs the question: What if there really is no solution? What if public killings are just an unfortunate but infrequent aspect of American life, like car accidents, kidnappings, rape and murder? Perhaps that is a question we should be asking as well.
The oft cited story from Mother Jones over the last weekend has pointed out that over 62 mass murders have occurred in the United States in the last 30 years or so. And that’s mass murders by their definition (number of attackers, victims etc.) But when you add in the millions upon millions of Americans who die from gun violence every day, through crime, being caught in stray fire, or accidentally by friends and family the numbers are staggering. We have, at various points over the last several decades, even with the resistance of the NRA tried policy solutions to stem the tide of gun violence in America with limited success. The assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 had a negligible impact on the number of Americans killed by gun violence, and that’s according to those who even advocate a reinstatement of the law. Education was touted as solution to gun violence, especially by Pro-Gun advocates but it’s not clear that makes much of a difference either. Many of these mass murders are highly ‘educated’ people, (the Dark Knight mass murderer was a PHD candidate) and teaching kids and even adults about gun safety doesn’t prevent crazy or angry people from getting access to them. Even profiling and calls for more strenuous tests before someone is allowed to purchase a gun would not have prevented the recent mass killing in Connecticut. Adam Lanza had no prior criminal record, he may have had emotional problems but there are millions of Americans with emotional problems who never have and never will go out and murder a bunch of innocent children. The banning of the purchase of ammunition, guns and other violent implements may prevent some violence but it does nothing about the millions of guns already in circulation, legally, that are just waiting to be stolen by some nutcase from his wife, sister, mother or daughter’s closet, car, garage, or safe deposit box. So again, what is the solution?
I am not suggesting throwing up our hands and saying violence can’t be lessened or responded to faster .However I am suggesting that the true roots of the violence in America run a lot deeper than isolated men with guns murdering innocents in public places. The Canadians have just about as many guns as Americans but not nearly as much violence. Why? Deeply rooted cultural ideas about masculinity, conflict resolution, pride and anger are vastly different in Canada, or Australia or other countries where guns are available but violence doesn’t reach American levels. And even if America were to wake up one day and say all life is sacred: From the individual famous murders of teens like Trayvon Martin to the hundreds of dead black, Hispanic and poor white teens in Chicago who are cut down every weekend, to the suburban teens who kill each other with Dad’s gun by accident to the victims in malls, offices and public schools everyday – even if we got serious about gun laws, and mental health and profiling and education…..There would still be sick, angry men and women who kill. Just like there are still people who rape, and steal, and lie and cheat and murder. Some things, no matter how awful, are never going to stop in America barring some massive cultural, economic and political changes, not just now, not just in the next few months but years and years of cultural de-programming would be required to turn America into a safer less violent place. Sadly, I don’t believe that will happen. And if it doesn’t, mass murders like Sandy Hook will continue to happen. It’s sick but it’s the new normal, and unfortunately there may not be a solution.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.