In the days after I reported here on the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the gun control debate has raged.
The first gun control argument was leveled, quite literally, before the deceased children and adults were even removed from the school. Indeed, in laying the groundwork for his public policy push to increase gun control in America, President Obama promised the nation that “meaningful action” would occur in a statement the afternoon after the shooting took place.
It was actions like these that struck me as inherently wrong for two reasons. The first of which is articulated extraordinarily well by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online.
The human need to “do something” is primal after moments like this, not just for those in mourning but for those who want to help those in mourning. Most of us who’ve lost a loved one know someone — or perhaps ourselves — who had to cook, or organize, or clean, or plan or do anything that lets us grasp the handrail of sanity or hold at bay the uncompromising vacuum of grief, if only temporarily. Likewise, we’ve known people who’ve implored us: What can I do? Is there anything I can do? But, often, trying to translate human impulses into government responses is the source of great folly.
Contrary to a lot of sloppy prepackaged rhetoric, these weren’t “our” children. They were their parents’ children. To claim otherwise is to try to purchase the sympathy rightly reserved for the grieving on the cheap. Still, we can imagine, at least a little, that they were ours. We can glimpse, however imperfectly, what that horror would be like for ourselves, and touching the dread that lurks just beyond reason we instinctively try to impose reason upon it.
In the wake of the slaughter, there are arguments I agree with and arguments I find ridiculous. And everything in between. What I dislike is the immediate rush to turn the slaughter into an any argument at all. The problem, alas, is that the moment one “side” tries to translate this carnage into a public-policy victory, arguments are not only inevitable but required. Because in a democracy, the way you make laws is by arguing over them first. I just resent the forced necessity of it all. I wish the parents could just bury their children first.
This tragedy would doubtless have led to a debate on gun control. But people began the debate on a purely emotional basis so that, as Goldberg notes, their need to “do something” could be satisfied. The unfortunate consequence of this is that we wage a war of hyperbolic rhetoric on one another while the children and staff at Sandy Hook become an anecdote of the debate.
Some will say that we must act now, because the nation’s attention will soon refocus elsewhere and therefore, the only time to act is now. But what does that say about legislation hastily crafted in the wake of this tragedy? Does that rationale not confirm that such legislation is based more on emotional impulse, than on reason or good law?
There can be no doubt that this tragedy shocked the nation. And the family and friends of the children and staff affected have every right to shout at the top of their lungs for whatever they want. Extreme gun control, cops in every school, a staff armed to the teeth, whatever. In fact, you’ll likely see some of them come forward into the national spotlight requesting such things in the near future.
However, it is not our place to do so. They were personally affected, we were not. They have the right to impulsivity, we do not.
It is our responsibility not to react, but to reason. We must remain calm. We must think in the long term. We must struggle to find objectivity in the wake of such destruction, and we must have cooler heads. To do anything else is the epitome of selfishness.
Below is a video of Dr. Suzanna Hupp, who was present at Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas the day a madman walked in and murdered 23 innocent people, two of which were her parents. Dr. Hupp did not react with calls to disarm the law abiding citizens of America. In fact, she took quite the opposite position.
In this brief clip, Dr. Hupp describes the feeling of complete helplessness people have when faced with such a situation, and how she would have at least had the chance to stop the madness had she not been legislated out of the right to protect herself.