Re-posted from April, 2018
America’s gun debate is framed too narrowly to be helpful. Advocacy for gun legislation isn’t only about preventing school shootings, nor does it seek to circumvent the 2nd Amendment. Legislation does more than command or prohibit behavior, it formally declares social priorities, what is acceptable to a society and what isn’t. Laws reflect, and in myriad ways shape our social values. Focusing on the cultural implications of gun legislation, or lack of it, provides a deeper and more productive focus for a national conversation.
Gun violence in America is a cultural and bi-partisan problem–at least I assume we all agree it’s a problem–that requires all our culture shaping tools to fix. Congressional opposition to restrictions on time, place, or type of gun possession, despite the country’s extraordinarily high rates of gun violence, declares to all Americans and to the world that institutionalizing our affection for guns is one of our highest national priorities.
Similarly, answering the horror of gunned down children and teachers with a call to arm teachers, with no evidence this would prevent more harm than it would cause, tells everyone that we see guns as our first and best, if not only means of preventing violence. When gun advocates say, “the best answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” they are also saying “the best answer to gun violence is more gun violence.” These are the values and beliefs our children are learning, and, thus, on which we continue to build our culture.