The news of the latest random shooting allegedly involving an assault weapon in the United States will inevitably begin a fresh round of talks about guns and mental health.
Let me begin by stating that I am not taking a position on gun control in the United States, one way or the other. But I think since the conversation will only intensify, especially in our own state, we all should prepare ourselves to talk to one another.
The gun control argument in this country is rarely argued in a gray middle ground. Either people are totally in favor of law abiding citizens owning any kind of gun that they wish in order to protect themselves, or people believe that weapons beyond the use of hunting have no real use in our society.
Of course people who believe in a compromise in the middle of those points exist, but we do not hear from them very often.
Emotions around this issue usually run high, and to an even higher degree in Colorado. We have had more than our fair share of tragic mass shootings which have brought the unwanted glare of the international media to our state. But being a state that often represents the West and the independence and history of the region, the right to bear arms has been a closely held value in our state since Colorado was merely a territory.
But the gun control issue is even more complicated than our own state’s history.
The second amendment of our constitution was written in response to how the British tried to limit guns and gun powder before the Revolutionary War, and it’s been a deep part of our nation’s DNA ever since.
That DNA can’t be reasoned away simply by qualifying certain kinds of weapons. A nation that had to fight for its own independence does not easily forget, even after 200 years, the affect of a ruling government limiting its citizens’ ability to defend themselves.
Our country’s DNA is not only about defending ourselves from a fellow citizen, but also from our own government. It’s easy to make that concept look and feel like paranoia, but that paranoia is truly part of how our country was created and that can’t be forgotten.
It would be just as difficult to try to parse the first amendment based on particular forms of speech, forgetting why those values came to exist in the first place. The times may have changed, but we cannot deny where we have come from.
However, we also cannot deny where we are going as a country. Some of the tenets and values of the United States that began in 1776 have changed dramatically over 200 years. It may not be possible to ignore our DNA, but it is always possible to evolve and adapt.
But we also can’t ignore the kind of fear that is growing in our society that someone can pull an automatic weapon anywhere. Schools, churches, shopping malls are all places that we would never have imagined as a place for terrorism. Now it’s almost commonplace, and not from extremists on a jihad, but from our own citizens.
Is more security the answer? Maybe, but I don’t think Americans want to replicate the police state that we already have in airports.
However, outlawing assault weapons or handguns would not instantly eliminate the possibility of deranged individuals shooting up public places either. If we can’t keep drugs out of maximum security prisons, we won’t be able to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Would making it harder to get an assault rifle stop future killers of going on a rampage? Would potential killers give up their homicidal goals if they couldn’t use a gun?
Again, the answers are more complicated than they appear.
We cannot ignore what is happening in our society, but we can’t forget everything that goes into the discussion. It’s unlikely that the extreme of either side of the argument is the answer. We will probably find the best way forward somewhere in the gray middle, that so far, no one is talking about.
Maybe it’s time to start talking about it.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.