We have a cultural problem, not a gun problem

By Tom Rogers • Guest columnist

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is beyond comprehension. Such an event should never occur in this country or anywhere else. But it did.

After we care for the survivors, honor the heroes, hold memorials for the victims and the shock of the event diminishes, as a nation we want to know: “Why?”

We want to know how to keep it from ever happening again and then do it.

To say that the perpetrator was acting irrationally would be a gross understatement. But why was he acting that way? He had weapons. How did he get them? He got in the school. How was he able to do that? Questions like these will continue to be asked and their answers will become clearer with time.

There are already premature conclusions and actions being proposed by the pundits who are acting based on the understandable emotions of the moment and their preconceived solutions. But what really needs to be done or not done?

Here are some thoughts at the macro level.

We need greater sensitivity in this country and a societal acceptance that seeking mental health assistance should be no more of a stigma than seeking physical health assistance.

We need to accept that not all people who need help will seek it. Therefore we need responsible people to seek that help for those individuals without fear of reprisal.

Guns are not the root problem. People are the problem. Our society/culture is a problem. Look at the amount of violence on TV, movies, video games, print, etc. Why is it there? How does it influence the behavior of unstable people?

It is there because we view it, buy it, use it as entertainment and seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. Why?

Ironically, the same media that bring us all of that violent material will hypocritically blame the “gun freaks” for supporting the right to bear arms, which in their opinion is a facilitator for the events that unstable individuals commit.

There are more than 300 million guns owned in the U.S. compared with approximately 15,000 gun-related deaths per year, including suicides. That means that 99.95 percent of the guns are not being used as homicide or suicide weapons.

Various polls estimate that anywhere from 50 percent of all U.S. citizens own at least one gun. But there is not rampant violence in our country and the homicide rate in the US is at its lowest level in four decades. During that time, the number of individuals in the U.S. who own guns went up by 7 percent.

Obviously, we should do all we can to keep irrational/irresponsible people from acquiring weapons that they may misuse. But before we institutionalize processes that require universal background checks, ban certain weapons, etc., we need to understand that U.S. Congressional reports have documented that the black market is the source of at least 90 percent of all guns used in gun-related crimes. Is it likely that the black market traffickers of weapons are going to be concerned about any laws we pass?

Therefore it is likely that there is no way to completely stop the acquisition of weapons by irresponsible individuals from illegal sources. Thus schools and public places/events need to be secured by whatever physical and technological means possible by using at least:

• Preventative measures to exclude weapons being present (screening/magnetic detectors/etc).

• Auto-detecting/auto-activating physical barriers sufficient to delay intrusion until a on-site or external response can be achieved.

• The presence effect of armed security/law enforcement personnel at the location of the schools/public places/events.

Politicians may focus their legislative action to increase the regulation of legal gun ownership (which is the easy thing to do). They can then say: “See, we did something about this terrible situation,” when in fact they have avoided addressing all the issues which are far more difficult to solve.

As a nation, we don’t need to do the easiest, feel good things concerning gun-related homicides. That will not produce the desired effect. That would be a disservice to those who have died needlessly and continue to place in danger those we intend to protect.

This situation must have a holistic approach that has a fact-driven solution.

(Tom Rodgers lives in Cullowhee and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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