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Anne Sobel Headshot

Mass Shootings Are Bigger Than Guns

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Let's talk about gun laws. Let's talk about them now. Let's pass them. Let's find a way to honor our Second Amendment while still keeping our citizens safe. However, if we make gun laws the beginning and the end of the conversation, then we haven't even scratched the surface of our issues as a violent society.

It is comforting and convenient to believe that if we passed a law today and forced owners to turn in weapons tomorrow that our homicide problem would disappear. However, if we have learned anything from the War on Drugs it is that if someone has an appetite for something in the U.S., they will find a way to access it. Making things illegal does not make them go away.

Well-meaning articles about strict gun laws in Japan and Australia have been circulating my Facebook newsfeed. I find it problematic to compare the United States to islands with homicide rates that were already very low before strict gun laws were passed. Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, France and Canada are developed countries that possess a handsome number of guns per capita with a markedly lower homicide rate. It is also worth noting that the U.S. also has one of the highest non-firearm homicide rates in the developing world. What sets us apart?

There are social issues in the United States that we are just beginning to address. An upswing in teen suicides, some related to bullying, and a disturbing trend of young men committing mass murder are all weaved from the same cloth. Perhaps, right now, it is better to ask questions than to prescribe solutions.

Maybe it's a lack of family values. However, as Michael Moore points out in a similar article, broken families exist around the world. Perhaps it's poverty and education. However, lack of income and access to education is often not an issue in these mass murders, in fact the perpetrators are often upwardly mobile and highly intelligent.

What, then, are bigger themes in our culture? Are we lacking a sense of community and human connection? Is a non-stop trend towards development creating more isolation? Is our constant drive for success and achievement pushing people into the fringes? Is there adequate access to mental health care? Is this treatment even effective? According to recent news accounts, the shooter's mother, Nancy Lanza, sought treatment for her son, and Aurora shooter James Holmes attempted therapy shortly before his shooting spree.

I don't know if I'm asking the right questions. If I am asking the right questions then I don't know the answers, or if they will lead us to a solution. In fact, I'm not even sure if we found the answers that we would be able to solve the problem.

The United States is a big country that is on a trajectory so rapid it seems impossible to slow us down or turn us around. Outreach can be overwhelming, if not impossible. We so rarely want to devote resources programs that do not show immediate results, or allocate funding into investments that won't turn a large profit. And perhaps these are some of the other questions we should be asking ourselves.

Let us begin the conversation with gun control, but let us also remember -- that is only the beginning.