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Daniel Gross

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"Police Still Seeking Motive"

Posted: 09/15/11 06:23 PM ET

This morning, as I was getting ready to go to work with the TV news on in the background, I heard the anchor say, "Police are still seeking a motive for the deadly shooting rampage in the Carson City IHOP that claimed four lives."

And that got me thinking. Are we all too wrapped up with figuring out the motivation and mentality of murderers -- so much so that we overlook the real opportunities to prevent these tragedies from happening?

So, as a little exercise, I decided to Google the phrase, "still looking for motive." The results were striking.

Even though my search did not include any words like "murder," "shooting," "gun," "death," or even "police," nine of the ten results on the first page were news reports about gun deaths (one was about a stabbing). That alone is testimony to the incredible level of violence we tolerate in this country. The circumstances ranged from drive-by shootings to two murder-suicides. In every case, it seems local media is focused on trying to determine the motive.

Yet, literally none of these news reports focused on the role that the presence of the gun played in nine of the ten stories.

Of course, I know it's the job of the police to look for a motive; but, in the name of prevention, I think we all need to take a long hard look at the other factors that result in the loss of life, especially when they're this obvious.

Now I know that some political activists (of which I am very decidedly not one) may already be screaming at their computers, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." And, to some extent that's true, and it's always worthwhile to ask ourselves what makes people kill and what we can do about it.

But, it seems, the big question when the news reports another gun death is always "why?" And that hasn't gotten us very far toward solving a problem that claims 35,000 lives every year. At the very least, we also should also be asking, "how?"

Yes, people kill people. But overwhelmingly, it's people with guns. Just purely on the basis of public safety, it is irresponsible of us not to take an honest look at the role that the presence of guns plays too.

If we did -- and we wouldn't even need to scratch too far below the surface -- we would see that just by doing things like educating parents about preventing youth access to firearms, and providing kids with the inspiration and resources to report weapons and threats, we can prevent more than 1,000 youth murders, homicides and accidents every year!

It shouldn't be too much to ask. Both the Brady Center and the NRA, considered on opposite sides of the political "gun debate" must agree that saving children's lives is a priority. Instead of focusing exclusively on figuring out the motives of people disturbed enough to commit murder in the first place, after their victims are already dead, why not also focus on some of the very real things we can do to prevent those deaths in the first place?