01/17/2013 05:54 pm ET Updated Mar 19, 2013

The Gun Debate Has No Room for One-size-fits-all Thinking

In the aftereffects of the Newtown shooting it appears the public discourse around gun safety remains restricted within the same reactionary climate that invariably leads to a stalemate.

The gun debate is held hostage by a nonsensical one-size-fits-all discussion. The responsible sportsperson, demented psychopath, and career criminal are conveniently co-mingled by the National Rifle Association to feed the canard that advocates for common sense gun safety want to take away everyone's right to responsibly own a gun.

As long as this version of the one-size-fits-all discussion exist, the mentally ill, along with violent movies and video games will serve as convenient scapegoats.

Other countries have mentally ill populations, violent movies and video games. What they don't have is corresponding levels of gun violence. Why?

President Barack Obama unveiled a series of proposals, which included an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazine clips, and closing the loopholes on background checks. These were designed, as White Press Secretary Jay Carney stated, "to reduce gun violence and prevent future tragedies like the one in Newtown, Conn."

With the world's highest number of guns per capita, the president's proposals feel akin to slamming the barn door just before the last cow, which happens to also be afflicted with mad cow disease, escapes. There is nothing offered by the president that can "prevent future tragedies like the one in Newtown." But that does not mean the president should do nothing and accept the status quo.

The other side of the gun debate is also guilty of a one-size-fits-all discussion.

If one were to combine Newtown, along with the tragedies in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011, Fort Hood in 2009, Aurora, Colo., in 2012, and Columbine in 1999 the death total represents slightly more that half of those killed in Oakland last year.

Newtown and similar tragedies create a cacophony of reactionary public discourse that mutes the consistent drip of murder that occurs in urban areas throughout the country.

Many would welcome the banning of assault weapons, high-capacity magazine clips, and closing the loopholes for background checks, but would it curtail the gun violence that is pervasive in so many areas of urban America?

In urban cities, the unregistered firearm presents more of a problem than any of the issues the president sought to address last week. Cities like Oakland need draconian unregistered firearm laws.

There could be a grace period to register guns that have been inherited or obtained through other legitimate methods. But after that period passes possession of an unregistered firearm should carry a heavy penalty. Gun buy-back programs make for good publicity but do little to address the problem.

Would this completely eliminate black market gun sales? No. But it could serve as a strong deterrent for some.

Anti-litter campaigns began in the 1950s. Before 1980, 11 percent of Americans used seat belts. Over time these campaigns have proven successful in changing behavior. Likewise, something must be done to change the behavior of unregistered guns.

Does the president's current proposals possess the potential to change behavior in Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Washington, D.C., or other cities marred by gun violence?

In reaction to Newtown and other high-profile tragedies, the president has put forth the most aggressive gun safety agenda in a generation. Perhaps these measures will make it less likely that guns will fall into the wrong hands.

But banning assault weapons, magazine clips and closing loopholes on background checks will not adequately address the gun violence in urban America; it requires a different conversation.

The gun debate is multifaceted, and I doubt anyone has the entire answer. This is the problem with one-size-fits-all thinking -- there are too many complexities for which the solution offered simply does not fit.