It is now a few weeks after the Sandy Hook shooting. With 26 dead, we are scrambling to come up with a way to deal with, not only the grief that such a tragedy elicits, but widespread confusion about gun control in its aftermath.
Let us start with this piece of clarity: 20 children should not have been shot to death. There is no argument there. So what is it then? Maybe it is our sense of decency that is keeping us confused. No decent person is willing to easily “go there”—to that realm of possibility where an industry would be so greedy and corrupt, it would create a business model based on death and destruction. It is hard to find words that don’t sound foul coming out of our mouths. For us to say the NRA and gun companies profit from and cultivate a culture of violence would imply such deviant thinking, such reprehensible acts that it is hard to admit to even thinking an official and respected organization would do such a thing.
Then again, we have precedent. We have caught the tobacco industry and now the fossil fuel industry manipulating scientific data to sway public opinion against our own interests. Is there any reason to think the gun industry wouldn’t do the same?
It is time to take back our government as an extension of us, and not of corporate interest. There is great clarity in what defines human rights, when they are no longer being upheld. Those children had the right to be alive, and that right was compromised because someone who should not have had a gun, had a gun.
There is a hierarchy of rights. Number one is the right to be alive. No other right can be considered to impinge on this inalienable right. We must ask ourselves, gun owners and non gun owners alike, are we willing to accept changes in our lives—in our ability to obtain weapons, in the price we must pay in taxes, in our willingness to vote our consciences—to assure that we as a nation become a safer place for children, for all of us?
Time to lay bare the reasons we are at this place in history, and the reasons are not pretty. We do not fund good mental health research, or support access to good mental health care. We do not deal with the racism so often underlying gun violence. We do not have rules strict enough to make sure that guns remain only in the hands of those responsible enough to use them. We do not have an agreed on policy of who should have guns (like assault weapons) and why, to limit the availability of guns that are designed to harm others. And we have not been willing to acknowledge the corporate structure that profits from the use of guns in criminal acts.
We have in common our inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Together we must uphold these rights for our neighbors, and ourselves, and insist our government represent us in this effort. It is time to end gun violence.
Rebecca Jones MD is a Brattleboro physician and volunteer for 350VT and Doctors for America. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.