Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?

What will it take for reasonable conversation about changes to our gun culture? Patch columnist Heather Borden Herve asks if the number of Newtown’s dead is finally reason to say, “Enough.”


I’m tired of the rhetoric, from all sides. I’m tired of the pro-gun statistic fight against the anti-gun statistic fight.

There comes a point where ‘this’ quote citation to defend constitutional originalism and ‘that’ quote citation to defend constitutional interpretation is basically like arms buildup. I’ll see your statistic and absolute proof that the Founding Fathers wanted us to keep our guns, and I’ll raise you my statistic and historically empirical evidence that they never could have imagined semi-automatic, rapid-firing reloading guns in the hands of citizens!

Quite honestly, I can’t decide if I’ve intentionally used that ‘arms buildup’ pun or not. Because I just don’t know what makes it through the rhetorical barrage anymore.

On each side, we find our numbers and quotes to defend our position and we’ll continue having the same argument unless we say, “Enough.”

Can we consider the possibility that a document that is almost 226 years old might need us to legitimately reconsider the context of 2013 when figuring out how to move forward? Can we consider that the unfathomable slaughter of 20 children and 6 adults in a school, a place once considered a safe haven, is a price too high to pay to ignore that?

Because while we may debate the certainty of what the framers of the Constitution really did want when it comes to the Second Amendment, what I think we can all agree on with absolute certainty is that the individuals who wrote it did respect thoughtful consideration, reasonable debate, and discussion without absolutist decree. If they were content with failure to change, we never would have had found ourselves independent of England’s rule to begin with.

The closest thing I’ve found to even begin to approach reasonable discussion about the gun rights debate is an article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg — a link to which was posted in one of the 110-plus comments of a Wilton Patch article I wrote last week about a local group that met with state legislators to talk about the issue. (I’m sure the reader who made the comment and link will be surprised that I’m citing it here, as he and I stand, by and large, on opposite sides of the debate.)

The Atlantic piece asserts that there are steps which could be taken to reduce access to guns and ammunition “for the criminially minded, for the dangerously mentally ill and for the suicidal, and that measures could be taken that sensibly restrict access to weapons and ammunition that “have no reasonable civilian purpose, and their sale could be restricted without violating the Second Amendment rights of individual gun owners.” However, he concludes, these efforts would be noble but “too late” to have any meaningful impact on the rate of gun violence.

He writes that it’s too late because of the number of guns — 280 to 300 million — in private hands in this country.

While I disagree with much of what the Atlantic writer asserts — from an emotional standpoint — I have to give the writer credit for speaking to experienced people around the country on both sides’ frontlines of the gun discussion: victims of gun violence, researchers, law enforcement officers, gun enthusiasts, and lobbyists and activists.

It’s a step toward acknowledgement of what each side believes; it concedes that each side has some ground, at the very least; and it starts to establish a foundation for how pro and con advocates might be able to stop ramming each other and start listening, if not conceding, to each other, “You’ve got a point.”

I acknowledge that I tend to come at this issue from my own, emotional perspective. Even this opinion column has to take a side, by definition, if not just by its headline. But the emotional arguments of gun-control crusaders that get belittled by the gun-rights activists are just as outsized as the fear-mongering assertions made by those same extreme gun-rightists meant to stop anti-gun advocates in their tracks.

But I suspect there are plenty of people in the middle who would like to figure out a way to move toward this rational discussion about how some changes can be made.

Haven’t we had enough of the killings to try? I guess not when some people think we don’t have enough guns, as if the solution to gun violence is more guns. Or that it’s too late to do anything about it because there are too many guns out there already, so why try anything at all?

We can keep headed the wrong way down the road, where more deaths are sure to happen, and just continue going the wrong way because we’ll eventually get to where we need to go. The world is round so all we have to do is circle the globe, we’ll get there eventually. But by then, there won’t be enough of us left on either side who say, “Enough.”

The Atlantic piece ends with Goldberg writing about gun-control advocate Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign, who asked, “’In a fundamental way, isn’t this a question about the kind of society we want to live in?’ Do we want to live in one ‘in which the answer to violence is more violence, where the answer to guns is more guns?’” Goldberg adds that in a nation with 300 million guns, it’s an irrelevant question.

That’s exactly why my initial question — “Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?” — needs to be seen as anything but irrelevant. It’s become the most relevant question of all.

S Tadik January 14, 2013 at 10:16 PM
J. James, if the 2 parties differ strongly on an issue, attacks on one side will be perceived as an attack on the opposite party. You don’t have to go to Chicago to see government failures and not all Republican towns are governed well. I am not saying that all Democrat city government approaches are absurd but it sure doesn’t look like what they do in Chicago is working. I think gun shows and other loopholes are much more responsible for massacres than political division. In New Canaan, we have divided inverted government; the tax and spenders are largely Republican and the Democrats are more conservative than normal. We have an extremely low crime rate and few violent crimes. If anything, our government is more concerned with congeniality, command and control than efficiency. An anti-massacre approach to which conservatives of both parties agree will likely have a better chance of working than the lefty schemes of either party. Some liberals just want the government to do something so they will feel better, regardless of whether their action does any good or not. In general, you seem to be a person who would negotiate reasonably on this issue. Negotiation is not a strong point for the current POTUS.
Hector Medina January 14, 2013 at 10:58 PM
With all due respect I object to the thesis that humans are violent by nature. We need to differentiate between lethal force applied for survival and lethal force applied by choice. A human born to one of the hunter gatherer cultures will understand life, and death as part of life. It is our modern "western" culture the one that has made violence into a secular religion. It is the way to solve problems. It is the way to success. It is the way to power, money, and everything our "values" have made desirable. I understand that a cultural change will take time and that we need measures to avoid tripping again with the same stone, so ¿why don't we focus on concrete discussions? Let's analyze the chain of events (about which precious little hard information is available) and let's look at where to break that chain. Let me start with three small proposals: 1.- All ammunition in excess of 20 rounds to be stored in locked, secure places. 2.- All firearms, apart from the designated "go to" firearm for self defense to be stored with cable locks. 3.- Keys/combinations to these two previous locks to be kept with the owner/responsible party at all times. 1 and 3, or 2 and 3 would have easily prevented Newtown's terrible tragedy. None interfere with 2nd ammendment. Let's get real, people. JMHO
J.James January 21, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Human beings are absolutely violent by nature. The majority of us have a firm grasp on it and are able to control violent impulses to the point where they rarely even occur. But, have you never seen someone, anyone, behaving in such a way that made you think, 'Jesus, I'd like to knock that guy down a few pegs.' Culture does not breed violence. You look at NYC circa the middle 1980's. Television and film had to live up to a much higher censorship standard. Even the horror movies of that era are tame by today's standards, and the only video games available were arcade games, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, etc. But there was violent crime on just about every street corner, whereas today, New York is a fairly safe city, save a few areas in the outer boroughs. I really think we're taking a mental health issue and turning it into a cultural issue. People are a product of their environment, yes. But they are a product of their individual environment; their home lives, their social circles, not greater society. You'll find, if you take the time, that the majority of violent criminals come from an unstable home. The problem is not guns, or video games, or movies, or society at large. The problem is in the mental stability of people like Adam Lanza.
S Tadik January 21, 2013 at 09:29 PM
This is encouraging Messrs. James and Medina. One of you has suggestions for responsible gun owners who care what they do and don't want to hurt others. The other talks about the folks who don't have the mental capacity to handle guns. A definition here, a different word there, an ability to look at the issue differently and there is a road to progress. Good job, guys. We're not done yet but this is a good start. There's hope.
Hector Medina January 22, 2013 at 06:20 PM
We will not settle the "nature" vs. "nurture" debate in a series of posts. There is no sense in that train of thought. IF (big IF), we are turning a mental health issue into a cultural problem we need to realize that in the "olden days" (60's to 90's), while there was more personal violence in the streets of NY, that personal violence was mainly aimed at the other sections of the criminal society. Nowadays, even a 2nd grader in Queens was found "packing heat" (literally) to school. In the "olden days" when someone was "unstable" everyone knew, talked about it, had a say, there was social involvement in the development of our youth. In the case of Lanza, it is reported that the mother had taken him OUT of the school system and avoided all social contact because of his instabilities. I have no way to know if that is true or not, as there have been precious few FACTS informed to the society at large by the authorities. But I do think we need to agree that there was much more social involvement in the "olden days" than there is now. My main point is that more laws and more rules will not make the world safer. Authorities at Federal level confess to not having enough time, manpower and resources to enforce the current laws. And society has stopped caring. The old saying that "it takes a village to raise a child" sounds strangely hollow in our modern society. So, I still think that PRACTICAL, CONCRETE directives are better than blanket laws. JMHO


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