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‘There Are Years That Ask Questions and Years That Answer’: Which is it for Gun Control?

Thinking of the Newton, Connecticut, Sandy Hook elementary school shooting; reading and listening to many — some very thoughtful, but a lot of it basically a repetition of the same pro / anti-gun arguments made after each “mass shooting” — I remembered this quote from Zora Neal Hurston:

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”

And I wonder, related to the long and growing list of multiple shootings in the U.S., and to the daily occurrence of murders through the use of guns — are we in a year, a time, of asking questions, or working at answers?

Or maybe we aren’t in either. Maybe we aren’t even at the point of asking serious questions and looking for serious answers. Over the last few days it became clear there is certainly no reduction in the reiteration of familiar “gun” arguments. We seem largely stuck in the either/ or framing that so often limits our abilities at conversation, when winning an argument, or at least making our point, is apparently more important than finding answers.

What we need is the kind of questions and answers that could help change the “gun” arguments into thoughtful exchanges, and ultimately, actions. The kind that could at least begin to reduce the use of guns in murdering thousands of people every year.

I wrote some of what follows earlier, in commenting at Taylor’s post, and on Facebook. One thing that resulted from the FB postings was messages from several people, thinking along similar lines. In short, we agreed, the “gun” conversation needs to change. (See Taylor’s post related to Obama’s remarks here.)

Will Sandy Hook be the “mass shooting” incident which gets us beyond mere repetition of the same anti / pro-gun arguments? Will this be the moment when the complexities are made a part of the conversation, not least of which is access to mental health care? Can we make this a time of serious conversation, not just another round of competing Second Amendment interpretations? Will we demand that our Electeds in DC do more than make statements that say next to nothing, or stay very quiet, and then almost immediately move on to more “important” business?

For those in the community directly affected by the shooting, life has been changed forever.

But for the nation? I very much hope I’m wrong, but I fear nothing will actually change. Dianne Feinstein says she will introduce a bill banning assault weapons on the first day of the new Congress. Speaking in Newton last night, President Obama said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” But he didn’t use the word “guns,” or anything specific, like legislation.

Hopefully that will happen, change by way of Congress, by leadership of the president. But at this point, I fear it’s just if not more likely that in the end, the same “gun” arguments will continue to dominate in DC, and throughout the nation.

In order for something to actually change — How high would the death count have to be? What population would have to be the target? If elementary age children aren’t that “population,” would the targets have to be younger yet? Elderly? Bedridden? Or maybe a group of Electeds, or CEOs, or some other gathering of “very important” people? College, high school, elementary young people and children as victims don’t seem to be significant enough, nor do service members on an Army base, shoppers in a mall, people attending an outdoor speech by a member of Congress, people in a place of worship, a movie theater …

The murders are the worst, the saddest, the most horrific thing. But directly related to that is our national inability or unwillingness to do more than rehash the same arguments, again. And again. And again.

We have an opportunity to change the conversation. “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” It’s our choice.

(Zora Neale Hurston via AaboutWomens History)

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2 Responses to ‘There Are Years That Ask Questions and Years That Answer’: Which is it for Gun Control?

  1. Jane Austen December 17, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    And I challenge the NRA to begin a serious dialogue about changing how we look at gun ownership. That is if they are truly a responsible organization. Guns are not people. Children are people and people need to come first.

    The President said that this is the 4th mass shooting of this kind since he took office. I don’t ever remember anything as horrendous in years gone by.

    Protect our children!!! Write to the President, your senators and congressmen/women. Anyone who is in a position to do something. Do not sit around and think someone else is going to do it. We need to unite and say enough is enough. But it starts with us.

  2. Cujo359 December 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    “Speaking in Newton last night, President Obama said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” But he didn’t use the word “guns,” or anything specific, like legislation.”

    That’s been his style all along. When I look at other implications of what his style has been all along, I don’t think anything much will change about gun ownership because of this. What will change is that schools will be even more tightly controlled – background investigations for staff, more cameras, more metal detectors. In short, anything that people will tolerate will be done, as long as it represents a way to control peoples’ behaviors.

    A lesson we should draw from this is that we only have the freedoms we’re willing to punish politicians for violating. The Second Amendment is sacred, but the First, Fourth, and Fifth are not. That’s because politicians know what they can get away with and what they can’t.

    The other lesson comes from this Toles cartoon. The Second Amendment isn’t the one that guarantees all the others. If people are willing to jettison all the other freedoms as long as they’re allowed to hold onto their guns, then it’s no more guarantee than that “goddamn piece of paper” is.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong