We should avoid distractions, focus on the issue of guns


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Last Thursday, President Obama had to address the nation for the 15th time in his presidency on a mass shooting.

In trying to write about this subject, I feel a great deal of his frustration. What more is there to say that has not been said?

This shooting seemed to break the accepted pattern in that it took time before a motive, or a possible motive, was established.

That is fitting. Certainly, the identity and motivations of a shooter are newsworthy, but by his point I think they have become a distraction.

Being able to identify a shooter and place a motive provides people an out, an opportunity to turn attention away from the act of violence itself onto something else. This allows avoiding the primary discussion we should be having, which is about guns.

We can see that a bit in this case. When it was revealed that the shooter likely singled out Christians, some people used this as a jumping off point to discuss Christian persecution.

In the past, I myself have taken that approach, particularly with regard to the Charleston shooting. However, I am starting to think that this is something we should stop doing.

Now, it might be fair to point out that this might be a bit self-serving. In the past, I’ve often written critically about religion and tied religious fundamentalism with violence. In the present case, we appear to have a situation where a shooter targeted Christians because of their faith.

I have no desire to duck that particular aspect, and I think it is fairly easy to point out why the people who are making this about Christian persecution are wrong.

Rather, I simply think it is a distraction. Even when these shootings may raise important social issues, using these events as a forum to work on other social problems is as misguided as it is ineffective.

With the nature of mass shootings, people with every conceivable form of hatred will have a chance to find its expression through the barrel of a gun.

While motive is relevant to the individual cases, focusing inordinate amounts of attention on that distracts from the real issue.

And the inescapable issue is guns, and the laws that govern them.

By now, numerous media outlets have referenced studies on this matter.

To name just two, there are the Harvard Literature Review, which showed that states with more guns have more deaths, and  the 2013 JAMA Internal Medicine study which found that states with more gun laws had fewer gun deaths.

The data certainly is not perfect, but it shows fairly clearly that the availability of guns is a major factor in why we have these types of crimes.

I neither hate guns nor love them, but I do care about stopping these type of events. Certainly, if there were any other solution, I would advocate for that, but it seems clear based on evidence that it is the guns.

It is also equally clear to me that we could do a lot with some fairly basic gun legislation.

However, there does not seem to be much will to change it, either in government or in the general public. That is where the frustration really sets in, the idea that nothing will get done about this.

And like many other people, I am not sure how that will change.

Griffin, a senior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.