Here we are again.
Less than a week after another horrific mass shooting at a school and we have already heard the Celebrity in Chief talk about mental illness as the major contributing factor. And of course he has made no mention about changes on the gun control front, but really is anyone surprised at this point.
The Sandy Hook shooting back in 2012 affected me so much more than any of the other equally tragic predecessors. It was because they were just so young and I had a young daughter not even 7 months old at the time. It was incredibly sad. And it was obvious to anyone watching that President Obama was equally as affected as he set out to make real changes on the heals of such a devastating event.
Still, he couldn’t get it done.
At that moment it became painfully clear to me that there will NEVER be a school shooting painful enough to act as a catalyst for change. At least not at the top level of lawmakers. Admittedly, I am immensely impressed by the high school students who have spoken up in the wake of this most recent tragedy, and even somewhat hopeful of student action planned for April 20th. But still, deep down I know how all of this is going to play out.
If we want these tragedies stop it has to be done at the grassroots. We need to understand the flow of money that directs policy. And to do that we need to understand the psychology of people who buy guns.
And we need to accept the following 5 painful truths.
- NRA donations peak after tragedies – When incidents like the ones at Parkhill and Sandy Hook happen gun owners fear they will lose their second amendment rights and race to make more donations. In the end these tragedies empower the NRA to have MORE influence over policy makers.
- Beliefs and Values are not going to change – Especially when it’s about such a passionate issue that the vast majority are either strongly for or strongly against. In fact, when our deeply held values are challenged we feel intense fear, and when they are validated we feel pleasure. Passionate activism and protests are NOT GOING TO WORK.
- The NRA has MANY sources of income – It’s much more than the donations noted above. Almost half comes from membership fees. Then there is the Ring of Freedom sponsor program that has accounted for as much as $50 million directly from gun manufacturers. Beyond that there is almost $20 million in advertising revenue from their publications. And finally there are some companies that donate a portion of every sale to the NRA.
- The NRA has a very powerful ‘WHY’ – The NRA knows why it exists and knows what it is meant to do. Summarized from their by-laws their mission statement is as follows: “To protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, especially with reference to the inalienable right of the individual American citizen guaranteed by such Constitution to acquire, possess, collect, exhibit, transport, carry, transfer ownership of, and enjoy the right to use arms.” They communicate this ‘why’ clearly in everything that they do and thus they have recruited millions of like-minded individuals. These people are passionate and loyal to their cause.
- The solution to the gun problem will have nothing to do with guns – Of course, vastly improved gun legislation could have dramatic effect on the amount and types of guns available. This would obviously reduce gun deaths, but you must believe by now that these types of changes aren’t going to happen. The solution lies in finding another way. If we are passionate about anything right now, let it be in finding common ground with those who believe differently than us.
And it starts by asking the right question, framed in the context of having nothing to do with guns directly.
“How do we protect our children?”
EVERYONE wants to protect their kids. There may be vastly different approaches but it can be a powerful source of common ground. And if we take the gun control issue off of the table what could we come up with. On the level of policy the resulting conversation would have to focus on things like poverty, drugs, gangs, mental health, social services, and meaningful employment. On the local level it would be about community, school safety, bullying, and connection.
To fix this we have to focus on issues that bring us together, not ones that drive us apart.
Unfortunately, this approach is all about the long game. This is not a welcome idea for a nation desperate for immediate improvement. As well, most of these issues are not historically strong areas for the republican party.
So what can we do right now?
Right now? We mourn. We rage. We heal. And then we act.
Image Courtesy of Shutterstock.com/larry1235