Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Argumentum Ab Timor

I was, honestly, unsurprised to find the message in my inbox. We have a fairly well-understood tendency, as a society, to "vote our fears," and, it must be said, that shootings in schools evoke quite a bit of fear.

Still, it seemed somehow gratuitous, if for no other reason than it gave the appearance of linking Initiative 594 to a solution to such issues. I have yet to hear if Jaylen Fryberg obtained the weapon he used in the shooting via a means that I-594 would have possibly prevented. But if he simply picked up a legally-owned gun belonging to a family member, it seems that better firearms storage protocols, which are not covered by the initiative, could have possibly done more good than "closing the gun-show loophole."

There is a general impulse to look at gun violence and gun violence as if they were the same, monolithic issue. Which is understandable, but I think it also misses the point, and makes the overall issue difficult to solve. It's true - firearms can make otherwise nebbishy people dangerous, and allow them to murder a number of people in one stroke, rather than one at a time. But there are plenty of tools of murder available to the determined, and if we don't find a way to curb the impulse of seeing killings, of others and of self, as a solution to the problems of life, simply taking a single tool out of the toolbox won't be as effective as we like to think. But if we do concentrate on reducing the impulse for violence in out communities, steps that we take to curb access to specific weapons will be even more effective.

Which is not to say that the backers of Initiative 594 should abandon their goals. But I do think that in trying to link the initiative to what may very well be an unrelated incident, they're overselling the product that they're offering.

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