Inclusion Answers Complexity

by Jody Alyn

The grief is relentless.  The holiday season and our sense of ourselves have been upended by the slayings at Sandy Hook. The response must not be a pendulum swing.  It must be the end of the cycle.

Increasing and unthinkable mass murders, along with some 30,000 additional gun deaths in the U.S. annually, have perhaps finally awakened the nation. Yet the usual finger pointing comes right along with the shock and horror. Gun control advocates, unsurprisingly, want weapons bans and better background checks.  Gun owners, riffing on an old tune, note that spoons are not blamed for obesity so why should guns be blamed for what people do with them?  Thus far, folks in these camps have also blamed video games, unarmed teachers, media coverage, godless schools and a culture that glorifies violence.

Other factors, too, rise to the surface.  Along with stigma and shame, those with mental illness and their families face a mental health and social service system decimated by cuts and inattention over decades.  More broadly, what is the predominant demographic of the mass shooters?  Are we failing an entire segment of society that has fallen off the radar?

The solution lies not in polarization of the public square. Nor does it lie in blame of one thing or another.  The problem is complex.  There is a constellation of contributing factors, each interacting with others. True and lasting solutions will be found when we have an inclusive conversation, informed by both diverse opinions and data.  True solutions will reconcile apparent differences and forge them into shared resolve.

Research links guns with deaths.  According to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, more guns simply mean more murders – across homes, cities, states, regions and nations.  Economist Richard Florida’s research busts some myths and shows that firearm deaths are not associated with mental illness, drugs or immigrant status.  It also confirms that gun deaths are substantially lower in states with stricter gun control laws.

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Amendment II was strengthened by landmark Supreme Court decisions in 2008 and 2010.  Gun ownership is deeply embedded in U.S. history and culture.  Over 280 million guns are owned, legally and illegally, by individuals in the United States.  More than 4 million new guns enter the market annually.

It is not possible to reconcile these two sides unless we include both, and then go beyond them. One side isn’t enough to fix this problem. Too broad bans could be unenforceable or could engender negative reaction instead of buy-in. And the status quo is killing people.

Clearly, raising the bar for getting a gun and lowering the bar for getting mental health treatment must be part of the plan, but these actions alone cannot be the entire plan.  The NRA’s combined assets total almost $392 million while the Brady Center’s total less than $6 million and 9 out of 10 movie marquees on any given day glorify weapons, so we must mitigate the effects of money and media.  Legal gun ownership may mean food, sport, history or freedom to some, so we must account for cultural differences and create a shared vision for a shared society.

As images of children’s funerals now merge with symbols of the season, might we consider entwining our fingers rather than pointing them?  By coming together in a spirit of respect and regard, we may begin to address root causes of our fractured society and purposefully shape a new ethic for a new era.

Jody Alyn is president of Jody Alyn Consulting and a former psychotherapist. She works with organizations that want to bridge gaps and solve complex problems more quickly and effectively.  She is also a previous board member of CP and a long-time member of the advisory council.  This article is reposted from her blog:

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