Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?

What will it take for reasonable conversation about changes to our gun culture? Patch columnist Heather Borden Herve asks if the number of Newtown’s dead is finally reason to say, “Enough.”


I’m tired of the rhetoric, from all sides. I’m tired of the pro-gun statistic fight against the anti-gun statistic fight.

There comes a point where ‘this’ quote citation to defend constitutional originalism and ‘that’ quote citation to defend constitutional interpretation is basically like arms buildup. I’ll see your statistic and absolute proof that the Founding Fathers wanted us to keep our guns, and I’ll raise you my statistic and historically empirical evidence that they never could have imagined semi-automatic, rapid-firing reloading guns in the hands of citizens!

Quite honestly, I can’t decide if I’ve intentionally used that ‘arms buildup’ pun or not. Because I just don’t know what makes it through the rhetorical barrage anymore.

On each side, we find our numbers and quotes to defend our position and we’ll continue having the same argument unless we say, “Enough.”

Can we consider the possibility that a document that is almost 226 years old might need us to legitimately reconsider the context of 2013 when figuring out how to move forward? Can we consider that the unfathomable slaughter of 20 children and 6 adults in a school, a place once considered a safe haven, is a price too high to pay to ignore that?

Because while we may debate the certainty of what the framers of the Constitution really did want when it comes to the Second Amendment, what I think we can all agree on with absolute certainty is that the individuals who wrote it did respect thoughtful consideration, reasonable debate, and discussion without absolutist decree. If they were content with failure to change, we never would have had found ourselves independent of England’s rule to begin with.

The closest thing I’ve found to even begin to approach reasonable discussion about the gun rights debate is an article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg — a link to which was posted in one of the 110-plus comments of a Wilton Patch article I wrote last week about a local group that met with state legislators to talk about the issue. (I’m sure the reader who made the comment and link will be surprised that I’m citing it here, as he and I stand, by and large, on opposite sides of the debate.)

The Atlantic piece asserts that there are steps which could be taken to reduce access to guns and ammunition “for the criminially minded, for the dangerously mentally ill and for the suicidal, and that measures could be taken that sensibly restrict access to weapons and ammunition that “have no reasonable civilian purpose, and their sale could be restricted without violating the Second Amendment rights of individual gun owners.” However, he concludes, these efforts would be noble but “too late” to have any meaningful impact on the rate of gun violence.

He writes that it’s too late because of the number of guns — 280 to 300 million — in private hands in this country.

While I disagree with much of what the Atlantic writer asserts — from an emotional standpoint — I have to give the writer credit for speaking to experienced people around the country on both sides’ frontlines of the gun discussion: victims of gun violence, researchers, law enforcement officers, gun enthusiasts, and lobbyists and activists.

It’s a step toward acknowledgement of what each side believes; it concedes that each side has some ground, at the very least; and it starts to establish a foundation for how pro and con advocates might be able to stop ramming each other and start listening, if not conceding, to each other, “You’ve got a point.”

I acknowledge that I tend to come at this issue from my own, emotional perspective. Even this opinion column has to take a side, by definition, if not just by its headline. But the emotional arguments of gun-control crusaders that get belittled by the gun-rights activists are just as outsized as the fear-mongering assertions made by those same extreme gun-rightists meant to stop anti-gun advocates in their tracks.

But I suspect there are plenty of people in the middle who would like to figure out a way to move toward this rational discussion about how some changes can be made.

Haven’t we had enough of the killings to try? I guess not when some people think we don’t have enough guns, as if the solution to gun violence is more guns. Or that it’s too late to do anything about it because there are too many guns out there already, so why try anything at all?

We can keep headed the wrong way down the road, where more deaths are sure to happen, and just continue going the wrong way because we’ll eventually get to where we need to go. The world is round so all we have to do is circle the globe, we’ll get there eventually. But by then, there won’t be enough of us left on either side who say, “Enough.”

The Atlantic piece ends with Goldberg writing about gun-control advocate Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign, who asked, “’In a fundamental way, isn’t this a question about the kind of society we want to live in?’ Do we want to live in one ‘in which the answer to violence is more violence, where the answer to guns is more guns?’” Goldberg adds that in a nation with 300 million guns, it’s an irrelevant question.

That’s exactly why my initial question — “Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?” — needs to be seen as anything but irrelevant. It’s become the most relevant question of all.

joe_m January 08, 2013 at 05:18 PM
History has shown that a benevolent government does not exist. That is the problem. How do we trust a government to actually come up with a solution that will work. The average person has always and continues to be taken advantage of by government. This is one of the few countries where the ability to change this dynamic exist. Take away our ability to defend ourselves from a tyrannical government and "20 children and 6 adults" will be less than a drop in a barrel, never mind bucket. No existing law and nothing being proposed would have prevented the Newtown atrocity. It is not the "gun" culture,it is the corruption in government and the disregard of laws that created this mess. If you want change, then government needs to be limited and corruption needs to be punished, severely. Some additional reading on gun laws: http://larrycorreia.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/an-opinion-on-gun-control/ http://kontradictions.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/why-not-renew-the-assault-weapons-ban-well-ill-tell-you/
Todd Fox January 08, 2013 at 07:44 PM
As soon as you frame this as a debate for which there are two "opposite" sides you create a barrier to meaningful dialogue, listening and learning. When we frame issues in terms of "us and them", "right and wrong" or "good and bad" we divide people in to two camps. Instead of acknowledging that there is a wide spectrum of opinion and information which can be shared and discussed, those who frame this complex issue in to a two sided "debate" effectively close the door to meaningful compromise and effective change.
Stu Dunham January 08, 2013 at 10:25 PM
It’s not guns and it’s not security. It’s the lack of mental health institutions like Fairfield Hills. These hospitals would have had this guy getting the help he needed. Where do you think all the people that were in these hospitals are now? Every shooting or mass killing in the US has been by someone that should have been institutionalized but there are no institutions like Fairfield Hills. Do you really think gun control would have stopped this guy? If it wasn't a gun it would have been a bomb, a car or anything. He wanted to kill innocent babies ... taking the guns out of law abiding citizens will only give more to the ones who don't give a crap and have no moral fiber. Do you think someone who wants to commit murder is going to worry about a gun control law? Why are we accepting of having to lockdown our schools? There are over 300 million people in the US and you are thinking of changing laws because of one person that should have been institutionalized? Where is the outcry for bringing back the hospitals? Why are we not addressing the real problem? There are crazy people out there and that should be the focus.
JohnGalt January 09, 2013 at 02:53 AM
While I agree with Stu, and yes I own many guns, I think banning assault rifles,armor piercing bullets, and high volume clips from the general public with the same background checks on all firearms, wll hurt nobody. Sorry if it takes a couple more days to get you deer rifle. However banning guns all together is not the answer... The last person who killed 19 pre schoolers didnt even fire one shot... and he killed 168 people and 19 kids under the age of 6 with a rider truck, farm fertilizer, and blasting caps..By your assesment Heather, shouldnt we ban all those rental trucks and fertilizer sales..think of the childern. Adress the issue, maybe our grandparents were right...some people need to be placed in an institution to protect the public until the point in time when the person is no longer a threat to the public or themselfs and can function in normal socity.
Sean M January 09, 2013 at 03:17 PM
The problem has nothing to do with gun control. The issue is uninformed people attempting to pass laws on firearms that they have no knowledge on. Most Americans have no basic understanding of the 2nd Amendment or its purpose. Simply put: the American citizens must be properly armed to protect themselves, their family and property from threats from criminals, and government, whether domestically or a foreign threat. The first issue that must be addressed is understanding that laws do not stop criminals. Schools by law are gun free, but criminals ignore the laws. All that law does is make honest citizens disarmed. People who want to hurt people look for an advantage and not being able to defend yourself is one of them. People have to accept that evil exists in the world and prepare themselves not only to accept it does exist, but what are we individually going to do to stop it if we encounter it. The government will not protect us. The police cannot arrive fast enough. We do not need gun laws. We need informed elected officials who live in reality.


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