Asking better questions can save lives

More often than not, it seems to me, when things are awry in the realm of public policy, it’s because we’re asking the wrong question. Not because our politicians can’t understand the problems, or can’t formulate possible solutions, and not even because they can’t find common ground. The real problem is that we’re starting in the wrong place.

As we mourn yet another totally avoidable mass shooting of innocent schoolchildren by a terrorist with a legally-owned military weapon – this time in Florida – many in the media are going through the predictable motions of asking how this can be prevented from happening yet again. But, the plain fact of the matter is that that question has already been asked and answered, many times.

Take Montreal, in 1989. The shooting dead of fourteen female students in an engineering school was the catalyst for sweeping firearms restrictions across Canada. In 1996, the massacre with military weapons of thirty-five people in Port Arthur, Tasmania, caused similar legislative change across Australia. Also in 1996, the horrific murder of sixteen students and their teacher in a school in Dunblane, Scotland, inspired similar changes across the UK.

In all three cases, the Australian, British and Canadian politicians of the day decided that it should never happen again and, in all three cases, the sweeping legislative changes made mass school shootings a thing of the past.

So, we know the problem – the proliferation of and easy access to firearms that belong on the battlefield – and we know the solution: a ban on those weapons, and a firm system of registration to regulate access to other weapons. I have no intention of discussing the second amendment here, because (i) its rights are limited, and so capable of being regulated, and (ii) I’m bored senseless of hearing about it.

So, if that’s not the right question, what is? Let me give you a clue. In the last 24 hours, there have been the predictable, meaningless utterances of sympathy from the president, the well-known senator from Florida and the governor. But each one of these three people – who now expect us to join them in earnest thoughts and prayers – have a track record of voting against the most basic legislative measures that would make our children safer. Indeed, the president has made only one legislative change on this issue in his first year, and that was to remove restrictions introduced by his predecessor to restrict access to guns by people with a record of mental illness.

These cowards are not worthy of our thoughts or our prayers, not until they skip their phony sympathy and actually take action to make our schools safe havens rather than slaughterhouses.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the better question is this: how can we remove from office at the earliest opportunity any and all politicians who are prepared for our children to die as the price of so-called freedom?

The horrible truth is that firearms are fetishized and idolized by too many Americans who should know better but have developed a pathetic, childish and self-obsessed vision of what it means to be free. To these people, the freedom to swagger into their local restaurant with a gun in a holster – see my previous post on this site – is more important than the freedom to attend school without the risk of being gunned down.

The proposition really is this simple: weapons that were designed for the battlefield should be used there and nowhere else. Anyone who takes such a weapon into a school is the very definition of a terrorist.

Which leads me to another good question: are your local representatives in favor of arming terrorists or protecting schoolchildren? As we prepare for midterm elections just nine months from now, this would be a good time to find out.

So, let’s resolve to stop asking questions that are already answered. Instead, let’s ask the more pertinent questions and – when your local representatives come asking for your vote – give them the answer they deserve.

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

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