The events over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left many looking to a higher power for answers.
For some, that high power resides on a spiritual level in the form of religion. For an increasing number of others, the higher power is government.
Both are reasonable reactions to a tragedy, and despite what detractors of the mention of “thoughts and prayers” say, there is value in both.
In some ways, it is more gratifying to look to government for answers. Given our system of government is “of the people, by the people and for the people,” government is an extension of ourselves.
We made it. We elected people. We paid taxes. We do not expect perfection, but we do have an expectation of striving for perfection.
On the other hand, as society has become increasingly secular, we do not recognize the value in institutions like the church, the family and the community. Like it or not, there are a lot of other things going on in the culture that have steered many Americans away from those long-standing fixtures of society.
With that vacuum, there is an increasing call for the government to pick up the slack. It is not just as a response to incidents like El Paso and Dayton, but in providing for the most basic of needs like food and shelter. That fuels the notion that the government must immediately act in the wake of these tragedies.
The problem is, though the government is powerful, it is also political. Politics impact the motivations of actions. Are we calling for XYZ to happen because it is the best course of action given the circumstances, or will it make our poll numbers increase heading into the next election?
Case in point: Immediately after Saturday’s gun violence incidents, nearly the entire lineup of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls called on a response from either President Donald Trump or the Republican-led U.S. Senate under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.
The problem is there is only so much the federal government can do to respond to this senseless bloodshed. It is constrained by the Constitution.
On gun violence, as long as we have a Second Amendment, the power to regulate guns is tricky.
It is a good thing that in America, an all-powerful government does have limitations. It prevents knee-jerk reactions, which are underway in our politics as we speak. At any given moment in time in America after one of the incidents, lawmakers would have banned guns if not for the Second Amendment.
If Democrats, and some Republicans, were serious about an actual fix for these mass shootings, why not call for the repeal of the Second Amendment? Why make owning a firearm a right and not a privilege, like driving?
Instead, they nibble at the edges for a policy fix: closing the gun show loophole, banning semi-automatic weapons, instituting stricter background checks, etc.
Those seemingly are convenient gripes for anti-gun political operatives to use to create the appearance of being proactive without outright saying repeal the Second Amendment.
They know to call for the repeal of the Second Amendment, at least for now, is political suicide.
Such as it is, it is a problem with looking to government to solve society’s woes — the politics, the limitations, the slow-moving nature of the bureaucracy, the gridlock.
Here is how it goes: We have a mass shooting. Politicians call for something to be done. That goes on for a few days, and the climate is very toxic. Once the shock of the incident wears off, gun violence becomes a back-burner issue without any improvements. Then we have the next shooting.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Without the ability or even willingness to do something Draconian on guns specifically, we ought to at least take the opportunity to look elsewhere. Could it be the hyper-partisanship in politics that makes someone do something like that? Perhaps, but even then the waters are muddied as both sides try to claim, “Hey, look at what your politics made that guy do?”
As if that’s going to win many hearts and minds over to the other side.
What is the root cause? What would lead an individual to commit atrocities that a sane, rational individual would be horrified even thinking about?
There are 100 different potential variables — the retreat of religion in day-to-day living, the rise of virtual reality and video games, the collapse of the nuclear family, the social isolation of these shooters and the evolution of certain types of firearms.
When it comes to troubled individuals, they need to get help. That could come in the form of a government program. It could also very well come in the form of accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Automatic firearms first showed up on the scene in the late 1800s. Bloodlust from disturbed individuals long predates that. It is an unfortunate aspect of some human beings, and the human element is overlooked as we grapple with these problems.
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