Letter: No Single Answer to Gun Violence

To the Editor:

Appeals to ban military-style weapons are a natural outgrowth of the tragedy in Newtown. Though we’ve been through such sad events before, they’ve reminded us of the importance of controlling gun violence without sufficiently increasing our resolve to make necessary changes. Our past failures beg the question: Why haven’t we succeeded in doing something?

Many factors affect our ability to make meaningful changes, including: varied interpretations of the Second Amendment; the political strength and fears of the National Rifle Association; the lack of political courage of our leaders; citizens’ fears for safety; a lack of mental health facilities. Each theory has a group of people that accepts it as the explanation for gun violence. As we deal with both aftermath and resolution, we might consider the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant. In this story, each blind man felt a different part of an elephant (trunk, leg, ear, etc.). All the men claimed to understand and explain the true appearance of the elephant, but could only partly succeed, due to their limited perspectives. This illustrates the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single viewpoint is the complete truth.

The relative success of efforts to control smoking has similar lessons. Think of the multiple ways we combat the tobacco industry: school-based interventions, community-based interventions, advertising restrictions, mass media/public education, youth access restrictions, public smoking bans, increasing cigarette prices, tobacco excise taxes, vendor penalties, and others.

To resolve the gun access and use issue, we need a change model that incorporates diverse methods implemented by the different aspects of society and different levels of government. Recognizing the power of community in dealing with this public health problem will benefit us all.

Bob Scobie