When the tragic shooting that shattered the community in Aurora, Colorado, not more than two weeks ago, the news media emphasized the stories of the survivors and the steps community members were taking to deal with such a horrific loss of life. Many newscasters and politicians, including President Obama swore to focus the Aurora shooting on the victims, survivors and their families, not the gunman and his crime. They pledge to individualize the incident and focus on the human aspects of it.
President Obama and Governor Romney’s stances on gun control laws, as well as, current U.S. policies were questioned only momentarily. Major news outlets flitted to a few segments on gun control policy and quickly flitted backed to the human-interest aspects of the shooting.
Until this past Sunday, many would have been satisfied with the news media coverage and Obama and Romney responding to the tragedy by paying their respects without injecting policy prescriptions into the conversations.
This may no longer be acceptable. Seven people, including the gunman, were killed at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday. Four were killed inside the temple. Three were killed outside while three others are in critical condition in a nearby hospital. In addition, a police officer was also shot at the scene. Meanwhile, reports are indicating that the gunman may have carried out this crime with just one handgun.
Now that a second horrendous shooting, that some are calling an act of domestic terrorism, has rippled through an American community, can we continue to sidestep a serious national conversation on the efficacy of our gun laws?
Coincidentally, on the same day as the shootings at the Sikh temple, a coalition of mayors released a new TV ad calling for a concrete plan on gun control from our political leaders. They are absolutely correct in making this call: It is time that our policymakers and our populace think critically about the state of gun-related criminal activity in the United States and its relationship to current policy.
In the U.S., we have more guns per capita than almost anywhere else in the world: There are 88 guns per every 100 Americans. The second next country is Yemen with 55 guns per capita. We also have more gun related incidences than comparable nations. We have three homicides per 100,000 persons, which is ten times more than in India and twenty times more than England.
Many attribute the acts of the shooter in Aurora and perhaps to the shooter in Wisconsin to the individual’s psychologically disturbed state. But do we really have a higher number of psychopaths than these countries? (Fareed Zakaria has already made a compelling argument on the contrary).
Our elected government and policy makers should use these moments of great grief as a means of self-reflection. Rather than focusing solely on the highly emotional and psychological aspects of these national tragedies, we must seize this opportunity to truly renovate how we provide for our public safety.