By G. Michael Dobbs
In the wake of the murders in Newtown, Conn., I've listened and read a number of reactions and I've come to a state of real despair.
First, I'm shocked and saddened that we as a society have become so used to killing rampages such as this one – we've had eight such incidents this year alone – that it took the deaths of 20 school children to finally get people to seriously speak about a solution.
I don't believe that additional gun control legislation would solve the situation. As we now know the guns used in the Newtown murders were legal and registered. Personally, I have no problem with responsible people legally owning guns, whether they are hunters or like to go the target range. I accept that some people feel safer with a gun in the house.
It is a fact that guns are too available to a number of people who should not have them and the long-standing law enforcement issue has been how to stem the flow of illegal weapons. We are still working on that problem.
In the wake of the murders, gun sales have reportedly skyrocketed as people apparently believe they must now stock up on guns in light of possible new restrictions.
There have been many discussions about violence in popular culture and how depictions of violence have affected behaviors. There are serious concerns that sexual and violent imagery in movies, television shows, music videos and video games have made their mark on how people act.
There is no doubt America is a violent society. In a 2003 study conducted by the UCLA School of Public Health, the homicide rates were 6.9 times higher in the U.S. than other "high income countries." These statistics were driven by the use of firearms.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a pundit, made a statement that people shouldn't be surprised by the violence in Newtown because "we have systematically removed God from our schools." After some criticism, he later amended the statement by explaining, "I'm not suggesting by any stretch that if we had prayer in schools regularly as we once did that this wouldn't have happened, because you can't have that kind of cause and effect. But we've created an atmosphere in this country where the only time you want to invoke God's name is after the tragedy."
So, a merciful God allowed the brutal death of 20 children as a way to force greater top of mind awareness of Him? I'll allow the theologians to tackle that argument, but I wonder how many of those children went to Sunday School? How many of their parents brought them to church or temple? Why did Huckabee jump to the conclusion that a supposed lack of faith in this community, in this nation, helped cause this incident?
According to a 2007 report from the Pew Institute, "The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey also shows that more than half of Americans rank the importance of religion very highly in their lives, attend religious services regularly and pray daily. Furthermore, a plurality of adults who are affiliated with a religion want their religion to preserve its traditional beliefs and practices rather than either adjust to new circumstances or adopt modern beliefs and practices. Moreover, significant minorities across nearly all religious traditions see a conflict between being a devout person and living in a modern society."
I think it's safe to say that a religious life does play a significant role in American life.
There are those who almost immediately advanced the argument that we all should carry weapons as a means of protecting ourselves. If we all walked around with a pistol strapped to our side we wouldn't be bothered. Even in some Bizarro world where that kind of logic was true, would you want to live in that country?
The facts may be still unfolding about the case, but the broader issues that have been around awhile are coming out of the shadows. It's clear we have to discuss mental health issues and to better treat them. It's apparent that more thorough background checks for gun sales are needed.
At the core, though, we have to ask ourselves "Why is this happening here?" We need to find that answer.
Although this Christmas season has certainly been colored by the terrible recent events, I hope that it will indeed be a season of peace and a promise for a better 2013.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.