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Opinion

Gun control debate more than just guns

February 7, 2013

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults has sparked a debate concerning gun control. Although there are valid discussion points on the issue of gun control, this constant back-and-forth ultimately serves as a distraction from the real issue. If America is serious about putting an end to this unnecessary violence, we must begin to reconnect with one another on the most basic human level.

The facts of the investigation have caused policymakers to explore different options for gun regulation. Adam Lanza, the shooter, entered the school with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, and he had enough ammunition to kill almost every student in the elementary school, if he had been given enough time. The loss of life in this situation would have been significantly diminished had he not possessed an assault rifle.

An assault rifle is defined as “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use” (New Oxford American Dictionary). Because these weapons are designed for military use, there is absolutely no practical reason for why a civilian should have one. If anything is going to be resolved on the issue of gun control, it will be the implementation of an assault weapons ban. Citizens should have the right to keep and bear arms such as handguns, hunting rifles and other similar types of guns. However, they should not be allowed to keep and bear assault weapons or semi-automatic weapons that are capable of claiming hundreds of lives in a matter of seconds.

While it is obvious that an assault weapons ban would diminish the loss of life in these tragic situations, it would not prevent these incidents from occurring altogether. The guns themselves are not the main problem.

The main problem lies within the people who get their hands on the guns. It is clear that the citizens behind these heinous crimes typically have major psychological issues. More often than not, the people who surround these citizens on a daily basis are aware of these detrimental characteristics. However, instead of reaching out to these troubled people, we tend to alienate them from the rest of society. This alienation only serves to worsen the problem, thus making it more likely that the circumstance will have a negative outcome.

In Lanza’s case, it was very apparent that he came from a difficult family circumstance. His mother was a gun enthusiast and survivalist who rarely allowed outsiders to enter their home, and Lanza hardly left the home. In addition, it was found that his mother had attempted to commit him to a mental institution shortly before the shooting took place. Despite knowing all of these things to be true, nobody in the neighborhood or community attempted to reach out to Lanza or his family because the American public has a stigma for those who are mentally ill. Instead, we chose to ignore these people because we often believe it is a professional’s job to deal with their psychological issues.

If even one person would have reached out to the Lanza family to let them know that somebody cared, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting may have been preventable.
Letting a person know that he or she is valued and accepted can make a monumental difference in the course of that person’s life. However, if we do not even make the attempt to connect with the people around us, we will never know what impact we may have had the opportunity to make.

Clearly reaching out to the troubled people around us will not stop every shooting in the United States, but it is a very good start. All too often people look at incidents such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and fail to see how their actions could have made a difference.

Instead, we choose to ignore our responsibility in the outcome by diverting our attention to peripheral issues, such as gun control. Until the American people begin to reach out to one another and reconnect with those who appear to be struggling, this perpetual cycle of violence will continue to plague our nation.

Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.