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Gun violence is cultural, not constitutional problem

2013-02-02T20:09:00Z 2013-02-02T20:15:21Z Gun violence is cultural, not constitutional problemNapa Valley Register Editorial Board Napa Valley Register
February 02, 2013 8:09 pm  • 

An appreciable reduction in gun violence in this country requires cultural change, not constitutional amendment.

The right for U.S. citizens to bear arms through the Second Amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008. And it won’t be challenged by the Congressional Gun Violence Task Force, led by local Rep. Mike Thompson, which is set to make its legislative recommendations this week.

Nor should it be challenged.

This country’s problem of gun violence doesn’t come from the law. It is rooted within our culture.

Legislative action can help steer us toward a community safer from an individual’s evil intent, but ultimately it is up to us to decide such tyranny is no longer acceptable.

For example, a national ban on assault weapons could, in the short term, reduce gun violence incidents, but it doesn’t address our all-too pervasive appetite for these guns and the destruction they wield. Congress and the public should focus first on the factors that lead individuals toward execrable violence, such as the nation witnessed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 schoolchildren and six adults were shot and killed in December.

Limiting the availability and effectiveness of the instruments used in such mayhem is important, but secondary to quelling the motives behind them. Even a comprehensive assault weapon ban will leave four million such devices remaining on our nation’s streets.

Throughout the national conversation on gun violence that has followed the shooting at Sandy Hook, California has been held up as an example for having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. The state’s 10-round magazine limit is already in legislation before the U.S. Senate and will likely be part of the House task force’s recommendations as well. California’s “armed and prohibited” list, which identifies gun-owning individuals who have criminal histories or other factors that prohibit gun possession, has also been widely praised and may be present in future nationwide legislation.

We must also embrace a sophisticated and universal background check for the purchase of firearms — perhaps similar to the one used in California. Thompson, D-St. Helena, said last week he believes technology can improve systems already in place and can create a platform for new national standards.

But Congressional testimony last week showed that even in California where guns laws are considered tight, 600,000 guns were sold last year and nearly 20,000 individuals “prohibited” from owning guns still possess them.

New laws and better enforcement can help, but ultimately significant cultural change must address the root causes for violence. Getting rid of certain weapons or limiting their ammunition won’t rid us of the desire for either.

As a society, we must extinguish our thirst for stylized violence in what we consume as entertainment. We must identify those who have disengaged from society and connect troubled individuals with the help they need. We must better support our mental health care services. We must improve our education system to lower expulsion rates, keeping troubled youth connected to counseling services. We must foster communication within our neighborhoods, social circles, service clubs, public forums and government agencies.

Examples of effective community dialogue and prevention exist throughout the nation. They must be celebrated, exchanged and expanded.

We must step away from the extreme. More guns are no more the answer than no guns. Understanding opposing points of view will make us safer and create better opportunity for compromise.

Thompson, a Vietnam War veteran, hunter and gun owner, last week called assault weapons “ugly” and questioned why anyone would want to possess such a thing.

The answers to that question will prove most valuable in pursuit of fundamental change.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. Dean Weingarten
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    Dean Weingarten - February 03, 2013 6:26 am
    Gun violence is cultural, and does not require legislation as the Register is promoting. It is not guns or the desire for effective guns that creates the violence in our cultures.

    There are a number of different cultures in the United States, and violence is a problem in only a distinct few of them. Most murders occur in particularly violent Black and Hispanic subcultures. Remove those murders and the United States murder rate is right in the middle of the European murder rates. It really is about culture, not guns.

    Here is an article that shows how the differences between Europe and the United States occur:

    European Murder Rates Compared to the United States: Demographics vs Guns


  2. rocketman
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    rocketman - February 03, 2013 6:50 am
    "Thompson, a Vietnam War veteran, hunter and gun owner, last week called assault weapons “ugly” and questioned why anyone would want to possess such a thing."

    "The answers to that question will prove most valuable in pursuit of fundamental change."

    The calling of assault weapons "ugly" is merely a political stance that deems the weapon to be useless or nothing of significance in order of importance. Therefore an "ugly" weapon must be an evil weapon.

    The fact of the matter is, that military style semi-automatic weapons are neither ugly or useless. The popularity of these rifles are extreme and I say that with a sense of understanding. These rifles are rarely used in crimes, yet they have a place in gun ownership due to their popularity and functionality. The AR 15 rifle is no more evil than the mini 14 ranch rifle, but because of its cosmetic features, it is deemed to be ugly, therefore evil.

    That is the problem with the characterization by politicians like Mike. No foundation.
  3. glenroy
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    glenroy - February 03, 2013 8:05 am
    That’s the Register I remembered wishing I could deliver instead of the T-H waking up at 3:30 on a 2 1/2 hour route for half what the NVR carriers made in 1/4th the time….
    It is a culture issue exacerbated, if not created by liberalism…some of this nation’s leading Political Scientists, liberal at that, recognized the proposed Civil Rights Act as it was passed, with Republican support as well, would destroy low income, welfare, 'family unit'…it did in urban and rural areas. In rural areas it did not destroy the communities like it did Harlem, Watts, Hunter’s Point, Richmond.
    When the drug dealing gangster drives up and down, back and forth everyday in these liberal create ghettos … leaves quit an impression on 4th and 5th generation welfare dependent kid who wants more than a handout…our urban areas business is crime and they all pack iron, some a lot of iron.
    There will be some 2,000 murders just in the Bay Area roughly 90% will be in the urban war zones.
  4. gettingreal
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    gettingreal - February 03, 2013 9:10 am
    NVR said; "Nearly 20,000 individuals "prohibited" from owning guns still possess them."
    Sounds like we need to enforce the laws already on our books. Thompson's Napa meeting concluded that we need to give more attention to mental health. I doubt you'll hear much about that since infringing on the rights of legal, sane gun owners is the real agenda.
  5. napa1957
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    napa1957 - February 03, 2013 11:55 am
    I always find it interesting that no one, in an official capacity that I have noticed, is really talking about the video and movie industries contribution to the killing culture in America. Perhaps too much revenue flowing from these businesses into the campaign coffers of our elected officials?
    Must be something?
  6. a teacher
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    a teacher - February 03, 2013 1:28 pm
    Undoubtedly, culture is part of the problem of gun violence. However, the culture you are referring to is available in many parts of the world, but the gun violence is not happening there. Canadians, for instance, see the same TV shows, play the same video games, but their level of gun violence is far less than here. It's more than just "culture".

    The fact is that in America, anyone can get a gun. California has strict gun laws, but it's neighbor states do not. There are, in fact, plenty of gun laws in this country, but they have been written to be ineffective and the agencies in charge of enforcing them have been hamstrung by the very people who say we have plenty of laws. That's the culture that we have to look at.

    It's one thing to have liberty, but the price of liberty is responsibility. I don't see a lot of that.
  7. selim_sivad
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    selim_sivad - February 03, 2013 2:52 pm
    What a bunch of nonsense, as if America is the only place with a "thirst for stylized violence". Most of the world is saturated in American culture; our movies, music, and video games are ubiquitous (if not readily available) in many countries.

    Yet no first-world nation has gun violence nearly as bad as we have. Our issues are two-fold: an emaciated mental health support net, and an open geyser of gun sales. And guess what: the right wing fights fixing both issues. They refuse to properly fund mental health services to keep "crazies off the street", and they fight tooth and nail against any reasonable gun sale checks.

    And with the NVR towing their party line, I'm glad I don't give this rag a penny of my money. Blaming the easy targets and avoiding the real issues to avoid a cranky backlash against the vocal gun-toting (and, coincidentally, also Tea Party) minority is just the kind of spineless call I'd expect from the NVR. What's next, blaming song lyrics for teenage sex?
  8. rocketman
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    rocketman - February 03, 2013 4:53 pm
    .............that's because you have no respect for the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.........
  9. a teacher
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    a teacher - February 03, 2013 7:19 pm
    Really? One raises a question about liberty and responsibility and so they have no respect for the Constitution? Is that how it works?
  10. napa1957
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    napa1957 - February 03, 2013 8:13 pm
    Do I understand you correctly? We have laws, but they have been written by our legislators/government to be ineffective. We have agencies (again, assuming they are government agencies) who do not enforce the laws because they have been "hamstrung" by someone, unnamed. Sounds an awful lot like our lawmakers and the agencies who are charged with enforcing the laws need to put on their big-boy-panties and do what we have elected them to do.
  11. napa333
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    napa333 - February 03, 2013 8:28 pm
    a teacher, you should know by now that if you have a different opinion you will be attacked and vilified. Anyone who blames one political party for all our ills shows low intelligence a lack of understanding of our political system and our problems and a very small world view. But I guess that's the kind of person you turn into when all you do is watch fox news and listen to rush limbug
  12. a teacher
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    a teacher - February 03, 2013 10:25 pm
    It all depends on who you believe congress serves, the voters or the people who fund their campaigns. Up until 2006 the president installed the director of the ATF. The gun lobby got congress to change the rule so that the ATF director had to be approved by congress. The ATF hasn't had a director since. It's some what difficult to enforce the laws when the agency in charge of enforcing the laws is leaderless (on purpose).

    It's also pointless to have strict gun laws when your neighbors have lax ones. Why not have a national rule (or at least standards followed by the states) similar to those to own and operate a car? You'd have to demonstrate an ability to use and maintain a fire arm. You'd have to demonstrate your knowledge of the laws and regs of firearms ownership. You'd have to have insurance. The enforcement would be that you can't purchase a weapon or ammunition unless you produce a license.
  13. rocketman
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    rocketman - February 04, 2013 6:40 am
    nice try a teacher...........you know what I said and you know what I mean..........
  14. rocketman
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    rocketman - February 04, 2013 6:43 am
    ............."the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"......

    Where in the Constitution does it talk about opperating cars?????
  15. rocketman
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    rocketman - February 04, 2013 6:45 am
    ..........or perhaps and understanding of the liberal agenda..........
  16. OK sooner
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    OK sooner - February 04, 2013 8:25 am
    There are many reasons for American gun violence, and every party is to blame.
    "Helping" the poor without demanding accountablity on their part is one reason. Women can now have babies without a father.
    Our societys divorce rate does the samething. It tears apart the family. Is this not where we get our white middle class mass murders?
    If you accept Government handouts, if you have been divorced after having a child, you have proved that YOU are not stable enough to have a gun. YOU cannot live your life as a responsable adult. But the second adm. protects YOUR rights.
    There was a time when the murder rate was lower in the big cities. A few hippy kids grew pot and sold it cheap, a few college students made basement LSD and sold it or gave it away. When street gangs got into the drug trade the murder rates jumped 200% in less than 10 years.
    You try to protect people from themselves with drug laws. Yes people will die on drugs if legal, but fewer will be murderd.
  17. gettingreal
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    gettingreal - February 04, 2013 12:29 pm
    Well you have to get the truth from somewhere. You sure won't get it from the liberal media.
  18. a teacher
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    a teacher - February 04, 2013 5:03 pm
    How is it that pointing out how the gun lobby subverts the very laws they wish to be enforced showing a lack of respect for the 2nd amendment? Can you show us where I have said we should get rid of the 2nd amendment? I've said I'd like to see a world without guns, but even I know that's a bit naive.

    You must live in a black and white world where you're either all in or not on board. No in between.
  19. a teacher
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    a teacher - February 04, 2013 5:06 pm
    That's silly. Cars were not invented until the late 19th century.

    The constitution says you have a right to bear arms. Fair enough. It doesn't say that the people DON'T have the right to ensure that those arms are born safely and responsibly.
  20. MyWrites
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    MyWrites - February 12, 2013 7:40 pm
    "liberal media" being any news source that doesn't agree with you.
  21. Sickothis
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    Sickothis - February 19, 2013 11:58 am
    You're right, it IS cultural. We have a culture that glorifies guns, a culture of NRA money promoting how "cool" guns are, and a culture that hates a black guy in the White House and that created a gun buying frenzy when he was elected. So yes, we have a cultural issue of TOO MANY GUNS!

    Rural folks can blow away as many critters as they want for all I care, but when you can buy a .50 over the counter in Nevada there is a serious problem. It's not about "assault weapons," it's about profligate weaponry.

    Unless the Zombies come, then I want a tank.
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