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Newtown Continued: Thoughts for Those Who'd Like to Change the Conversation About Guns in America

Changing the status quo on guns or anything else is doable, but difficult. Here are some personal thoughts on the matter of change.

If you’re interested in making a difference in this guns-in-America conversation, here are some thoughts:

Yes, it is Christmas time, and preparations take center stage such as each of us prepare for our own family rituals at this season.

Christmas is often a confusing time, desperately depressing for many, far too much ‘noise’ and competing priorities. We each have our own narrative. “Christmas shopping” is a major one.

Today and forward, the funerals continue in Newtown CT.

This morning some adult men were joking about going out to buy guns before they were made illegal; I had just read an excellent commentary in the Minneapolis Star Tribune from someone with Asperger’s Syndrome about sensitivity to those with such ailments. I wondered if the guns-trumping-everything bunch can see themselves as mentally ill….

As we continue to be overwhelmed by the horrific facts of Newtown, it is easy to become paralyzed into inaction, or, equally terrible, to rigidly refuse to consider other points of view. Neither mitigate towards change in the status quo that led to all of the hideous acts, Newtown only the most recent.

This is an opportunity for deep conversation and some change in course in our country, state and community in many areas: guns, mental health (including every single one of us), video games, sanctioned bullying demonstrated by adults in sundry ways… Even in my small corner of the communications universe, my first post on this topic last Saturday brought some comments; and the same column used in the Woodbury (MN) Patch has ignited continuing conversation (44 comments as of early Dec. 19).

Here are some other ‘threads’ not commonly seen to consider as this conversation hopefully continues.

1. The Status Quo is Very, Very Powerful

Newtown is not the first gun crisis we have experienced, and it won’t be the last. Those who do not want meaningful change know the simplest tactic is to simply wait out the initial turmoil – and life will go on, unchanged. Relevant, I think, is the handout included with this post from a workshop I attended perhaps 40 years ago which demonstrates the dynamics of response to a disaster. I prefer to leave it in its original form. It speaks for itself. This is a flow chart to spend some time contemplating, in my opinion.

We are the politics we like to criticize and judge, more so than the politicians. Change is possible, but takes lots of work, and persistence.

Ditto to the crisis sequence is the very real problem of instituting real and continued Change. Another old handout I have from the same time period years ago showed what we all know is true: change is exceedingly difficult, even if one knows that beyond the resistance to change is a better something. We embrace the status quo (think over-eating, etc) because it is very hard to change behaviors. The initial response to change is reduced efficiency (or pleasure, etc), which is why most of us do not actually change those behaviors we know that we should.

2. We will not Rid Our Nation of Guns. The best we can expect is a much healthier attitude towards them.

The guns the Connecticut Mom apparently kept to protect her from potential hostile others, ended up being the instrument of her own death, and of many others….

I have never owned a gun, and never will. I qualified as expert with the M-1 in the military (WWII vintage, something like a deer rifle with a small ammo clip).

A recurring image is at my 87-year old Uncle’s farm house this Fall. He showed me his guns. He had, if I recall correctly, six of them, including 30.06 and 12-gauge shotgun and some old-timers from his Grandpa’s day. My Uncle is no gun nut, and the guns were not for self-defense. He occasionally hunted for deer or for pheasants on his own property – that was it. He didn’t keep a stash of ammo. If he needed a box of shotgun shells, that’s what he bought – not cases.

He and I didn’t talk about the National Rifle Association (NRA), to which he has belonged, off and on. It is pretty clear to me, though, that he has not much time for the present NRA.

3. The NRA and the Gun Industry Needs to be Called to Account.

This, too, will be hard. Our weapons industry provides lots of jobs. Think the problem of change.

The current version of the NRA is not all that old. When I first became teacher union staff in 1972, I can remember the first visits to our national headquarters in Washington DC. Across 16th Street, then, about a mile north of the White House, was an old standard issue office building housing the then-National Rifle Association. That NRA was a very different organization than todays version.

4. Is Change Possible? Yes. Is It Easy? No. Can it be Delegated to Someone Else? No way. It’s in each of our courts.

Some years ago I happened across a wonderful book, “Why We Can’t Wait”, written by Martin Luther King Jr in 1963-64 about 1963 in America. It remains in print and available. I highly recommend it.

MLK was then 34 years old. In his final chapter, “The Days to Come”, he talks a lot about political engagement and political leaders like Eisenhower, Kennedy and LBJ. At page 132-33, commenting on JFK’s assessment of the importance of Bull Connor to the Civil Rights successes, King says this: “It was the people who moved their leaders, not the leaders who moved the people.”

This is the powerful message to anyone who wants to impact change. It is the responsibility of each one of us to make our small bit of difference. It takes more than just signing a petition, or saying something else should do it. It is solely up to each and every one of us.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kris Janisch December 19, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Here's the statement released yesterday by the NRA, which is planning a Friday press conference. The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

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