Opinion: Pondering roots of gun violence

Gun Rights

Gun and violence have become ubiquitous words. It is appalling America is known from abroad to have a culture in which the procurement and ownership of guns lead to the pervasive killing of students, worshipers and innocent bystanders, causing premature death in thousands. In the face of this prevalence, gun violence is declared a public health crisis, an epidemic of evil with hand weapons being the instruments.

Every tragic and sorrowful shooting prompts governmental action followed by disagreements and inaction. Citizens are acting, instead. Some activists want an Office of Gun Prevention. Some communities are establishing community intervention programs starting with young people who are on both ends of the gun, as drivers and victims of violence. These programs help with finding employment, tutoring, recreation, watching for red flags and teaching a better way to live. Appropriate consequences are meted out so there is no repeat of criminal activity. All these steps, as well as safe gun storage and red flag laws, bans on ghost guns and semi-automatic rifles and the pursuit of universal background checks are the right direction.

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Congress passed the first major gun safety legislation in years, however even the NRA stated, “It does little to address violent crime.” Sure, access to fewer guns by fewer people mean fewer deaths. But gun violence is not going away. With so many guns in circulation, hundreds of gun laws written and not passed by Congress and the pressure of the gun lobby make enforcement of the new act questionable about reducing gun incidents.

Mass shootings in my lifetime make me pause to reflect upon what lays on the path chosen by people who develop a mission to kill. Complexities herein make the prevention of gun violence daunting. As long as the societal ills of poverty, insufficient support of families going through trauma, and missing early warning signs exist, there is no path to another way of being. These suggest a need for investments in social services, lifting the burden of poverty which give parents time to be at home supervising their children, and early intervention to manage aggression, family and social trauma.

If using hand weapons is of epidemic proportions, efforts to mitigate it are essential. It means getting to the root of why crimes are committed in the first place. Those committing shootings have been determined to be impulsive and immature youths and adults with problem histories, all who found ease in purchasing guns. Warning signs were there — bullying and being bullied, depression, adverse childhood experiences, stress at home and an interest in violence and hate. If these markers are identified, individuals can be assessed and managed as early as possible. Research about gun violence prevention can use data to identify potential threatening people.

Intervention with preschool students is the best approach. Restoring kindness and respect from one human being to another and the value each of us has begins young. Even before a baby’s birth, available and affordable prenatal care, lessons about baby care and development and the importance of love and security ensure a healthy start in family life.

Change doesn’t happen with a new law, government policy or committee, because many people have open disregard. Regulations do not change people, but people can change people. When people choose to respect and value each other, they turn away from violence. Change happens to individuals from the inside out; it can’t be legislated or mandated. Ingrained kindness and inclusivity place worth on each human being, one to another. These simple acts have the power to turn the direction of violent crime.

Joanne Patrick is a Danbury resident.

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