The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has – as tragedies such as these always do – inspired calls for a renewed debate about American gun policies. Some push back against those calls, making accusations about politicizing a tragedy.
I really don’t see the problem with using tragedies such as these as an impetus for public debate. There’s nothing inappropriate about it. These sort of incidents should inspire debate about how they could be prevented. Those saying “now isn’t the time” are wrong. In a self-governing society, it’s always the right time for debate.
But to the issue of gun control specifically, ask yourself this question: Why don’t we debate banning automobiles after tragic car crashes?
The answer, of course, is because (barring some mechanical default) we don’t blame cars for car crashes. We blame the driver. We have debates about drunk driving and distracted driving and traffic laws, all in the name of having safe roads.
When it comes to shooting incidents such as what happened in Connecticut, the knee-jerk reaction from many is to blame the guns rather than the shooter. Which makes about as much sense as blaming the car for the actions of the drunk at the wheel.
In the coming days we’ll know more about what motivated the Connecticut shooter (whose identity, at the time of this writing, still isn’t 100% confirmed) and we’ll know about about what motivated him to murder all those innocent people. And perhaps it will be appropriate to debate those motivations, and to ask if public policy could have been used to address them.
More than likely we’re going to find out that there is no solution. Because sometimes bad things just happen.