You’re probably familiar with the Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant. If not, here’s a synopsis: a group of blind men encounters an elephant for the first time, and attempt to describe it. Each man can only feel one part of the elephant – one the tusk, one the tail, one the leg, one the trunk. And in describing their experiences, they come to wildly different conclusions. One, who touched the tail, said the elephant was like a snake. Another, who wrapped his arms around the leg, said no, the elephant was like a tree trunk. The one with the tusk said, no you’re both wrong… it’s like a smooth piece of wood.
In some variations of the tale, the disagreement becomes so heated, the men actually come to blows, and accuse each other of dishonesty because the shared experience was so different for each man. Not one of them had the complete picture, even though each thought he did.
The elephant and the blind men is a fairly good metaphor for the predictable outcry following the latest school shooting, in which 17 people lost their lives in Parkland, Florida. Everyone has a different view of the problem, but no one can truly identify it. Some say it’s a mental health issue. Some blame guns, and cry for “sensible gun control.” Some say it’s all because of the breakdown of society. And, just like the blind men and the elephant, each is partially right, but for some reason, seem to resist trying to put it all together. So people on all parts of the political spectrum point fingers, argue about what the problem really is, and scream “SOMEBODY DO SOMEHING!”
But do what, exactly? This is not a problem with a simple solution. There is not one single thing that can be done which will substantially make one bit of difference. Some people point at lawmakers, furious because they either lack the “courage” to “do something,” or because they are all in the pockets of the NRA.
Both of these views are simplistic and naive. Do you really believe that, if a member of Congress could come up with a magic one-size-fits-all solution, he or she would not do it? Do you really believe that not one member of Congress, who has received any sort of donation from the NRA wouldn’t put forth legislation of some sort – if any such legislation would work?
Or, we could ban the AR-15, because nobody needs an assault rifle. Okay, great. Ban ’em. Outlaw their sale. Now, you can feel good because you’ve done something. Problem is, there are all those AR-15s still out there. Not to mention more than 300,000,000 other guns.
No! We have to repeal the 2nd Amendment! Confiscate all guns from everyone!
Good luck with that. The most law-abiding citizens would likely give up their guns without resistance. But how many officers of the law will be killed when they go to confiscate those guns? How many people will hide their firearms? And we’re only talking about legally-purchased weapons. Oh, I’m sure the bad guys will give up their guns right away! Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a fair fight, because only the law-abiding citizens, legally owning guns will be disarmed.
Australia has often been cited as a country in which gun control was successful. Well, not so fast. There was a voluntary gun buy-back program in Australia, which was moderately successful. Then, a violent black market in guns blossomed.
It’s society’s fault! We need to take a close look at mental health laws, and DO SOMETHING! What, exactly? Okay, people with a serious mental health problem should not be able to get their hands on guns. Fine. How do you implement that? We can start with strict laws and background checks. Sure. That’ll do the trick.
It’s social media! It’s because we’ve taken God out of our schools! It’s because of bullying! It’s because the American family is falling apart!
Who’s right? Everyone. Every single blind man touching a different part of the elephant is right in his or her part of a shared experience. But everyone is wrong too. We like our problems to have simple, “DO SOMETHING” solutions. There are problems, however to which there is no simple solution.
The first thing we have to do is quit pointing fingers of blame. We have to realize that there is no simple solution. Then we must calm down, and accurately describe the elephant. We all want the same thing. We all want the kids to be safe at school. But all the hatred, vitriol, and blame-fixing in the world will not make that happen. It will not be easy. There is no quick fix.
Meanwhile, as of January 22, 2018, in Chicago there had been 141 people shot and 25 killed. At that point in 2017, 211 people had been shot and 41 killed, according to the Chicago Tribune. How many of the guns used in those killings do you suppose were obtained legally?