[Problem Solving for Congress]

April 2018

    In a freak accident, the engine of a commercial aircraft explodes, and one person is killed. An immediate investigation begins to see if other aircraft might have the same problem.

    One Starbucks employee causes a needless confrontation with some customers. Starbucks immediately puts their employees through a day of sensitivity training.

     A bunch of people are killed by a person wielding a military-style assault weapon. Our lawmakers immediately... 

   Oh, right.

*   *   * 

 Here are some interesting facts. Did you know that, in the current Congress, every U. S. Senator has at least a four-year college degree, as do 95 percent of our Representatives? Sixty-six out of 100 Senators have law degrees; more than half the Representatives do. In the U. S. population as a whole, only about a third of people over 25 have a four-year degree or better.

   Now, it's been shown many times over that a college education doesn't necessarily make a person smarter. Still, with that much Learning in Congress, and with the rest of us almost Illiterate by comparison, you'd think our Leaders could Lead - that they could actually identify problems, design solutions, and at least get some work done for the rest of us. I seem to remember a time in my younger days when something akin to that actually happened. (But that was quite a while ago, and my memory may be playing tricks on me.)

   One example of where we might need our Leaders to Lead:  we seem to have a lot of school kids, theater goers, mall shoppers, concert attendees, etc., dying in big numbers. It looks to me like it might be indicative of some type of problem. I only have a four-year college degree, but in my career I had lots of experience identifying problems, then designing solutions.  At the risk of seeming presumptuous, and butting in where I might not be welcome, I'd like to give this one a shot. I'll put it in a letter to Congress, but you're welcome to read it, too.

*   *   *

   Dear Congress,

     It seems to me that we might have a fairly serious problem. So far, only school kids seem to be talking about it, so maybe I'm wrong. But let me take a stab at it. Forgive me if I seem uppity about this; I know I'm not a Leader. Here goes.

   STATEMENT: Almost every week, I hear some new report of a whole lot of people dying at some public venue - a school, a theater, a concert, a shopping mall. I don't want to be alarmist, because I watch the evening news, and know that lots of people die every day from drugs, alcohol, hit-and-run accidents, auto crashes, gang violence, killings by police, wars, illness, and even old age. Still, this seems a little different. Because there are "outbreaks" in various places, and each "outbreak" involves quite a few fatalities, it seems to be behaving like an epidemic. If it was a disease epidemic, I think we might be very worried now, and might be looking very, very seriously at how we might stop it or at least contain it. Am I right?

 THE PROBLEM, MORE SPECIFICALLY. It is... Okay, wait. As soon as I say "guns," some of you will actually hear the phrase "Second Amendment," your eyes will glaze over, and you won't take in another word I write. If you are one of those who actually believes the bullshit mythology that has grown up around that one sentence in the Bill of Rights (right before the equally significant  and highly topical sentence prohibiting quartering soldiers in private houses in peacetime), you might as well quit reading right now. I'll just be wasting your time. For any of you who have escaped, or are at least considering escape, from that trap, read on.

   Wait, maybe I can keep a few of you reading if I first state the things this problem isn't before I say what I think it is. No, wait; I have to say it: the problem is GUNS. But, trust me, keep reading; it isn't what you think I'm going to say.

   1. The problem is not with all guns. Luckily, to take some kind of control over the problem, we don't have to attack either the American mythology of the Wild West frontiersman/woman, or the overwhelming American fear of greeting a day unarmed.

  2. The problem is not some great, organized terrorist plot. While it might look like there is some connection between all the "outbreaks," closer inspection shows clearly that all - or nearly all - are local events with local causes.

  3. There is absolutely no way to predict where the next massacre will occur. If you've already had your local massacre, you are probably safe from another one. If you haven't had your local event yet, your chances of having the experience are pretty small, probably millions to one. But Somebody will be involved in the next massacre, and no mental health exam, no background check, no policemen in schools, or no pistol-packing teachers will stop it.

 THE SOLUTION. There isn't one, if the expectation is that there will never be another innocent person murdered with a gun. When the preacher invented "Original Sin," and the gun apologist followed up by declaring that "Guns don't kill people; people do," the stage was set for people to indeed kill people - and in more effective ways than were available previously. In America, the gun manufacturers invention of new meanings for the Second Amendment guaranteed that the United States would far outpace the rest of the world in how often, and how many, people killed people.

   While there isn't a complete solution, there is a very simple, very logical way to greatly reduce the number of massacres by gunfire: cut down on the AVAILABILITY of the kind of weapon that can create massacres by gunfire. I mean, military-style assault rifles that can fire off hundreds of bullets in a few seconds. How about:

     a. Prohibiting the sale of such guns in the United States?

     b. Starting a voluntary buy-back program to get some of those guns out of circulation?

     c. Like the law treats bartenders who let customers get drunk and subsequently kill people with their cars, making it a potentially criminal act to be the supplier (wittingly or unwittingly) of a gun used in a mass murder?


I wrote to a bunch of you elected officials about this apparent problem. Most of you didn't respond. A few did, and some had well thought out lists of things that might be done to address the problem. Some of the lists even included limiting assault rifles, but on none of them was it near the top of the list. The prevailing idea seems to be that (if we have to do anything) we can try background checks, then maybe mental health reviews, then policemen in classrooms, and so on down the list, hoping that one or more does some good (or that the school kids lose interest). Look at it this way: if this was an Ebola outbreak - and if it was very clear what the problem was - we wouldn't spend a year treating the population for Smallpox, then another year treating for Scarlet Fever, then another year for Tuberculosis, before finally getting around to treating for Ebola. Some of those other things might be good things to do, but not to treat an Ebola outbreak. Similarly... 

Well, goddammit, do I have to spell it out for you??????????


A Concerned Citizen




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