Solutions and Legislators

So, President Obama has announced his intention to push a new assault weapons ban. This is hardly surprising – and if he succeeds it will do no more good than the previous ban did to prevent Columbine.

The only true way to prevent crimes like this, I believe, is to build community. No government solution can ever possibly prevent them, because government’s methods are all founded in punishment and suspicion. They can’t watch everyone all the time, and the more they try the more they will drive people – both nefarious and the good at heart – underground. What we need are communities in which people actually know each other. How many of us in suburban America have never spoken so much as a word to the people right across the street? I think suburban America today is a desert of loneliness and solitude, and that is a breeding ground for the sick and deranged. We think that between fast food and 911 and television we don’t need to both knowing real people around us.

I have spent time living out off the power grid, in a place where the population density is measured in single digits per square mile. Out there you need to know your neighbors, because the authorities aren’t going to show up to help you with anything. I not only know my neighbors out there – all of them – but I also know their dogs and their friends and relatives who occasionally visit. It is by far the most cohesive and supportive community I have ever had the privilege to be a part of, despite being composed of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and lifestyles. A tragedy like Sandy Hook will never happen out there despite the staggering number of guns scattered through the area because we know each other and we would have no trouble seeing it coming. Whether it is someone who is simply evil or someone with mental illness, that community knows its own and would have both the opportunity and initiative to either stop or help a would-be killer.

To pass more laws restricting weapons ownership or mandating mental health examinations or locking up schools is simply grasping at straws. It is the notion that we should all retreat yet further into our homes in fear of what our neighbor might be up to. It is surrendering our responsibility as social beings to some bureaucratic regime simply because we can’t put forth the effort to shoulder that responsibility ourselves. Do you want to prevent the next rampage? Then stop looking to legislators and start talking to the people around you.