Column: Polarization Paralyses Proper Perspective

Updated: 04/03/2014 11:58 AM KSTP.com By: Phil Malat

American polarization appears to be rearing its ugly head once again.  It has moved ever closer to taking center stage in the debate over solutions to curbing the epidemic gun violence that has gripped our nation.

Let’s begin with those who oppose any new gun laws. 

The December 21 statement by National Rifle Association’s Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, is most apropos. 

He began by discussing the cultural decay that basically feeds and gives rise to the mental illness of those who commit these atrocities.  His point was well taken in that all of the following have come to define our current culture.

1. A vastly diminished sense of spirituality
2. A breakdown in respectful, dignified, civilized behavior
3. A glorification of violence
4. A huge proliferation and acceptance for the use of drugs – legal and illegal
5. A once unimaginable divorce rate
6. A breakdown in parenting and a cohesive family structure
7. An acceptance of the refusal to hold people accountable for their behavior

In the latter portion of his statement he proposes not a balanced approach with regards any restrictions on the sale and distribution of the weaponry responsible for the most efficient destruction of human life, but encouraged the use of more weapons to solve the problem. 

Because his latter remarks have been viewed by most as being disingenuous and over-the-top, his credibility has been seriously called into question.  Discrediting him as a responsible spokesman has further led to discrediting his entire message even though his opening remarks were valid. 

From the gun control advocates we hear the argument that stricter gun laws should solve the problem in its entirety.  Their single focus has been placed on:

1. The elimination of assault, automatic and semiautomatic weapons
2. Limiting the size of ammunition clips
3. Ending gun shows and private gun sales
4. Ensuring background checks for emotional, physiological or criminal history precede all gun purchases. 
5. The creation of a national gun owner data base
6. Periodic license renewals to ensure existing requirements are being met at the time of renewal. 

While it is reasonable to assume that all these measures will indeed save lives there is no evidence to suggest they will end spree shootings. 

Our best hope of achieving that end will require not only stiffer gun regulations but addressing the factors contributing to unbalanced thinking and mental illness as part of any viable solution.  Yet, many of the gun control advocates bristle at any suggestion that cultural and societal decay are primary contributors to gun carnage.  

Polarization only paralyses clear thinking.  This is a complex, multi-faceted horror for which there is no easy fix - a fix that will be impossible if we refuse to abandon the polarizing effects of a single solution approach and self-centered interests – a fix that is crucial if we are to save lives and once again live in a far more peaceful society.

Phil Malat is a columnist for KSTP.com.