Grassroots gun control : thoughts of a bystander

Yet another mass shooting on a school campus (Oregon).

I'd like share a few thoughts - though I'm not well-informed on the issue.

First : here we have another tragedy, yet more victims of our own political impasse.  We can't seem to get beyond the gridlock brought on by the NRA and its ideology - that is, the notion of Americans' inalienable right to own guns, and the idea that this right is under threat from liberals, police and politicians.

Second : listening to the traumatized public response by local leadership in the wake of the outrage, I kept hearing this message - "We don't even want to talk about the perpetrator.  His name shall not be mentioned."  I think I understand the emotional and practical motives behind this position : first, we want to cast out the agent of this suffering - we want to exile him from the community he has harmed.  Second, we don't want to give any media publicity to the deranged persons who engage in such deeds : their pathological narcissism & hunger for publicity is often a feature of these crimes.

Third : these two aspects underline the fact that what we have is both a political impasse and a community trauma.  Perhaps we need a new approach, a sort of end-run around the NRA.

I haven't done enough research even to say whether or not this is a new idea - probably not.  But here's the concept :

Maybe we need a grassroots, locally-based initiative to deal with the weapons in our communities.  Not a project focused on political initiatives, legislation, or regulation - that's already happening -  but rather a community-driven effort, which makes use of recent advances in data-collection and social networking.

I'm not suggesting any let-up on the anti-NRA, pro-gun-control political work.  I support that movement wholeheartedly.  This would be a complementary effort.

Neighborhoods and communities would take ownership of the problem.  They would do so by conducting a voluntary inventory/public awareness campaign.  Each neighborhood, each community, each town would take responsibility for its own weapons oversight - and would share their information with each other, and with local law enforcement.

The idea would be to take an inventory - street by street, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, town by town, region by region.  It would be done by local volunteers.  The questions on the survey would be as simple and direct as possible :

1.  Are their guns in your home?
2.  How many such weapons?
3.  Who owns and takes responsibility for them?
4.  What is your reason for owning a weapon?  What is its use?
5.  What can we do to help prevent gun violence?

It would be essential to undertake this on a grassroots basis : that is, not simply in cyberspace, on some social-media platform.  These of course would also be essential tools - but there would have to be an actual, human, local resource or center of operations.  Each neighborhood would need to be aware of the project and take responsibility for it (in collaboration with others).

Initially I imagined the survey would also try to discover if there was evidence - criminal, behavioral, etc. - that the presence of guns in a particular home might be an immediate threat to the community.  But there are reasons why this part would probably be inadvisable and unworkable.

Nevertheless, I do think one facet of the problem lies not with the weapons, but with the people who obtain them.  The NRA uses this argument in their propaganda - but there's a reason they do.  Addressing the psychological, behavioral, and social pathologies which lead people to commit such crimes seems absolutely necessary.

I realize there are law-enforcement and social-service programs already in effect, which try to deal with this dimension.  But possibly something equally local and community-based could be attempted in tandem with a neighborhood weapons inventory.

How do we undertake preventive measures - how do we work with people consumed by rage, irrationality, hatred?  How do we prevent them from acting on their violent delusions?  How do we address their problems?  I don't have the answers.  But the inevitable (and understandable) ostracism, judgement, and expulsion of perpetrators - after crimes are committed - seems insufficient.

Are there innovative means by which local communities could forestall such tragedies, without infringing at all on anyone's rights or liberties?  Can we take action - on a neighborhood basis - to confront the problem directly?  Rather than standing by, passively, while the lugubrious, gridlocked political debate grinds on & on?

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