After Sandy Hook: Resist easy answers

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The Sandy Hook massacre has brought back a lot of attention to some divisive and complex national pressure points: Gun control, mental health, media violence, some sort of moral or religious decay ó all have been targeted as direct and logical causes of an illogical, aberrant act.

The debates that are raging arenít bad ones to have. Itís true the United States is unique in the world in gun ownership and gun violence. Itís true that the mental health safety net that was supposed to magically appear after deinstitutionalization never did.

Itís true that movies and video games are becoming increasingly bloody and realistic, and that we donít really know how or if that changes usersí attitudes about or propensity to violence. Itís true that fewer people participate in religious organizations today than they have in the past.

But we donít know how any of that ó individually or together ó might have contributed to Adam Lanzaís shooting rampage. And itís dangerous to pretend otherwise. To argue that changing any of those trajectories ó if we even could ó would solve the problem when we donít even fully understand what the problem is.

I donít doubt for a minute the sincerity or passion of the folks who say that Sandy Hook could have been prevented if we had more guns or fewer. Or if we had more mental health resources, better screenings, or any of the other ideas being proposed. But itís telling that these so-called solutions seem mostly to be expressions of long-held positions. Calls for action from groups and individuals who have advocated for these specific types of changes all along.

If there was some clear and easy way to prevent mass shootings like last weekís, we already would have done it. Weíd have done it after Columbine or after Virginia Tech.

The fact that we havenít isnít because we didnít take those incidents seriously, or didnít have the political will. The grim but honest truth is we will never be able to promise ourselves that Sandy Hook was the last grisly incident of its kind.

Still, we want to do something. Of course we do. But to figure out what, exactly, we must resist the temptation to hold up last weekís tragedy as new evidence to support old arguments.

We must come out from behind our ideological bunkers.

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