President Obama’s remarks today on the “common sense” things that need to be done “to help prevent mass shootings” and “reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country” included simple quotations from selected kids, followed by these declarative statements:
This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.
This generation, of course, will be judged for what it does or, more likely, for what it doesn’t do, in response to what we have seen so many times, most recently in Newtown, Connecticut.
Only the most unrepentant reactionary would reject the idea that we need to change, to change our approach, to change our thinking, to ultimately change our laws to confront the violent reality we see.
Not only did President Obama propose legislation — “a universal background check”; “a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines” — he also signed directives that will help professionals make us a little safer.
All good, all necessary. But what may have the most long-term effect, in terms of reducing the violence we have seen, and what I have yet to hear anyone discuss, is found in these remarks by the President:
And while year after year those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to de-fund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it.
And Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds. We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.
“We don’t benefit from ignorance.” No, as a society, we don’t benefit from ignorance. But some among us do benefit from it, like, say, manufacturers of assault weapons sold to the public or purveyors of ridiculously violent video games. And that’s why some oppose using science — the only reliable guide we have to problem solving — to try to find out what causes so much of the violence we see in our culture.
As a civilization, science is our friend, ignorance our enemy. But as we shall soon see when Congress takes up legislation to make us a more sane, more civil society, ignorance has many friends.