As we settled in to write today’s post—a lively item about workplace distractions—the news hit: More than two dozen people, including 20 children, had been shot to death at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Suddenly, the topic we were contemplating seemed frivolous and inappropriate. So we turn instead to one that, even while we sit in shock and our hearts are heavy, clearly needs to be discussed: What can we do as a society to stop such senseless gun violence?
Peter Drucker well understood the inherent power of firearms. “The one compelling argument against guns is, of course, that they hurt people,” he wrote.
At the same time, Drucker also understood the immense power of the gun lobby. “The single-cause mass movement does not trade votes,” he noted. “That its cause does not enjoy wide popular support is of no concern to the single-cause pressure group—something neither politicians nor journalists understand as a rule. Polls showing that the great majority of Americans are in favor of gun control . . . are irrelevant. The candidate who promises to support their cause gets their vote; the candidate who either does not promise to do so or hedges is being opposed. Nothing else counts.”
In the face of this political reality, what can we do? What will we do?
Some fear we might simply bury our heads—yet again. “This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.—we acknowledge them; we are briefly shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them,” Alex Koppelman wrote in The New Yorker in the immediate aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy, in a piece headlined “The Right Day to Talk About Guns.”
“At some point,” Koppelman added, “we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It’s not either. It’s cowardice.”
Drucker, for his part, likewise worried about the all-too-human tendency to avoid confronting the most fraught subjects. “The hard shell of moral callousness may be necessary to survival. Without it we might yield to paralyzing despair,” Drucker observed. “But moral numbness is also a terrible disease of mind and soul, and a terrible danger.”
What do you think could have prevented today’s mass shooting—or could prevent future ones?