Do we need a Department of Homeland Safety and Sanity?By Harvey Yoder
He looked for a crop of justice, and saw them murdering each other. He looked for a harvest of righteousness, and heard only the moans of victims. — Isaiah 5:7 (The Message)
Can you imagine the nation’s outrage if the crescendo of killings that have occurred in places such as Columbine High; Virginia Tech; Phoenix; Aurora, Colo.; and, as of today Oak Creek, Wisc., had been carried out by known members of terrorist organizations?
When it came to fighting terrorism after 9/11, people in the United States didn’t just throw up their hands in helplessness, but immediately went about creating a new agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and empowered it to do whatever necessary to prevent future disasters of that kind. Many now believe that department has gone too far in creating restrictions and regulations limiting our freedoms and our rights to privacy, but most still support the nation’s response.
So why not more aggressive action to prevent Colorado-style killings?
I hear many pundits, politicians and even preachers simply express feelings of helplessness over this kind of carnage. Seeing it largely as the work of psychotic individuals, they conclude that no amount of additional screening for gun or ammunition purchases — and no stricter laws limiting the kinds of weapons or the size of ammunition clips available — could help prevent these tragedies. It’s a moral and a mental health problem, they say, and the common wisdom is that neither morality nor sanity can be legislated.
While there is some truth to that notion, laws are not only intended to prevent harm but to make a statement about a society’s values. I can’t believe that supporting unlimited access to combat weapons (designed only to kill as efficiently as possible) is consistent with placing a high value on human life. And even if some semi-automatic assault weapons were approved for hunting, do they need to be equipped with a hundred rounds of ammunition?
I doubt the framers of the Constitution had such means of massive destruction in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. I believe they would share our outrage over the fact that we are 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun here in the U.S. than in Japan, and six times more likely than in Germany. And they would not attribute that to our being more violent or more deranged than citizens of other nations.
Maybe we need a “Department of Homeland Safety and Sanity” that would be charged with addressing the above issues, along with finding better ways of detecting and treating psycho-terrorists before they engage in their senseless slaughter. The “DHSS” might also want to look at the issue of pornographic violence in media entertainment, such as in the movie being shown on the night of the Aurora horror.
Adam Gopnik recently wrote in The New Yorker, “The killings will go on; the cell phones in the pockets of dead children will continue to ring; and now parents can be a little frightened every time their kids go to a midnight screening of a movie designed to show them what stylized fun violence can be.”
Gopnik isn’t advocating outright censorship, but is appealing for a major shift in our attitudes toward this kind of entertainment, and believes the cost of movie violence has simply become too high.
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