Sometimes when feeling overwhelmed or helpless we take action that may seem to fix a problem. Like adding a mundane task to a to-do list for the sake of crossing it off, it gives us a sense of achievement even though nothing substantiative has been accomplished. Nevertheless, we feel pleased with ourselves and carry on.
The problem, of course, is that once we’ve gone on our merry way the real work — the maintenance — remains.
Chula Vista councilwoman Pat Aguilar’s proposal to have the city buy back guns is gaining momentum. The Police Department says it’s closer to finding partners who will provide incentives to people who turn in their firearms, no questions asked.
It’ll be interesting to see if local associates of the Mexican drug cartel or street gangs, in exchange for their weapons, choose gift cards to area restaurants or if they instead choose a night at the movies.
Gun buy-back programs aren’t a ridiculous notion. If nothing else they do provide a psychological boost. When you’re feeling powerless and hopeless, as many people were in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, doing something — anything — can be empowering.
But it’s that same feeling of accomplishment that can lead to the nasty pitfall of complacency.
Chula Vista’s won’t be the first buy-back program in the country or even the county. Countless others have preceded it. And yet Sandy Hook still happened. And, in all likelihood, other mass shootings will happen no matter how many pistols and shotguns local municipalities barter for and destroy.
The danger lies in not addressing the real issues. That, of course, requires identifying the problems.
We live in a culture in which gun violence is a commodity. Some of the highest grossing video games are first-person shooters, where the player-hero wins when he kills.
We live in society in which a movie can be called “Bullet to the Head” and entertainment executives don’t blink twice about such a title.
Ours is a community where we cut social programs that provide mental health screening and long-term care. We medicate the troubled ones and pass them along, hoping the latest prescription and dosage will do the trick.
We glorify violence when it suits our needs (remember the celebrations when Osama bin Laden was assasinated?) and mourn the bloodshed when it hits too close to home.
We live in a world where life is cheap. Until we figure out why, all the bought-back guns in the city won’t solve our problems.