The Future of Safety

It seems that every few weeks we have another newsworthy shouting. The frequency appears to be on the increase. Such events are almost commonplace.

Analysis following those events often includes statements like “‘Americans’ love their guns.” A statement conveying a pessimism about any significant restrictions on these weapons.

Since the Las Vegas shooting, I have been thinking about weapons and safety in the future. I am an optimist. I believe we can produce a safer tomorrow. But it is clear to me, as a writer and human being, our current violence trajectory must change, if we possess any hope for a tomorrow based on dignity, compassion, and respect.

Two thoughts occur to me. One about how our people developed such a dependence on guns; and the other about reducing violence. So how did a nation founded on justice get so violent–the antithesis of just behavior?

When I was a kid most of the radio dramas, and early TV shows promoted for children were “Westerns.” (before Howdy Doody or Mr. Rodgers; and yes, I am old enough to remember radio dramas).

Most plots are similar. Some bad characters with guns would come riding into town shooting up things and threatening people. The townspeople were all milk-toast types who just wanted to get along. But soon one of the outlaws would do something unforgivable (often having to do with the virtue of one of the locals).

Then someone confronts the gunslinger who insists on a showdown at noon on Main Street. They meet the next day and either prove that right will always win, or not. Then Marshal Dillon or Annie Oakley show up to “… put things right.”

Even as a kid I remember wondering why the town lets the bully terrorize them? So, they are all shaking in their boots, and poor shots, but there are 45 to 100 of them, and only one “gunslinger” and a few cronies. With everyone working together they could route out the bad guys.

So, from the frontier days, the U.S. has been taught that bad guys misuse gun and good guys (with better morals and skills) overpower the outlaws. One problem is, nowadays, we can’t depend on the good guy being available when the abuser shows up. Particularly true if he walks into places where people are unarmed, or they ambush from the seclusion of hotel rooms, movie theaters or towers. Thus, people think they need a weapon to defend themselves, and the more mass killings, the more pressure for individuals to “be prepared to defend themselves.”

Well, that’s the mythology we’ve grown up with. It is clear our present path leads to greater chaos and the dystopian futures predicted by many. So, how do we exchange this philosophy, for one giving us a more optimistic future?

In my version, we come to grips with the need for personal safety and keeping weapons out of the hands of those who would abuse them.

Some suggest today’s violence problem is largely about mental health. Well of course it is. In my future, everyone sees a counselor at least once per year. But for now, how do we use stable mental health as a condition for gun ownership? I may be well-balanced at the moment. Everyone is subject to loss of stability with events such as an illness (physical or mental), emotional disruption, or some unanticipated unpleasant life change (divorce, death of a loved one, demotion or firing). An imbalance comes, and the available weapon becomes a temptation often producing disaster.

In the version of the future portrayed in The Doorkeeper’s Secrets, there are few guns. Law enforcement uses stunners (an advanced form of Tasers); active duty military has weapons when in a war zone or training; hunters may own hunting weapons that are securely locked up at a hunting preserve; plus, everyone wears “smart outer garments” preventing assault or injury.

Perhaps one key is to stop glorifying the “rugged individual” who does everything on his or her own. I believe there is more than one of us because we need each other. I need and benefit from the work, ideas, and values of many people I will never meet–so do you. From the food I eat to the car I drive to the electrons bringing this message to you–we depend on the gifts of others (even if we pay for them). Society will work for more people when we become more collaborative.

Collaboration will be the subject next week.

 

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