Column: Fathers and sons, sons and guns
Originally published Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 05:59a.m.
Many blame mass shootings on an overabundance of easily available guns and call for more stringent background checks. Some see the root of the problem as poor or absent systems for caring for and monitoring the mentally ill. Others say the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun and recommend arming teachers. Many fiercely defend access to and ownership of guns based on their interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, on their beliefs about the relationship between personal freedom and government authority.
I see all these positions as having some element of truth or validity, each a piece of a complicated puzzle, no one piece being the absolute right answer. The puzzle will most likely never come together to form a coherent national gun policy while various segments of public opinion are grouped immovably behind just one piece of the puzzle. There is no one magic bullet for reducing gun violence in America. In the current environment, the collaboration and compromise required to come to some satisfactory plan of action are anathema to those on opposite sides of the issue.
Economics also play a role in the gun controversy. Recently major outlets for sale of firearms have decided to change their policies on the type of weapons they sell and the required age for gun purchase. While principled moral positions undoubtedly played into these decisions, rest assured they also included marketing strategy and forward-looking evaluation of bottom-line impact. Their calculations included not only their current customer base but also the Millennials who’ll be their customers in the next decade.
Certainly, the gun debate could not be what it is without the financial and political involvement of the National Rifle Association. Not only does the NRA have deep pockets to influence lawmakers, it also very effectively conflates the financial interests of gun manufacturers with a deep-seated thread in American culture: gun ownership as the physical symbol of self-sufficiency, strength in the face of encroaching outside forces, what some would describe as “manhood.”
I recently came across another opinion about the cause of mass shootings, a less frequently discussed piece of the puzzle that deals with that very issue of manhood: the relationship (or lack thereof) between shooters and their fathers. Not all but most of recent mass shootings have been carried out by young men with conspicuously absent fathers. Nothing excuses their actions but having an adult male to model what it means to be a “good man” surely could have tempered their distorted viewpoint.
I suspect people on all sides of the gun issue could agree a good man works to sustain himself and his family, respects himself and others, know his talents and limitations, does what he says he will. He neither exploits others nor allows himself to be taken advantage of.
Our community has a group that specializes in making sure young men find a positive male model for making life choices. Like all the other pieces of the gun issue, it isn’t a cure-all, but perhaps this is one piece that deserves more attention and credit for what they do.
Mission of Boys to Men Arizona:
“Boys to Men is a nonprofit, non-sectarian program that guides boys aged 13 to 17 through their crucial teen years toward a healthy manhood. We provide weekend Rites of Passage, bi-monthly mentoring activities and wilderness outings. Our program gives boys a chance to make a conscious choice about the kind of man he wants to become. We support that choice with healthy male role models and group mentoring.”
Alexandra Piacenza is a 10-year resident of Prescott, retired from a career in technical writing and strategic planning. Your comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.