January 13th, 2013
09:17 AM ET

Letters to the President #1455: 'Taking responsibility for gun violence'

Reporter's Note: Vice President Biden spent a fair portion of last week presiding over discussions about gun violence.

Dear Mr. President,

I suppose people have never been big on taking responsibility. Most of us don’t want to admit that we are wrong, let alone that we have done wrong. I certainly know that few of you politicians are very keen on it. Ha!

Still, it’s on my mind because I have watched coverage of Biden’s talks this week about gun violence, and once again I find myself thinking that as much as well–intentioned folks from many sectors may genuinely want to do something about this, it is just too easy to suggest someone else must act first; that the problem originates in someone else’s kitchen.

The gun lobby likes to point to weaknesses in our mental health systems. They’re right. We do have problems identifying, treating, and keeping track of the dangerously mentally ill.

The entertainment industry likes to point out that millions of Americans enjoy movies filled with gun play, and countless teens dive into first-person shooter games with no attendant savagery in real life. They’re right, too. Most people can separate truth from fiction pretty well.

Gun control advocates like to point to the successes of some gun laws in some places and explain away their failures in other places as unique to the particular terrain and demographics. They’re also right. What works in one town may not work in the next for a wide and complicated array of reasons.

Politicians blame the private sector for its irresponsibility, the private sector blames deranged individuals, institutions blame the families, families blame society, and the march of troubles goes on.

I guess I’ll never live long enough to see it, but I’d love to see a conference on any major issue that began with all the parties involved admitting and accepting what they’ve done wrong…or at least the possibility that they may have made mistakes along the way. Because, honestly, I think some issues…gun violence being one of them…are so complex, it is ludicrous to suggest they can be solved by requiring one giant change from one giant player. It is at least worth considering that gun violence may be about all of the things cited above. Only when everyone is ready to take responsibility and openly consider what changes are needed…whether or not those changes affect their interests…will we likely move closer to agreeing on a plan.

Hope everything is good for you and the family. Call if you’re around and want to go for a bike ride or something.