A letter…

Dear President Obama,

Today is the day to have the conversation, to take gun policy seriously. This does not mean banning all guns, but developing a coherent policy regarding deadly weapons.

We have strict controls on all manner of dangerous and deadly things, controls that respond to the potential harms of those objects and substances. We have a robust and evolving system of regulation for hazardous materials, all manner of other weaponry, and even everyday objects that could cause harm. We ban dangerous toys and unsafe practices; we have serious and robust regulations regarding automobiles with the intent to reduce the risk of public harm.

These policies do not abridge our rights, but simply clarify the responsibilities that both precede and follow from those rights. Guns are one of the few objects that seem to be immune from this logical, coherent, and publicly-minded treatment. I am not asking you to ban all guns (even if my personal feeling is that guns and all weapons are abhorrent); I simply beg of you to lead the profound and meaningful discussion that is long overdue, a discussion that leads to a necessary public policy. I beseech you to stand up for the public good, which means recognizing that guns may have their places (hunting, target shooting, and similar activities) but that public safety demands robust regulation.

Every day until a meaningful public policy is the day for this conversation. There is no day without tragedy and loss, though certainly some catastrophes stand out in the public consciousness. Every loss of life is a horror, and the fact that we as a nation are not taking every possible step to minimize and prevent the risks is a monumental tragedy and a national shame.

While the causes of these tragedies are certainly complex, the means by which they are carried out is simple. No public policy can address every contingency, and root causes are often elusive and subjective. In the case of gun-related violence, though, there is a material common denominator, one that with rational, data-based policy can be made less dangerous to society at large. As the various policies of countries around the world demonstrate, there are many ways to achieve the needed ends, but what is manifestly clear is that our current policy is not working.

So once more, I beg of you to stand up and speak seriously and openly, not just about loss but about the very nature of our rights and the fundamental principles of our society. It seems unlikely that any progress can be made until we take seriously the very nature of public policy, public safety, and the basic notion of the common good.

Thomas Knauer

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