Washington insiders were talking about gun control on Candy Crowley’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning. They’ve been talking about gun control for a long time, but the conversation has picked up since Dec. 14. It’s almost all they talk about when the focus turns to how to prevent another Newtown.
Crowley’s panelists acknowledged that the gun debate has overshadowed other issues, but no one seemed to see any change in focus.
In some ways, it’s easier for politicians to focus on guns, despite how difficult the issue may seem on the surface. It is difficult, but not as difficult as, say, fixing the mental health system, especially as it applies to the young, or funding research to help us to understand how the mind of a killer works, or, if we get to that point, wading into the ethical swamp of what to do with likely killers before they kill.
On Monday, PBS kicked off a week devoted to Newtown and some of the issues surrounding that more recent December day of infamy, when a troubled young man blasted his way into a Connecticut elementary school and killed 27 people, including himself.
Yes, PBS considers the gun issue, with a film detailing the nation’s long history of guns, stretching back to the arrival of the first European settlers.
But the big take-away from all the film specials is that the problem of violence in the United States is only partially about guns. We can pass tighter gun laws, we can take some kind of action to crack down on who has access to violent entertainment, but, from what any viewer can only conclude from all the PBS documentaries, it won’t be enough. It may not even be the correct course of action.
Here are previews of some of the key components of the PBS package:
“After Newtown: Guns in America,” airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday, makes what may be obvious points, that guns have been an important part of American history since the arrival of the first settlers. It offers the two major points of view on the gun control debate and probably leans a bit toward the side advocating greater control, but its goal is primarily informative, not argumentative.
The film ends with a segment on Cody Wilson, who uses a 3D printer to create plastic replicas of component parts for assault weapons. They are as good as the original parts and can be used to assemble a weapon from scratch. He intends to distribute the plans for the gun parts on the Internet.
“Mind of a Rampage Killer,” on “Nova” at 9 p.m. Wednesday, is not only informative, but inevitably maddening to anyone who wants to know why one person becomes a killer and another never commits a violent act in his life. There are no convenient “diagnostic boxes,” as Harvard’s Josh Buckholtz puts it, for determining what precise combination of mental ingredients will lead to a rampage killer.
“The Path to Violence,” also airing Wednesday night (at 10 p.m.), is the perfect follow-up to the “Nova” special because it outlines some of the ways we can stop future Newtowns from happening.
The issues surrounding Newtown are so complex that it may seem easier to take one side or another on the seemingly simpler issue of gun control. But as the documentaries in this week of programming from PBS make clear, there is much more to talk about than guns alone. The answers are not likely to come easily, inexpensively or, alas, quickly.
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