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By Tom Cushing

Horrific Toll. Simple Truth.

Uploaded: Dec 21, 2012

With the ancient Mayans now universally exposed as bad-at-math, it falls to me to write this week's column. It will be brief, but heart-felt, and, I suspect, not uncontroversial.

In the wake of Newtown, the national consciousness has switched from the fiscal follies du jour to a serious conversation about ? something. We may have reached some sort of tipping point, where an issue attains a self-sustaining momentum in the general direction of change. But as the national dialogue begins, we need to ask what IS the issue, really – and what sort of reform should we seek in our urgent quest to ensure that more Americans don't grieve next week? It is crucial that we get the question right, that we not ask it too narrowly, and that we understand that incremental progress will be denominated in actual lives.

Drew Curtis, the founder of the hugely popular weird news and hilarious commentary website fark.com (your scribe is a Moderator emeritus), is also an astute observer of the popular culture. He has identified what he calls the Missing White Girl Syndrome: among thousands of missing kids at any given moment, the media obsess over that very limited subset. Similarly, it's easy and appropriate to feel the awful agony of those families in Connecticut – they could be us. It is also tempting to focus reform on preventing shootings at school. But I'd submit that's way too narrow a focus. At minimum, we need to focus on keeping children -- in general, free from the scourge of gun violence – in general.

Nearly 3,000 children and teens are killed by gunfire, every year. Put in local terms, that's as if every kid who graduates from all six SRVUSD high schools was gunned-down, every year. Each of those young lives is precious; somebody grieves for every last one of them. And most of those killings did not happen at school. Schools are important as an aggregator of children. But to focus on keeping them safe there, but not everywhere, misses the point. Armed guards in schools? Only if you want to perpetuate – even institutionalize -- the violence problem. It is an index or of how low we've sunk that such a proposition would even be seriously posed.

While the causes of American violence are many, and there are powerful interests that will further obfuscate that reality and try to argue that real reform is beyond our reach, there's also a very common denominator and a pretty simple baseline truth: more guns = more homicide. It's true in every home, city, state and region in the US, and in every developed country in the world. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html I do not care whether there are 40 million or 300 million guns in this country already – every gun taken off the streets will be another gun that will never again kill on purpose, in the heat of passion, by accident or even in presumed self-defense.

We've danced with this violence devil far too freely and too long. Seniors, adults, parents, kids – potential victims all, need to shift the burden to the gun-toting minority to justify and closely regulate their lethal habits.

Happy Holidays – please hold your loved ones close.