Sometimes difficult questions don't have an immediate answer, but it is also perhaps these questions that are the most important to ask. In light of the recent shooting in Providence that claimed the life of a 24-year-old Warwick woman, Miya
Sometimes difficult questions don’t have an immediate answer, but it is also perhaps these questions that are the most important to ask.
In light of the recent shooting in Providence that claimed the life of a 24-year-old Warwick woman, Miya Brophy-Baermann, we feel obligated to ask the question: why is gun violence surging here and across the country right now? What, if anything, can be done to stop it?
The drive-by shooting in the early morning hours on Sunday was the 13th instance of violence leading to a homicide in Providence this year. On the same morning, another five young people were harmed in a separate shooting near the Cranston line on Reservoir Avenue, and two separate stabbings also left victims in their wake. It was a shocking relapse of senseless violence that shattered the period of relative calmness felt in the city and surrounding areas of late.
Of course, the same old debate will heat up once again. One side will say only more gun-wielding civilians and more heavily-armed police officers will put an end to violent crime, while the other side will demand laws making it harder to purchase firearms or decrying gun ownership outright. In the middle is a million shades of each stance, with no clear consensus on whether or not there is actually anything that can be done to put an end to violence within a society where such actions have always been present, lurking beneath the placid surface of everyday life waiting to strike fear into our hearts at a moment’s notice.
We see good points in aspects of every argument. As a vast majority of Americans agree, guns should not be readily accessible to everyone – particularly those with a history of violent crime, gang affiliation or certain types of mental illness. And as another vast majority of Americans agree, law enforcement is a necessary requirement for keeping a peaceful society. Sometimes, the only thing that will stop a criminal with a weapon intent on causing harm is a peacekeeper with a weapon of their own.
But that is about where the certainty ends with this issue.
How many police can you employ before you strain municipal budgets and begin to feel as though you live in a police state? How many laws can you put on the books before you start to simply over-legislate a problem that, quite frankly, cannot be legislated out of existence. So long as our Constitution remains the rule of law, firearms will be available for purchase. And as long as there are firearms, whether they have a five-round magazine or they take a month of background checks to acquire, someone with hate in their heart will eventually use them as a tool of destruction.
So what we have left is the arduous challenge to avoid the simple, knee-jerk responses that crop up from both sides of the political spectrum and search for a solution that is more meaningful and effective.
Calling for more police is a reactive approach akin to throwing more firefighters at a perpetually burning wildfire. It does not address the cause of the fire. Just like solely legislating the ownership of guns does not address the reasons why someone would take a firearm – perhaps one they legally acquired through all the proper channels, or got illegally because they don’t care about breaking the law – and turn it against someone with the intent of killing them.
The problem at the heart of the violence is societal, which is perhaps why we have a hard time facing it. Our society has a tendency, far more than any other advanced, first-world nation on our planet, of turning everyday citizens into agents of chaos intent on causing pain and suffering to their fellow human beings.
Is that because of wealth inequality? Is it because of a lack of good opportunities in the job market? Is it because of a general sense of hopelessness exacerbated by socioeconomic status and, more recently, because of the pandemic? Is it because of our inability to prioritize rehabilitation and re-entry into society over public shaming and incarceration? Is it our glorification of violence as a means to an end in our works of fiction?
If we had to guess, these factors all likely play a role, but we will never truly begin to solve gun violence until we can have difficult discussions with one another. Not to try and convince one another to accept our politically expedient, half-baked solution to the problem, but rather to accept with all honesty that nobody actually has the answer, and work diligently on accurately diagnosing this nightmarish problem first.