Skip to main content

On gun control, two places to start

By Anil Dash, Special to CNN
updated 11:05 AM EST, Tue December 18, 2012
Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. Candles burn next to a lighted tree at a makeshift shrine in Newtown, Connecticut, commemorating the victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
HIDE CAPTION
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
Reaction to Newtown school killings
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Anil Dash: People revert to old arguments on gun control, but there are 2 areas of agreement
  • He says in social network chats people agree: gun buyers should have mental health test
  • He says other area of agreement includes examining gun distribution channels
  • Dash: Stop demonizing the other side of the issue; just start with these two simple ideas

Editor's note: Anil Dash is an entrepreneur and writer in New York. He blogs at dashes.com Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- I'm writing about some changes we need to make in the wake of the horrible school shootings in Sandy Hook.

Now stop. Take two deep breaths.

Anil Dash
Anil Dash

Stop. Don't race to the bottom of the screen to leave a comment repeating the same statements you've made after every such shooting in your life.

We have the same conversation each time. We say things that alienate our friends on Facebook. Or we get affirmative agreement from our family members. And nothing changes.

Here's the good news: There are specific, meaningful policy guidelines we can adopt as a country that nearly everyone agrees with across the political spectrum. We'll never eliminate unexpected violence, but a small number of changes could save thousands of lives.

Will Newtown change America's attitude toward guns?

I've shared two key ideas with more than half a million people across a variety of social networks online in recent days, and even over this incredibly stressful weekend with such passionate feelings behind everyone's words, I've heard nearly universal consensus on implementing these two changes.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



1. Mental health screenings before gun purchases. Because everyone in America will have health coverage next year, we can ask for a simple, straightforward clean bill of mental health before a person can buy a gun. Just like we ask drivers to take an eye test before hitting the road, we should do the same when someone wants to buy a gun. The most passionate target shooters, hunters and self-defense enthusiasts I know all agree: There are often warning signs in the boys and young men who usually carry out these acts of mass violence, and broadly implemented tests could reduce the number of them who have access to guns, without affecting any of the hundreds of millions of safe, responsible gun owners in America.

While law enforcement officials say that the guns used in Newtown had been bought legally by Adam Lanza's mother, there are instances when rampage shooters have acquired guns illegally. And we are talking here about areas for broad agreement. A place to start. Which brings us to the second key idea.

'Fun day' helps distract from tragedy
Carney: Hard to forget rawness of Newton
Newtown tragedy renews fierce debates

2. More accountable gun distribution and retailing. Since the earliest days of our country, guns have been relatively readily available, and there's no need to compromise that to improve the safety of our gun distribution infrastructure. Instead, we can look at weak points in gun distribution through which guns go from legal manufacturers to illegal use.

Gun shows that require only a brief in-person event with no live-fire training to qualify for a purchase permit, or that allow bulk purchase of weapons disrespect the care and dedication with which most gun owners teach themselves and their children. Again, a few simple changes requiring proof of real safety, such as shooting lessons before buying a weapon just makes common sense, not only to prevent irresponsible gun distribution, but to ensure that future generations of gun owners obey the traditions of the hundreds of years of millions of thoughtful, smart gun owners in America.

Lawmakers seem prepared to take on gun control

Now stop.

If you're like most Americans, you already have some canned response ready. You want to talk about a slippery slope or how guns don't kill people, people do. Or you want to rant about how barbaric and foolish gun owners are and how the Second Amendment was written in a totally different period in history.

Two deep breaths.

We've all heard all this before. When you fall back into those tired cliches, you put us back in the cycle where no progress happens. You put us back into a cycle where the responsible gun owners who don't mind some minor changes to encourage upholding the American tradition of safe shooting get stuck feeling defensive against the condescension of people who've never fired a gun.

You put us back into a cycle where hundreds of millions of thoughtful opponents of the proliferation of lethal weapons in the hands of unstable people are forced to stand in disbelief as people tell them that these kinds of tragedies are somehow inherently American and thus can't be prevented.

When I shared these two simple ideas with about half a million people across a few social networks, at first people responded out of habit, with extremists ranting about fantasies of armed insurrection against the government or of hundreds of millions of guns being melted down.

Analysis: Guns and the law

But once they read what we're actually saying, hundreds of people, from across the political spectrum, came together and agreed on these principles, that a few simple ideas can make a big difference. I've seen gun-owning Obama voters in the hip hop industry who agree with prominent Romney supporters in the financial industry who would never bring a gun into their home, with all in favor of a few common-sense guidelines.

We know we can fix things because we've made huge progress already. America is a far less violent country that it used to be. Violent crime overall is lower than it has been in decades. The reality is, the overwhelming majority of Americans kids are safe. But dozens of our kids are shot every week, so we have to do better. And just as we've made so much progress on so many intractable problems, we can fix this one, too.

Step away from the usual rehearsed responses. Stop demonizing your fellow Americans, your fellow countrymen who love their kids as much as you do.

Instead, start. Start with two simple ideas.

And start by talking to someone who disagrees with you overall on all the big issues around guns and violence in our society, and see if you can't agree on these two points. We won't solve the whole problem, but at long, long last, we'll make a small bit of meaningful progress, and will have a policy that our representatives across the political spectrum can unite behind.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anil Dash.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT