The Shooting Off On Gun Control

Back from vacation means back to reality – and a barrage of sobering news.

First, my heart died a little for the people of Aurora, Colo. I join the ranks of Americans who wonder how we have come to this – a nation rocked yet again by a massive and horrific act of gun violence.

While a town reels with grief, anger and pain, and we all wonder why this happens again and again and again, the familiar contentious and defensive posturing begins.

Why is it we can’t have a conversation about guns and gun control in this country without being bombarded with self-righteous (and loud) rhetoric?

Why is it that the only voices we hear come from the extremes on both sides of the spectrum? It’s no surprise anymore that extremists try to shout each other down. The real surprise is we seem to tolerate it. We see it in politics, in TV news, in talk radio. These used to be vehicles to project the thoughts and opinions of real people. Now they are platforms for those who have learned that the key to “success” is to shout, talk without taking a breath, talk over the other person – no real conversation involved.

I’ve gotten so fed up with this appallingly poor behavior that I no longer sit passively through such diatribes – I mute or change the channel immediately. All-or-nothing talk gets us – that’s right, nothing.

Gun control is a complex issue that cannot and should not be dumbed down – by either the right or the left. It’s complicated. All the more reason for everyone to stop yelling – and start listening.

Here’s something that’s not complicated at all: Joe Paterno did wrong. Period. He knew his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was doing something very bad to innocent young boys. He had a chance – many chances – to stop the evil and save the children, and yet he did not. In fact, according to the investigation report by former FBI head Louis Freeh, Paterno did more than ignore the problem, he actively persuaded top officials at Penn State to ignore it, too.

Which leads us to Penn State and the huge penalty exacted by the NCAA for what amounts to a horrific misplacement of a university’s values, priorities and yes, its very soul. The university must pay a $60 million fine. It is banned from post-season bowl games for four years. It loses scholarships. And the program has been stripped of all its victories after 1998, which means Paterno is no longer the nation’s winningest college coach.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said that nothing the executive board could impose would change the damage done to those Sandusky abused, but “the culture, actions and inactions that allowed them to be victimized will not be tolerated in collegiate athletics.”

That’s simple enough. Appropriate. And very, very sad.