Friday, December 14, 2012

Newtown's Massacre, America's Tragedy

It is hard to come up with words to encapsulate the sense of loss we all feel today in light of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  

President Obama's tearful statement summed up the mood of much of the nation when he said, "as a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics...  May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds."

While today is perhaps not the day to discuss the policies we can adopt to reduce the number of these tragedies, the time is here for us to address the systemic problems that turn the world's most prosperous and amazing country into a suburban battlefield fueled by handguns and semi-automatic weapons. Surely, as today's tragedy in China, in which a knife wielding assailant attacked and injured 22 children, shows us, guns are not the world's only source or vehicle of violence. That said, guns surely augment the fury and impact of the violence wrought upon us. According to the United States Census, two thirds of all homicides in the United States from 2000 - 2008 -- 86,112 deaths -- were caused by guns. The next largest cause, knives, accounted for a mere 13% of homicides over the same period. If you are a victim of homicide, it surely won't matter whether a gun or knife took your life; as a society, however, it surely matters that over the period covered by the Census, you were five times as likely to be shot to death than killed by a knife.

Today's tragedy provides a complicated problem. On the one hand, the complete absence of guns in our society would likely have prevented today's tragedy. On the other hand, we live in a society that has nearly as many guns as residents. If one of the adult victims who fell today had a weapon, perhaps one fewer death might have occurred because the assailant might have been met with a force sufficient to stop him. Yet, that is also not a certainty. One gun owned by one owner might counter one attack. Yet, will one million guns counter a million attacks, or will some of those guns start creating their own chain violence? As I mentioned in a response to a facebook post from a friend earlier today, the issue isn't just what makes each of us safer individually. The issue is what makes us safer collectively. While I have little doubt that ownership of a gun by a friend I trust won't cause me harm, I also have little confidence that collective gun ownership makes me safer. Long story short, a world with almost no guns is safer than a world armed to its teeth. While we seek a world without nuclear proliferation, we endure a society in which it is easier to buy a gun than it is to vote. I can't see the logic in that.

Amidst all this uncertainty, what is certain is gun violence has become America's internal source of terror. It must be stopped. We must engage in an intelligent discussion to tackle the scourge of gun violence once and for all. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution must be understood as the part of the broader Bill of Rights. Let us not allow the protection of one part of the Constitution to consume the protections afforded by the entire body of its work. It is time, America, to act to stop this escalating cycle of gun violence.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Google Maps is back to rescue Apple's iOS6

Google Maps for iPhone is back!

For those of you who are joined at the hip to your iPhone, there is good news to report. Google Maps is back on Apple's iOS. The Google designed Google Maps for iPhone, now available on Apple App Store, rescues the iPhone's from its self imposed irrelevance in mapping after the debacle that was Apple Maps. I encourage you to download Google Maps if you have not already done so. The New York Times review of the new app can be viewed by clicking here.

Sorry, Apple Maps.