When Google News first began to collate articles about a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., my immediate reaction was that it would make Columbine pale in comparison. With the death toll released, it pains me to have been right. This tragedy evoked heartfelt responses and compassion from across the country, but like every other tragedy, it has also generated finger pointing and an immediate politicization and polarization of a tragedy. If it is not apparent by now, the shooting has fuelled the argument for gun control. It is a conversation we absolutely need to have, but it is not one that should erupt amid the poor situational awareness of a shooting.

Let me preface: This is not a conversation I wanted to delve into immediately following a shooting. But seeing Georgetown students spin a school shooting into political arguments — with little knowledge of why it took place and what factors enabled the scale of suffering — troubles me. For those who expect me to, I have no intention of justifying gun ownership or opposing the instrumental value of gun control; schools should remain gun-free zones because it is the smart and socially responsible policy for protecting America’s children.

That being said, the response by gun control advocates following tragedies is a pattern of equating the causality of every gun-related death in the United States to the same factor: loose gun control laws. Many deaths are caused by loose gun regulations, but let’s remember that Connecticut has strict gun control laws — the fifth-strictest in the nation according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence— and a massacre still took place. Further, the logic behind stricter gun laws is that we need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. This means having a conversation about who is dangerous and then restricting their rights and, in the process, stigmatizing groups of people.

I could go on with a point-counterpoint discussion about gun laws, but my goal is simply to illustrate that the conversation about gun control has become restricted in its scope, often serving as a response to the symptoms — like violence — of much larger issues in American society. We respond to these symptoms because it provides us with something tangible to act upon. Dangerously, this belief means that we seek to reduce violence merely because it is intrinsically bad rather than recognizing it for what it is — an instrumental response symptomatic of the frustrations and hopelessness of lives and communities in flux, which can be attributed to factors including poverty, mental health and marginalization. Gun control allows us to be self-congratulatory for reducing gun-related deaths, but it distracts us from the more complex issues fostering impulses for violence and driving individuals to act upon them.

For many, gun control has become a silver policy bullet for dramatically reducing violence. But that does not mean immediately responding to every incidence of gun-related violence with calls for gun control. It polarizes and politicizes deaths without acknowledging why the violence occurred and if gun control would have actually prevented those deaths. Though David Frum is correct in arguing that every day is the day to talk about gun control, every moment is not. Throwing around potentially false counterfactuals presupposed on further gun control with little knowledge about what conditions created a permissive environment for mass violence is a disservice to intellectual rigor and to the victims themselves. I don’t ask for the conversation on gun control to end; I just ask that we don’t jump on the political and policy bandwagons before understanding how and why the events unfolded in the way they did.

For now, families are devastated and a community is shattered. Keep them in your thoughts and in your hearts. But for just a moment, take a pause from the political urges every Georgetown student has encoded in their genes for sometimes the greatest act of compassion is to simply listen rather than to speak.

Sumegh Sodani is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

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