A Couple of Thoughts on the Newtown Tragedy

I have a couple of thoughts, by no means exclusive or comprehensive.

1. We definitely need a dialogue on how best to handle mental illness. There is such a societal stigma attached to it, and then we seem to only want to touch it with kid gloves, by making light of it, or joking (have you ever called a psychiatrist a “shrink”?). We are far more educated about the workings of the human brain than we were even 50 years ago, but we are light years away from understanding it completely. We have no problem running off to a doctor for the slightest physical ailment, yet despite the fact that the brain is far more complicated than all the other organs in the body combined, we hesitate to do something when things “aren’t right”. Often mental illness is left to the parents, or families, and society simply ignores it. We need to change our attitudes about it. In the process, we’ll not only have a better understanding of what makes the Adam Lanza’s of the world tick, but we’ll make great strides in dealing with other societal ills, such as homelessness, suicide, drug addiction, etc.

There is no single entity better capable of rounding up all the elements necessary to accomplish this than government. So at a time when politicians keep talking about “government being the problem” and cutting back on spending, we should be increasing government involvement and spending on mental illness, not decreasing it. Something on the order of putting a man on the moon is what is needed. I won’t hold my breath.

2. We also need to get a grip on guns. Guns are not the problem, but they are the tool that the problem-makers first grab when they cause the problems they do. Whether it’s over-population, or poverty, or mental illness, or TV, or a lack of religion and/or morality, or the economy and joblessness, or violent computer games, or an unallocated combination of some or all of those things and more, whatever the cause of the problems that result in gun violence, it’s guns that are used to express the problem. We have the wrong attitude about violence in this country, and we need to drill down and find out why. While we’re figuring that out, and that may take a long time to do, we need to restrict access to certain types of guns, to certain types of people. I don’t know how to accomplish that, but that’s a truism that is hard to object to, in my opinion.

3. I don’t hold out much hope that we will do anything at all about # 1 and #2 while the Republicans in Congress hold any power, and while the Democrats resist them. These things need all parties to come together, to forget political differences, and work for the common good of the country. Neither # 1 nor #2 is a political issue. They are human issues, and as human beings, Congress should forget their party affiliations and do something, do what we pay them to do. Legislate for OUR common good, not theirs.

If they don’t, this latest massacre will blow over in a week or two, and nothing will be done.

12 thoughts on “A Couple of Thoughts on the Newtown Tragedy

  1. “Guns are not the problem, but they are the tool that the problem-makers first grab when they cause the problems they do.”

    Guns are the problem in gun violence. If guns were not readily available, there would be no problem with gun violence. Australia learned that lesson with their last massacre and actually did something about it.

    We, on the other hand, will continue to blither about whether the murderous slaughter of twenty children by a mentally unbalanced kid wielding an assault rifle constitutes a sufficient level of violence to require intelligent thought, discussion, and action about weapons in American society.

    We need only look at the Tennessee legislature to see that it is not the case that we will engage in intelligent thought, discussion, and action in the matter.

    • Here’s my thought process on this “guns are not the problem”, Ric.

      Violence needs some intent, or at the least negligence of some sort. A sentient, thinking being has to be the actor behind the violence, at least the violence we’re dealing with in these mass shootings (tsunamis, volcanoes and tornadoes don’t usually carry guns) along with most of the gun related deaths in this country. Inanimate objects don’t create violence spontaneously. That’s where we get the idiotic sentiment from the NRA crowd about “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In one sense that’s true. However it ignores the real truth. “Guns don’t kill people. People WITH GUNS kill people.”

      So there is some psychological, sociological, (whatever) phenomenon that is causing people to be more violent in this country. Maybe more or less than in prior years. I don’t know the answer to that. But when they do so, when they choose to express whatever motivates them, they invariably pick up a gun. So the common denominator in all this violence, regardless of what the cause of the violence is, is GUNS.

      So it makes perfect sense to regulate guns, not because they are the cause of violence, but because they are the tools violent people use to express their violence.

  2. I wish I had the time to do my own post on this, but will probably have to do later this week or next week.

    While I support the right of law abiding citizens to own a handgun, I do believe that there should be restrictions on how much ammo one can purchase, a limit on magazine capacity and so forth. No matter what we do though, we all have to recognize that any such policies will not be perfect solutions.

    The pro-gun rights argument seems to be a variation on Homer Simpson’s quote on alcohol, “Guns, the cause and solution to all of our problems.” Ensure that society is saturated enough with guns that anyone with ill intent can get access to one and then prescribe a solution that everyone should be armed to defend against that possibility.

    With regard to allowing guns in school, I could see the potential to put a stop to school shootings if the school personnel with access to the gun and the training to use it can get to it quickly enough to stop the shooter. I am not clear enough on the timeline of the Newtown shooting to know if such a scenario would have worked there. There seems to be a pattern in these kinds of incidents wherein the shooter kills most or all of the victims in a matter of a few minutes.

    Gun rights people like to cite the Pearl River, MO massacre wherein the school’s assistant principal retrieved his gun from his car and detained the shooter until the police arrived, but the shooter had already shot everyone at the school he had intended to and was trying to leave the scene.

    Guns in school would have to be made secure enough to keep anyone with bad intent from being able to get them, but the very act of securing them would inevitably delay personnel from retrieving the weapon to confront the shooter (or shooters, as was the case in Columbine), by which time the body count would have already piled up. Some of the guns in school crowd seem to think that a school principal with a gun is going to behave with the icy coolness of a Dirty Harry or Paul Kersey and calmly dispatch the bad guy with a single head shot.

    • Maybe this is simple common sense, but it seems to me that the more guns we put into circulation, regardless of whether they are with good people or bad people, regardless of the training they have, simple statistics says we will have more guns deaths.

      Start with this. Clearly if there are no guns, zero guns, there would be zero guns deaths. That’s axiomatic. Add guns to the environment, and the number of gun deaths go up. It’s not rocket science.

    • I’d note that I’ve said all along that the NRA slogan is bullshit and that people use guns to kill people.

      As for a sentient, thinking being being the actor behind the violence, consider that a sentient, thinking being in a rage is no longer a thinking being, and if he has a gun to hand or in hand, the gun is likely to carry the day, and often in the case of domestic violence, to carry away the wife and kids.

      I suspect there is an increase in expressions of violence rather than a significant increase in violence itself, and I think a good part of that is due to the license we grant to Limbaugh and his kind to spew ignorance and hatred over the airwaves. Couple that with an almost complete failure of public education through high school to teach critical thinking and civics, and we create an almost perfect firestorm, one that will ignite the less stable minds like Lanza and Loughner et al, to commit violence. Limbaugh and his crew and the NRA might just as well have issued an invitation to Lanza to kill, to Loughner to kill, to the Sikh killer in Wisconsin to kill, and to the rest of them.

      We no longer live in an ordered society. While we worry about the so-called fiscal cliff, we are already falling off the intellectual and moral cliffs. The calls for more guns and more God is, I think, a symptom of the fall. Neither will solve any problems: both will make our situation worse. That gunners and Godders are so evident in our political life does not speak well of us or the country’s future.

  3. One of my friends from high school posted on FB one of those memes that the 2nd Amendment is absolute, because it’s about the right of free people to defend themselves from government tyranny.

    I’ll probably end up doing a blog post on that topic too.

    First off, it strikes as a poseur argument made by people who’ve seen Red Dawn too many times. As if the only thing keeping the government from sending me to one of those FEMA concentration camps are a bunch of guys and their collection of guns and ammo. If it was really a matter of the people being able to defend themselves from their own government, they’re going to need a lot more than some handguns and rifles. RPG’s, heat seeking missiles, artillery, helicopter gun ships, tanks, etc.

    The only major armed stand off I can recall in recent years between the government and a group of civilians with guns was Waco in 1993, and we can see how that worked out for the Waco cult. It would take a large militia group packing serious weaponry to take on the government if the latter oversteps its bounds.

    But this leads to the next flaw I see in the argument of these wanna be Wolverines. What if a band of these self anointed militia types has a different definition for what constitutes government tyranny than I do? Let’s pretend it’s the year 2018 and we’re two years into a Sarah Palin presidency and somewhere in the Bible Belt, a school board votes to erect a giant Jesus statute on the grounds of the local high school. I, the resident atheist, object to this blatant violation of the establishment clause and file a law suit and win the case in court. Then President Palin delivers a press conference in which she deplores how these atheist liberals are trying to take away “our religious freedoms and destroy our values” and that “we need to do something about them.”

    Inspired by Caribou Barbie’s call to arms, a group of right wing gun owners in the town decide that they are going to assemble with their guns to protect the Jesus statue from being taken down. In the face of this show of force, the local law enforcement authorities decide that they will not carry out the court order. Emboldened by their victory, these righteous patriots decide to visit my home and let me know that my family and I are no longer welcome in town, with the none too subtle implication that my safety is at risk.

    In the minds of these people, they would be standing up to government tyranny, while I would consider myself a victim of intimidation by armed thugs who do not want to obey the law. Of course, I could buy some guns and ammo myself, but I still have not even come close to equalizing the imbalance of power.

    • The thing about Waco was that the Feds could have done the job in an afternoon if they wanted to. That’s what the real tyrannies do. Assad in Syria, for example. Instead they spent, what was it, fifty-four days, trying to avoid a fight and trying to avoid harming people. But of course the Feds were the bad guys while the psychopath inside the compound doing up little girls and spewing Biblebabble to justify his vileness was the good guy.

      The gunnies have their heads up their butts when it comes to the whole thing about keeping guns to fight tyranny. To mangle a phrase, when your only tool is a gunned-up brain, the whole world looks like a tyranny.

  4. The bigger picture here is the idea that the responsible can’t have something because the irresponsible fuck it up. There are too many goddamned rules and restrictions in this country because most people are stupid, ignorant, irresponsible and/or just not right in the head. Making more laws to restrict or ban something ignores the ACTUAL problems.

    • Well, I hope you didn’t give them to one of those local militias. They don’t mind stockpiling weapons. For “security” doncha know.

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