Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy in Newtown, CT

Friday the country was rocked as we learned a deranged man, after murdering his doting mother, charged into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and murdered 26, including 20 schoolchildren most aged 6 and 7.

Every parent felt the impact of this senseless shooting - that innocent young children within their normal daily school routine, could be attacked and gunned down.  We also feel the impact of the loss of those teachers, teacher's assistants, and school officials who were gunned down as they tried to protect their charges from the heavily armed deranged killed.  As we think and pray for those lost, their families, we also have to consider those who survived - who witnessed the carnage and now have to process not only the grief of lost friends / co-workers but also the trauma of what they experienced.

We still do not know what made Adam Lanza snap on that morning, execute his mother as she laid in bed, and arming himself with her weapons, decide to drive to an Elementary School to kill as many innocent people as possible before blowing his own brains out as the police arrived onto the school grounds.  We may never learn the real reason why this individual felt compelled to rage against the innocent who attended Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Evil does happen - and there are those in society who will lash out at society in violence in response to innumerable triggers to their rage and anger.

As we seek answers to the questions around 'Why' - we are also starting to seek answers to the question around what steps can we take to try to prevent these acts of rage against society.  What can we do to stop deranged people from arming themselves and preying on innocent people as they shop in a mall, attend a movie, or go to school?  From Oregon, to California, to Colorado, to Connecticut - in the past few months someone has raged against society by attacking innocent people going about their lives in a mass shooting.

During a prayer vigil held in Newtown, Connecticut for the grieving community, President Barack Obama spoke in general terms around answering the questions around what can be done to prevent another similar tragedy in the future.  He spoke in terms of a solution not being an easy one.  He also reminded us that it will likely take more than just a single step or action to make it harder for another deranged individual or individuals to attack society in a similar manner.  But he also acknowledged the fact that inaction was not an acceptable course. Our society needs to do something to try to make it far harder for someone to arm themselves and fuel their murderous rage.

What should we do?

We need to try to make some sense from this senseless tragedy.  We need to not only grieve, but take sensible steps as a society to try to prevent a similar act.  In our rational minds, we know that we cannot prevent every act of evil or rage against others, but our goal needs to be to make these events as infrequent as possible while maintaining the core values of our society.

Rather than looking at this question in a rational manner, it's unfortunate that there are those who seek to score political points from this tragedy.  This is as unseemly and distasteful as the actions of some of the media - who circle this tragedy like vultures in the name of ratings / personal advancement of their careers.

Those trying to score political points did so from both sides of the political spectrum.

Just hours after we learned of this tragedy, the usual hard left progressives were railing about inadequate gun control laws and calling not only for draconian gun control laws - but a complete re-examination of the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution and the right for civilians to bear arms.

From the other side of the spectrum, we have comments like those made by former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, who say that the problem is not soft gun laws, but on a lack of God in our schools and in our lives.

Then there are those who look at society and blame our permissiveness towards violence in our media - television, movies, and video games which removes inhibitions and desensitizes us towards violence.

Each advocate believes that they are right and that theirs is the 'best' answer to the question as to what our society should do.  But there are also challenges and problems with each of these 'solutions'.  None of them are the 'right' reason or answer.  And as President Obama said - multiple steps are needed in order to make it far less likely similar heinous acts will occur.

Banning guns or embarking on draconian gun control laws will not solve the problem of gun violence.  In the wake of the Dunblane murders of school children by a gunman armed with a handgun, the UK banned handgun ownership.  Gun crime soared 35% in the wake of that decision as the criminals remained armed.  Beyond gun crime, violent crimes with knives and edged weapons also increased.  [The same day as the tragedy in Newtown, a deranged man in China, armed with a knife, entered a school and slashed 20 children.]

In Germany, a mass shooting in a school in 2002 killed 16 people.  In response, that nation also passed draconian gun control laws.  Yet, in 2009, a teenage gunman killed 15 during a rampage that began in school near Stuttgart.

At the federal and state level, we have numerous laws addressing gun control already on the books.  Some of these laws 'worked' with regards to Adam Lanza.  Lanza attempted to purchase a rifle just four days prior to his murderous spree - but was prevented from making that purchase as he declined to undergo the required background check or the mandatory waiting period.

Pro-gun control advocates, progressives like Diane Feinstein, Dick Durbin, and Carolyn Maloney, have focused on the weapons that Lanza carried, two semi-automatic pistols, a semi-automatic rifle, and multiple magazines for those weapons filled with hundreds of rounds of ammunition.  They argue that these weapons are unsuitable for civilian use or access because of the rapidity with which they can be fired and reloaded.  They believe that without the availability of these weapons - crimes like this will not take place.

There is a certain hypocrisy with these progressives who have appointed themselves as the 'protectors' of our society and see the availability of guns or certain classes of guns as the primary causation for crimes like Sandy Hook.

These same progressives insist on the 'right' towards the termination of a fetus - generally without restriction if the mother so desires.  They support late-term abortions and partial-birth abortions as a defined 'right' of women defined within the US Constitution - even though it is not specifically mentioned in the text.  Meanwhile they seek to eliminate a specifically named right - the right to bear arms - in the name of the 'greater good' of society.

Reference any restriction around the 'right' of abortion - in particular around the timing or funding - and one is  'declaring war' on women and their rights.  They believe if the mother wants to end a pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever, and even if the fetus is viable and able to survive if born, not only is that the right of the mother, but that the government has an obligation to help fund the termination of that life using funds from the taxpayer - even if that taxpayer has a moral or religious objection to terminating the life of the unborn.

We need to have a consistency in how we define 'rights' and how we value 'life'.

I also find ironic, looking at some of the politically active progressives in Hollywood, the contradiction around violence in society.  They speak out to condemn violence, yet within their careers and actions, they enrich themselves on violence in television, movies, and video games.  Progressives like Quentin Tarantino and Jamie Foxx pontificate against violence and racism as they promote their latest film - which is said to be one of the most violent of the year.  Foxx, appearing on SNL, joked that the best part about this latest movie was 'killing white people'.

Where is our consistency here - and why aren't we holding these people accountable for their hypocrisy?

The left laughs at Bill O'Reilly and others as they speak out against the 'War on Christmas'.  The anti-religion minority in this country attacks the Christian faith and all of its symbols.  They believe their rights are superior to the rights of believers - that they have a constitution right to not be 'offended'.  They claim that referencing God in the Pledge of Allegiance, or on our coinage, displaying the Ten Commandments, a Cross, or a nativity scene on government / public property is 'establishing' a state religion and a violation of their right to not believe in a God or religion.  They forget the rest of the First Amendment which also prohibits the free exercise of one's religious beliefs.

Is there a link between the rise of these actions and the claimed decline in society and societal values?

There's another similar aspect in play when we look at the mentally ill in this country.  Is there a challenge with structuring our society to be reactive when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill - only after they've proven a risk to themselves or someone else - as opposed to attempting to treat or institutionalize those who represent a risk to themselves or someone else?  Connecticut is one of only 6 states that does not have a law in place to ease the institutionalization and mandatory treatment of someone who represents a risk.  A bill was introduced earlier this year to remedy this - but progressive politicians and organizations like the ACLU defeated it by arguing that the individuals rights exceeded those of society as a whole.

Adam Lanza appeared to have some mental challenges which may have manifested themselves in his murderous act.  His doting mother may have believed that these challenges would not or could not manifest themselves in this manner - and may or may not have pushed for more or different treatment for her son.  Her first sign of his rage against society might have been as he executed her.  This is one aspect that we may never know.  But do we need to re-examine how we treat those troubled and mentally ill in our society - where we achieve a better balance between the rights of the individual and the need to protect society?

What I advocate is that the action we need to take in the wake of this tragedy needs to be across a spectrum   of issues.  These issues relate not only to how we approach guns, but also the values of society, and rights of individuals and the rights of society as a whole.  We need to step away from both emotion and political ideology as we take a rational look at these issues.

As noted earlier, we have reams of gun control laws in place at multiple levels.  Are we enforcing them adequately?  Do we, for example, have similar restrictions and educational requirements related to the possession and use of firearms, a deadly weapon,  as we do with automobiles - also a deadly weapon?  We restrict automatic weapons - do we need to take similar steps for semi-automatic weapons?  Is cap and ball (black powder muzzle loaders) the only acceptable weapon - or should we just return to the sensible step of limiting the size of magazines to 5 or 10 rounds of ammunition?

What steps can we undertake to mandate the proper stowage and security of firearms in the owner's home? We can't envision or protect against every possible eventuality - but what steps can we do to work the vast majority of the times to prevent unauthorized people gaining access to the weapons and ammunition?

What more can we do to ensure that the people in our society who need help from mental health professionals get that help even if they don't want the help?

At what point does the need for society to protect itself exceed the rights of the individual to do their own thing their own way?  We see the need to protect the rights of those in the minorities from the tyranny of the majority - but we also need to protect the rights of the majority from the tyrannies of the minorities.  Where is our consistency in our values and rights?  Is all life precious or just some?  Can we do better than condoning violence with one face while enriching oneself celebrating violence with another face?  Is it all about 'me' or do we have an obligation towards a 'greater good' or shared values of society.

Change isn't always for the better.  It's not always 'progressive'.  And as you think about this - ask yourself, if these tragedies are becoming more or less common and reflect on that as you contemplate the changes in our society over time.

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