On After Newtown

The December 14th shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut left 26 people dead – including 20 elementary students. I haven’t said much here because I’ve been listening and processing.

Since that day, I’ve heard quite the variety of reasons for the horrific event:

  • Lack of security in school
  • Availability of assault weapons
  • Lack of religion in schools
  • President Obama
  • Evolution
  • Failure to identify mental illness
  • Lack of love
  • Lack of family
  • Weapon purchases at gun shows
  • Violent video games
  • Rap songs
  • Too many guns
  • Too few guns
  • Hollywood
  • Lack of parenting
  • Media
  • NRA
  • Popular culture
  • Declining values

I’ve also heard many solutions:

  • More gun laws
  • Banning assault weapons
  • Limiting assault weapons
  • Regulating purchases of ammunition
  • Arming teachers
  • Arming administrators
  • More assault-related training for school employees
  • Issue more guns
  • Ban all guns
  • Better mental health identification
  • Moral education in schools
  • Arming security in schools
  • NRA providing school security
  • Improving mental health services
  • Increasing religion in schools
  • Transferring children from public schools to private schools
  • Better enforcement of existing gun laws

The lists above aren’t meant to be inclusive as I’m sure they are more. As some call for a national conversation, the notes above serve as evidence about my doubts about the possibility of a meaningful conversation. Simply put, how can people address a problem when they don’t agree on the problem?

Columnist Charles Krauthammer isn’t may favorite, but this closing statement in this column is very telling.

Gun control impinges upon the Second Amendment; involuntary commitment impinges upon the liberty clause of the Fifth Amendment; curbing “entertainment” violence impinges upon First Amendment free speech.

That’s a lot of impingement, a lot of amendments – but there’s no free lunch. Increasing public safety almost always means restricting liberties.

We made that trade after 9/11. We make it every time the Transportation Security Administration invades your body at an airport. How much are we prepared to trade away after Newtown?

89 thoughts on “On After Newtown

  1. So, when Krauthammer wasn’t whining about Hillary faking her blood clot, he had a moment of clarity. ZZZZZZ.

    I believe this was a once in a lifetime occurrence for him since he will always be a choad.

  2. Good lists. I will add my two cents. How about taxing the ammunition. Also, the government has said that at any moment in time about 25% of Americans are dealing with mental health issues. Many of these bring up thoughts of suicide and violence and seem to be the very last people who should be playing with or using guns. I just do not know how to go after that.I would tax the ammunition at punitive rates

  3. Frank, I appreciate that you compiling these lists so clearly. It shows how difficult a solution will be. To me it’s simple, limit the guns. If we look at other countries and their gun laws, we see it can make a difference. I don’t want to see this ever happen again.

    • Bumble,
      Not that I display this characteristic all the time, but sometimes I favor a stop-look-and-listen approach over a knee-jerk, yet passionate reaction. It was interesting to watch it unfold, especially with the NRA not saying something for several days. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Rosie,
      Thanks. It was interesting to sit back to listen. On our way to friends who were hosting a New Years’ Day brunch, my wife and I were wondering if politics would come up. It didn’t for a long time. I was talking with one guy (an arsenal owner) about cooking risotto (yup), a few others gathered and the conversation switched to guns by others. Thinking NOT TODAY, I walked away to join another conversation. But from what I could here, that conversation proved my point here. Thanks for commenting.

  4. The thought of twenty little kids and six educators dying in vain is unbearable. Have you seen the cover of this week’s issue, January 7, 2013, issue of the New Yorker? It’s a lump in the throat image. When will we ever see daylight about these senseless shootings by unhinged members of society? This country has far too many guns that are far too easy for far too many to access. It makes no sense to me why the average Joe or Joe-ette wants, much less needs, an arsenal in their own home. This isn’t the wild west. If anything, it’s the stupid west.

    • Lame,
      I searched and found the cover … but I couldn’t get a close look. You make good points which could be part of the discussion that wouldn’t be had. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I don’t think there is a simple solution to this problem… but the problem is terrible. It’s not a question of taking away right and freedoms. I really doubt that. It’s a question of the general values and the mentality of the society as a whole, and that is one of the most difficult things to change. We don’t have the exact same problem here, but I am constantly aware of how changing attitudes have found their way into the most subtle aspects of social life and personal relationships on the human level. There is good and bad, of course. But it is the bad that horrifies us… so we think more about that.

    • Shimon,
      I always appreciate your insight, so thanks for bring a society’s values into the equation. Interestingly, in a common further below, Archon mentioned a post from a college study in your country, and it does provide an interesting perspective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. sometimes I think we see too many infringes and not enough of just plain common sense. This is not the 1700″s. when will people start thinking of the here and now and the future and stop thinking of what was feasible in the distant past? When they made that part of the constitution I don’t think they were looking at 2012 or 2013. Times have changed folks, time to change with it. Or perish. (Just my opinion)

  7. For those of us who stand on the side of Sanity and Civility in society, I don’t think it is a matter of infringement. We gave up to much after 9/11 not for the sake of security but for the sake of ego and war. We continue to do so, in many cases without our knowledge and because we don’t pay attention.

    In the case of Sandy Hook and every other spree or mass killing, we haven’t looked hard enough at what it means. What the history is and what our future looks like if we don’t impose upon ourselves realistic sanctions.

    The Constitution wasn’t written in stone by a lightening bolt from on high. Our ‘rights’ are infringed upon every day. One right isn’t more sacred than another, it is all a matter of what we are willing to live with or without.

    This was well done Frank.

    • Val,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and passion as I was hoping you would see this and comment. There is no doubt in my mind that the Constitution was written as a fluid document with the underlying theme of the people decide …. which directly goes back to the problem. Thanks for commenting.

      • I continue to believe there are solutions. I look across our nation at the blood running in our streets, at the guns rushing out the doors of WalMart and the frenzied remarks of those who live behind the protection of gated communities not at risk of their windows being shot out by everyday violence in the street; I think when does it end.

        Why are some Amendments fluid and others not?

  8. Great post, Frank. You’ve pointed out half the problem by showing that every serious suggestion has just as serious a rebuttal. A very insightful young Jewish lady at http://www.liorasophie.wordpress.com just published a great post about firearms, and what it means to live with them, both in Israel, and the USA. The Right to Bear Arms, on Dec. 15, might be worth a look. I gotta go talk to my tech about learning how to link. Yesterday I unknowingly turned my keyboard off.

  9. Things are never easy when there’s so many opinions and theories. I’m not sure what should be done, but something has to happen. Children should not be afraid to go to school. I’m not much help I know.

  10. Hi,
    This was of course in our papers here in Oz as well, so much tragedy, so very sad. Imagine dropping your child off at school, and never seeing them again, just so horrible to think about, and the brave teachers as well, a day never to be forgotten.

    • Mags,
      No doubt that this sad event was world-wide news. I think their first day back at school is today, and it will be interesting to hear how it went. But it won’t be in the same building because the schools is still a crime scene. A neighboring school district offered them use of an old middle school, which I believe they will use the rest of the year. Thanks for commenting.

  11. If there was a cop parked at the school, he’d have been the first to die. If there were no guns for the SOB to grab, he could have got a hold of some other weapon of mass dystruction. Your post is so true, I’ve been reading all the same arguments. Wishing something could be done but nothing can. It’s all very sad.

    • Snip … or should it be Ali …. hmmmmm ….
      Yep … sadly, nothing can be done for those kids. In terms of causes and solutions, thanks for verifying that I didn’t just pulling this list out of a hat. Thanks for coming back and sharing!

  12. Wow. That closing statement is powerful. Frankly what is traded away now is irrelevant because after 9/11 we already traded our most important thing – freedom – and have become a pseudo Gestapo country. What we need is a new quest for freedom. Why is it that people view gun control as a lack of freedom when in these days its actually wisdom? I’ve always seen the amendments/bill of rights to the constitution as fluid that change with the times. But people do love clinging to them as if they were sacred and unchangeable. As I suggested by a question in a post of mine, “have we out-lived the right to keep and bear arms”?

    • Terry,
      Yes, I too see the Constitution as a fluid doc, and if in doubt, the people decide. In terms of those who see it as unchangeable, they are will to change it to better fit their view.
      I too like Krauthhammer’s statement because it gets tot he heart of what a meaningful discussion would require …. thus part of my rationale why a meaningful discussion won’t happen. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  13. Throwing up our hands in frustration and lack of direction is not, and will never be, the answer to gun crime. Wishing all guns would magically disappear won’t make it so, nor would it stop anyone seriously intent on ending it all and taking out others in the process from doing so. While we seem horrified at the thought of armed guards in schools, our horror doesn’t change the reality that with the exception of the attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every mass shooting since 1950 has taken place in ‘gun-free zones‘…places where guns are forbidden. Would it be unrealistic to think this is because this gives the shooter the most time possible to do as much damage possible before people with guns can arrive? And yes, in every case ‘people with guns‘, the police, are the first called precisely because they have guns and are presumably trained to use them. It is, agreeably, easy to see how things can go badly were someone to draw a firearm defensively, however when an armed man enters an public building for the purpose of killing everyone in sight, things are already going very badly. I can’t imagine being in that situation and thinking — Wow, I’m so very glad that no one else here has a gun.

    As anyone who has ever voiced an opinion on the subject has pointed out, there are no easy answers. Ignorance, wishful thinking, and emotionalism will not solve any problem and certainly not the problem of gun violence in the United States. Given that our laws, generally speaking, do not allow us to prevent crime, in many cases someone in intent of committing mass murder will voice his intention in advance of the action, however given that we are not, by law, allowed to detain him and if we are indeed sincere in our wish to minimize the death count of the next mass shooter, some realistic focus needs to be placed on stopping him at the door. To not do so is unconscionable, no one should die simply because we refuse to face reality. Though it may not seem so, in many aspects to do support much stricter gun laws, but I am under no illusions that such restrictions would make it at all difficult for bad people to acquire guns nor follow through on their intention to use them.

    • Alex,
      As with any issue, yes, throwing up the hands doesn’t solve anything … and neither doesn’t the very emotion on either side. Nonetheless, to work toward a solution requires identifying the problem … and to me, that hasn’t been done … and I just can’t foresee it happening. Thanks for your well-thought-out comment.

  14. Your lists of reasons and solutions for the December 14th shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut which left 26 people dead – including 20 elementary students, should be posted on giant billboards across the country. What should be added, at the bottom, are the words: “Follow The Money!”

    • Tim,
      The money on both sides of the issue, which is another reason why I am not confident on being about to have a national conversation, but alone a solution. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  15. An excellent post, Frank, plus I reckon well timed. News like this settles down, but you’ve simply paused over it, contemplated & complied. Great comment.

  16. I think for much the same reason, I’m listening and processing, I haven’t had much to say either, Frank. I really appreciate the lists and Krauthammer’s statement rings very true to me. I rarely say too much because I think I’m of a minority that would be willing to trade in a few “freedoms” for more safety, although I understand that to most that’s Constitutional blasphemy and a dangerous slippery slope. I completely understand that reaction, so I just ponder. I do know there are no easy answers here. We can simply be sad and mourn that freedoms sometime take horrible, devastating tolls that are too deep for casual talk. You are always so respectful in the way you present a very sensitive issue. I applaud that.

    • Debra,
      With this post I didn’t aim to foster a discussion or even provide suggestion. For me, some of the items on the list are beyond comprehension. Agreeing or disagreeing is one thing – but seeing/hearing with off-the-wall ones supports my point. Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your thoughts.

  17. When are we as a ‘civilized country’ going to finally realize that the writers of the Constitution (and subsequent Bill of Rights) might have been wrong about a few things? People are generally resistant to change. It took some brave politicians to do what was right (and not necessarily popular) to make significant change in this country. I keep hoping that someone will take a stand and say that there is no longer a need for an armed populace and start the end to all this madness.

    • Cyclist,
      I disagree on the wrong part because their is an intent & meaning of the times.Besides, I can’t believe any of the Founding Fathers (FF) could foresee today’s cyberspace world. That aside, I’m confident that the FFs would say the people decide. Interestingly, I wonder which is more rare a brave politician or having a civil conversation? Dang – I’m starting to think that the chances of finding a brave politician may have a chance. Thanks for sharing.

      • Well, since our ‘model’ for most ‘civil’ conversations about items of public policy usually come from politicians, I am not sure I share your opinion. I wonder if issues like civil rights or suffrage for women were left up to the decision of the people, they would have ever passed? They were both highly unpopular with large segments of the population at the time, but politicians who knew that they were the right thing to do pushed them through Congress. Those days are gone, I fear with instant polling and politicians more worried about their jobs than in doing what is morally right. This is the only ‘advanced’ country with a ‘Constitutional right’ to firearms. We are also the country with far and away the most guns per capita. Perhaps there is some causation as well as correlation with the level of gun violence we have.

        • We’re probably more on the same page than it appears. If the movie Lincoln is accurate, it was the brave that got it through …and it was close. Some with the other issues you mentioned. Even then, amendments had to approved by the elected at the state level.

  18. I’ve never been a fan of the Krauthammer guy, but I agree with what he says.
    After things like this we regular citizens are the one that pay, we’ll end up prisoners in our own homes, but what else is for us to do?
    Really nice post Frank.

  19. In all that is thrown around – suggestions and accusations – it seems to me that the cause of such incidents is not looked at. Reminds me a bit of a doctor who reaches for the prescription pad to mask the symptoms; and is not interested in addressing the cause of the symptoms. Shooters in schools, in malls, on the streets of our cities and towns are a result of a social disease, I believe. And arming citizens is not going to make the problem go away. Instead it will exacerbate it.

    • Colline,
      You bring up many good points, and your doctor analogy goes along with what I said about determining the problem. Whew … and wow … is it ever a hot-button topic. Thanks for sharing!

      • This is definitely a hot topic – with many varying opinions. I would like to add that, as a teacher, I would not agree to being armed. I entered this profession to educate children, not to police them or to protect them bearing arms. That is the task of the police – who are trained and willing to do this job. I shudder when I think of guns being in schools – and at the accidents that could occur.

  20. A good and thought provoking post, and well done for that. Unfortunately you have provoked a lot of ‘wrong’ thoughts and too many of my own to put them down as a comment.

  21. Good points and great way to remain objective here, Frank. It’s a terrible thing no one wants to ever see happen again. I think Washington will kick the can down the road, so to speak, all the while taking us down rabbit trails to redirect our focus. “Some” kind of law may pass, but who knows what that will be? I hope they think about it before acting in a knee-jerk way.

  22. That event was horrific and senseless and beyond tragic. We had a similar event here about 15 years ago that has been named the Port Arthur Tragedy and after that politicians banned guns. All guns had to be surrendered to the Government and it is now illegal for us to own a gun. Since that time armed robberies, assaults and murders have only increased as those intent of carrying out these sorts of crimes will do so regardless of the law. It was Hitler who first required the Germans to register their weapons, then they had to surrender them, then he made owning a gun illegal – and we all know how that turned out for the German people. xx

    • Spiced,
      I always appreciate the view from another land for added perspective. Interesting history … so Aussie’s cannot hunt? I ask because I have a difficult thinking they can’t.

      As for the Hitler reference, I don’t worry about that situation in my country or yours. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Excellent post, Frank–very measured and intelligently stated. IMHO, Gun control seems impossible, but not improbable, because as Americans we all want what we want when we want it. I actually think our obsession with guns, the 2nd Amendment, and our “rights vs. our responsbilities” toward one another will change for the better the way the civil rights for African-Americans changed. The horror of children being beaten and burned by the KKK, as well as attack dogs tearing into peaceful demonstrators, not to mention the strikes and sit-ins galvanized a nation and shamed America into change (Europe mocked our segregation and stupidity). The horror of Newtown (VA Tech, Columbine, Aurora) will keep happening, taking more and more innocent lives until someone (or a group of someones) says “enough” and become the “Martin Luther King” or “Ghandi” of the cause to save us from this madness (it will probably be parents or relatives), and “sane people” will join them. Then a few politicians will grow a pair like Lyndon Johnson who passed the civil rights bill and said his decision would “lose the South for 100 years” (it did), but he did it because it was the right thing to do. This from a man who was born and raised by the South and who turned his back on the segregation thought-process of his home (people spat on his wife and his life was threatened).

    Effective gun control and possibly the changing of the antiquated 2nd Amendment will happen, but I’m afraid we’ll pay an awful price before it does so. It will be horror and shame that will finally bring enough of us to our knees that our voices will outweigh the power of the money behind the NRA and those demanding the “right” to bear semi-automatic weapons, and we will willingly give up our freedoms for the peace of not having to bury our children. Take care.

    • E-Tom,
      Your two cents are welcome here. No offense, because this post aims to promote thought and provide reasons why a national conversation probably won’t take place … and if it does, it really won’t go very far … which means life goes on as is. After all, and as you well know, each side can find statistics to support their stance. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Frank … what about governments that murder children??? How will we make that stop???? The problem is that if anyone wants a gun … it’s only a matter of money – but I think it’s a combination of all you have listed here – maybe not Obama in person.

    • Viveka,
      The problem could be multiple factors. Even so, then before a solution, the factors would have to be rank ordered. Then again, could a conversation take place to accomplish that? In my opinion, doubtful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      • The whole society (we) have to rethink too … not all down to laws .. and regulations. Look at Norway where 80 teens was gunned down with very strict laws.

  25. My first year teaching–a while ago, my principal made the news because he sat in the school cafeteria with a shot gun resolved to catch an intruder who had trespassed more than once. I was horrified by the image of my academic principal sitting in a school cafeteria poised to send shot into the seat of an intruder’s pants. Seems quite lame now. And no, the principal never lost his job for having an arm on school property–he went on to be a superintendent. I’d say he had his fingers on the pulse of what the community could bear.

  26. I find it interesting (and not necessarily in a good way) when people yell about losing rights to keep our streets safe. Think of it this way – You can’t speed (or shouldn’t) when driving, you should be sober, you have to license yourself AND your car, you have to pay fees and taxes and insurance, you can only drive where permitted – that’s a lot of rights to surrender, but we do it every day. It’s awfully limiting to our freedom to have to buckle seatbelts, not talk on cellphones, not crash into other people (or shoot them, for us “Car Wars” fans), and yet we do this everyday.
    Should we not ask the exact same for owners of a weapon just as lethal, if not more so, than a 2-ton SUV doing 75 down the freeway?

  27. i think you meant “enforcement” instead of “endorsement” of existing gun laws. i don’t mind armed guards/cops in schools. many schools already have cops. however, what i would really fear is that cops in schools will attract more shooters. when shooters do these things, they know they will not survive, and 99% of the time it is at their own hand. i believe there are other potential shooters who have hesitated and backed off because of the ending. not everyone can shoot themselves. but if there is a cop in the school, then i fear that more shooters will come out because of what is called “suicide by cop,” in which someone wants to die, wants to commit suicide, but can’t. so instead they confront a cop, aim a weapon, and force the cop to kill them. i would not be surprised if this happens in some schools where cops are present.

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