Thoughts on Sandy Hook

It’s been a week now since the massacre at Sandy Hook. The shock has started to wear off, the memorial services have begun, the healing is a work in progress, the facts have been generally agreed upon (read: “they finally got the shooter’s name right”), and the wingnuts have delivered their knee-jerk reactions to the events and have turned their focus to the next shiny news item to catch their fancy.   The world has had a chance to catch its collective breath and now, NOW is the appropriate time to take a look at the events and the various causes and solutions that have been proposed.  Many of these are worthy of their own post but for now I’ll keep it as short as possible.

There is no simple way to prevent these shootings.  Gun control has a strong emotional appeal but Americans remain passionately if not irrationally committed to the right to own whatever sort of weapon they want so no legislation is likely to pass any time soon.  But in this case the guns were legally owned by the shooter’s mother.  I don’t think that the majority of people in favor of gun control would go so far as to form an inspection unit to make sure that legally owned guns were properly locked up and that no one with mental issues had access to the keys.  Furthermore, any form of gun control that involves the magic disappearance of the millions of guns in circulation is simply unrealistic.

Mental health unquestionably remains something that folks just aren’t comfortable talking about and like many other aspects of health care the treatment options are limited and expensive.  But in this case the shooter’s mother was entitled to over $20k per month in alimony and child support, so unless the ex-husband was a deadbeat she should have been able to obtain some form of mental health care, assuming that the shooter (who was over 18) was willing to cooperate.

The lack of religion in schools is something that I’m quite comfortable with and has no bearing on this shooting.  Schools exist to teach kids about reading and writing and math and history and music and the arts and even (gasp!) science.  Families exist to teach kids about religion, ethics, and morality.  I don’t see any connection between that configuration and this guy killing all those kids.

There is no doubt that the media coverage of these events glorifies them and the public’s insatiable appetite for information about these shooters guarantees that the next one will be given his 15 minutes of fame too.  But in this case there is no evidence as yet that the shooter was looking for glory.

I really hate describing a problem and trashing other people’s solutions without offering one of my own but in this case there just isn’t an easy solution to the problem.  Single-event shootings like this defy a single explanation because no two shooters are the same.  I think that the root cause of these shootings lies deep in the national psyche, down in the area where we defend what’s ours with any force necessary, glorify vigilantes getting vengeance outside the law, and measure a man by how little shit he’ll take from anyone before kicking someone’s ass.  Looked at from another perspective, a shooter like the one at Sandy Hook who snaps for no clear reason is little different from the movie heroes we’ve idolized for years as they take justice into their own hands to right the wrongs that have been done to them.  The only real difference is that we don’t know what those wrongs were.  They were undoubtedly real to the shooter.

Put simply, as long as we admire the use of violence we can expect this sort of thing to happen periodically and I have no idea how to fix that.


5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Sandy Hook

  1. Todd

    I’ve been struggling with this as well, but you put it a lot more clearly than I’ve been able to. One addition is the (potentially changing) influence of the NRA. I’m a gun owner, but not a member of the NRA. They don’t represent my beliefs with their “Guns for all, at all costs” attitude. After the NRA president’s news conference a couple of days ago, with his “solutions” that were clearly no solutions at all, I’m hopeful that they will lose their strangle-hold on our politicians. America as a series of armed camps is not my America. Clearly we need to at least start eroding the edges of this huge problem, and work our way towards a better life for our kids.

    1. feingarden Post author

      Good point, Todd. One of the proudest days of my life was the day my gun-collecting father returned his lifetime NRA membership. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but it was following the NRA’s response to some sort of mass shooting 30+ years ago. The NRA’s stance is just another example of the “don’t give an inch” mentality in US politics right now, as though yielding one tiny bit will put you on a slippery slope to complete collapse or opens the doors to the invaders.

  2. Kevin Cloud Brechner

    Personally, I don’t think the NRA went far enough. I think we should arm every kid in school. Give them a gun safety class in kindergarden, then send them to school toting a Glock or Smith & Wesson automatic. The only way to stop a bad kid with a gun is a good kid with a gun. This will level the playing field or in this case, the playground. Set up targets at recess for practice shooting. it only makes sense to teach kids about the second amendment by participation. In fact, given the argument that one of the reasons for the right to bear arms is so that the citizens have the means to overthrow an unjust government, we probably should introduce hand grenades and handheld rocket launchers by junior high school. By the time the kids reach high school, they should then be ready for land mines, armor piercing weapons, and low yield nuclear weapons. In the words of the NRA, “We’d be crazy not to do it.”

  3. Pingback: Since Joe asked… | feingarden

  4. Carreen

    I affirm your last sentence “Put simply, as long as we admire the use of violence we can expect this sort of thing to happen periodically and I have no idea how to fix that.”

    We think we have moved along socially by not settling arguments with duels of honor (such as pistols) as did Alexander Hamilton (who lost by dying) and Aaron Burr and from the days when the sheriffs such as Wyatt Earp of western towns settled disputes with outlaws with shoot outs. I

    Not only do we admire but we romanticize the use of violence and our language is infested with words of killing. To confirm such use glance at the sports page.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post on this difficult time.


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