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.