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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Thinking about Newtown

Is it guns? Is it violent TV shows, movies, or video games? Is it crazy America?

Well, before violent movies, in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, three bombs were exploded at Bath School, killing 38 elementary (second- to sixth-grade) school children, as well as two teachers and four other adults (plus the bomber), and at least 58 others were injured. The bomber? The treasurer for the School Board, who drove up in his car and set off a bomb to kill and injure those who went to the school to help. That, not Newtown, not Columbine, not Virginia Tech, was the deadliest mass murder in a school in U.S. history. No guns involved, and Hollywood couldn't be blamed back then.

Bath Consolidated School

Bath Consolidated School ...after the bombing. A significant quantity of undetonated explosives were found under the school -- it could have been much worse. Source: Wikipedia.

Nor were there guns -- or Americans -- involved in another incident today, which was mostly pushed out of the news in the U.S. in light of the horrific Connecticut incident: in Henan, China, a man went into a school and stabbed 22 children, plus one adult. Apparently, no one was killed, but one report I read said it was part of a "wave of brutal stabbings and hammerings throughout China" over the past few years. Cripes: hammerings of children?!

What lesson can we get from things like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown? That it's not something new, it's not something American, and it's not about bombs, guns, knives ...or hammers. It's about how crazy people (and sometimes not-so-crazy people) turn to violence as an answer to their problems, real or perceived. I don't know what the answer is, but it's going to have to involve discussion on how we've closed most of our mental hospitals, pushing the mentally ill out to fend for themselves, or for ill-equipped families to deal with them without help. And yes, we DO need to have a discussion about whether it's too easy for nutballs to get guns.

As I was writing this, I had the news on in the background. My "local" stations are from Denver; Columbine High School is just outside Littleton, a Denver suburb. I had the paragraph above finished when they showed an interview with the principal at Columbine -- at the time of the 1999 shootings there, and still today. Frank DeAngeles said the answer isn't more school security, and isn't more gun control, but rather better help for people with mental problems. "The thing that I keep stating time and time again is what causes so much hate in people's hearts that they're willing to walk into an elementary school to injure or kill kids? Where did this start?" One thing that's clear is, it started long, long ago. The better question to ask is, How will it end?

The only other thing I want to say tonight is a thank-you to my brother and sister First Responders -- police, firefighters, and medics -- who rushed in to help today without having any idea whether it was safe, and were witness to unspeakable horror.

On that thought, I posted this to Facebook this afternoon, attributed to the late children's TV host Mr. Rogers: "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world." It is indeed comforting to know that when something like this does happen, there are always -- always -- helpers who work toward making things better.

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93 Comments on This Entry

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Posted by James, Fairview Heights, IL on December 14, 2012:

Thank you Randy. There have been a lot of knee jerk reactions all the way from banning all guns (Bloomberg likes this one) to arming the teachers with assault rifles. As usual, the answer is more in asking the right question.

Posted by Tom in Vancouver, Canada on December 14, 2012:

Right on, Randy, on both points (the Right Question, and "look for the helpers"). So many people ask the RQ as an immediate reaction ("But why?"), but then quickly forget it in the desperate search for resolution.

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 14, 2012:

Excellent point, Randy. We do need better mental health care for people. we need to balance that with making sure we don't run roughshod over people's rights in the process.

We need to understand that changing access to a particular tool isn't going to change the actions of an evil person. They'll still find a way to hurt innocent people. Murder is still illegal, no matter the tool used.

And I have to bring this up, at the risk of being accused of parroting the "NRA's party line" as I was on Facebook. If we're okay with the idea of allowing some pilots to carry firearms on commercial aircraft, then we really need to reconsider why we won't allow some teachers to carry a firearm. I've heard numerous excuses today as to why it's a bad idea, but none of them really hold water.

It's not a pleasant thing to contemplate, but we have to accept that there are evil, vile people in the world who live to hurt and maim and kill, and you can't legislate them away.

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On October 1, 1997, there was a shooting at Pearl (Miss.) High School. The gunman was a student, just 16 years old, and like in Newtown, he killed his mother before (just like in Newtown) he drove his mother's car to school, where he shot two students to death, and wounded seven others. His plan was to then go to the Junior High to shoot more, but that didn't happen: when the shooting started, Vice Principal Joel Myrick ran to his pickup and grabbed a .45 caliber pistol he had in his glove compartment. By that time the shooter was back in his mother's car. Myrick ran over confronted him and stopped the rampage without firing a shot -- which is how a gun is used to stop crimes most of the time. So it's not just a theory that properly trained people with guns can stop crime: they do it every day.

I'm not convinced there are "evil people." But there are certainly mentally ill people who can look evil, and can do evil things. I think we saw that today. -rc

Posted by Mike in Rawlins, Wy on December 14, 2012:

Well said Randy. In 2010 almost 33,000 people were killed in traffic accidents in the US. That was the lowest number in over 60 years. While sad, that does not mean that we should ban cars.

Posted by Ernie, Knoxville, TN on December 14, 2012:

One thing I've come to depend upon from you is you report the truth better than our mainstream media! I tell you, the world would be better off with more people like you reporting the news to us! I hope you never stop "This Is True"!

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I absolutely can't do it without the support from readers. Here are some ways how. -rc

Posted by Mike, Oklahoma on December 14, 2012:

God bless the people who run towards the sound of the guns.

God bless the first responders.

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It's a terrible decision to have to make. I hope I never have to make it. -rc

Posted by CathyAC, Brevard Florida on December 14, 2012:

It's not about the guns,the knives, the hammers, the cars or the myriad of ways that people do harm or kill each other. It is only partly about the way we treat or do not treat our mentally ill. We put them out on the street with little to no support. Our Insurance companies hold them to no more than 16 weeks threatment in a year, limit their time in crisis units, and send them back out with a bag of pills and no one to ensure they are taken. But no Randy, it is a far more insidious problem that I am not sure we CAN fix.

Rats in a cage do well, until they are overcrowded. Once the number of rats exceeds the living space needed by the colony, if they cannot split the colony they become cannibalistic, belligerent and dare I use the term homicidal. They will continue to kill even after the numbers in the cage are back to manageable levels. As much as we would like to think we are above that, we are not.

Overcrowd an area, beyond what the resources can bare and we too go to war against ourselves. But our overcrowding doesn't just come in the form of numbers of people, but as well in the constant noise, intrusions, elimination of personal space through social media, TV, Media. We invite this in and to some degree it is a necessity in today's world, but there is also no privacy, no surcease no end to the stimulation. For the majority of us, this is not a major problem, we find ways to cope. For the mentally ill, the unstable, the sufferer of PTSD, it can become a trigger to violence.

We may never know why this man went ballistic. There really isn't too many close to him remaining save one brother. He may not know the truth of it all, only his part of it. We only know the aftermath, and that not only are children and adults dead, families devastated, but each and every person touched by this tragedy, may also be subject to bouts of rage and fear for many years to come. Hopefully they will get help to deal with it.

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Newtown is a fairly rural town, population 27,000, and the chopper video I saw showed how wide open it was -- not overcrowded at all. The more recent Colorado high school shooting was in a very rural mountain town. As for psychological "crowdedness" from social media/TV/etc., I've never heard anyone propose that before. So have school shootings ramped up with the spread of Facebook? I sure haven't seen that, or heard anyone propose it. Frankly, it doesn't sound plausible to me. -rc

Posted by Leslie, Phoenix on December 14, 2012:

Thanks for giving us true new without hyperbole. When I saw this I only wanted to focus on the truth and not all the conjecture that so many broadcasters need to throw in. You clarified the situation perfectly in this blog. I only hope others will take a moment to think before they speak.

Posted by Elizabeth, Dover, DE on December 14, 2012:

The thing about the attack in Henan vs the attack in Connecticut? In Henan, because the attacker used a knife, no one died.

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The guy in Bath didn't use a gun either. -rc

Posted by Carl, New York on December 14, 2012:

To follow up on James' post: The question I think we should be asking is...Why do we still think that guns are automatically the answer (whether the first or second) to solve any problem? I think it's because deep down we scare very easily. Look at the average newscast: doesn't matter what city you're in, all we get are all the murders/shootings/robberies, etc., not the news which is more important to your lives. Then you get people running out and buying more guns to alleviate said fear. And, sad to say, we're likely to see gun sales rise in the next few weeks in response to this.

I've seen more than a few saying "arm the teachers", but that is unfeasible...not to mention as worthless as the suggestions that if those in the Aurora movie theater were armed, the mass shooting there would be minimized. You've got chaos all around you, and you're running on emotion, and you're supposed to stop a shooter? Odds are you'll make the situation worse. Just look at the Giffords shooting -- someone who was licensed and trained to carry a gun nearly made the situation worse when he nearly shot someone who he thought was the shooter. It turned out he had wrestled the gun out of Jared Loughner's hands.

Posted by Ralph- Florida on December 14, 2012:

I used to live in Connecticut, drove through Newtown many times. Beautiful quiet town. So sorry such a terrible thing could happen there.

Interestingly, there used to be a hospital there for the mentally disturbed. Yes, it is closed down for many years now.

I am also glad that I have kept my non-paid subscription issue along with my paid subscription, I would not have read your comments on this until Monday. Thanks for being on top of these things and offering interesting and informative insight.

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You can also subscribe to blog post notifications (see opening page of the blog for the form), or follow me on Twitter or Facebook to get a heads up on new blog posts. -rc

Posted by Gary,Tucson Az on December 14, 2012:

It is so easy to try and put the blame on guns, violence,etc but I have to agree with you, there has to be more concentrated efforts at helping those people with mental issues. Make it easier for those that have severe mental problems to get help! Thank God for the helpers, people putting their lives at stake.

Posted by Alice Shade @ Odessa, Ukraine on December 14, 2012:

The short answer.... there`s absolutely nothing that can be done about that. Nothing immediate, that is.

The problem is not guns. Or knives. Or hammers.

The problem is people. The problem is ALWAYS people. But not even you, Randy, had dug into problem far enough. Sure, mental institutions could use some attention, but will that resolve the issue?

Having a history of mental problems tends to close a lot of doors in person`s life. So no, just funding medical facilities better will not achieve much. There`s a good reason why psychiatric care is on the wane -- public at large considers asking for THAT kind of help as something shameful and dangerous.

And this notion comes from school. Children tend to form their little cliques and circle wagons against anyone who is not like them, not in complete accord with their views, their values, their aspirations. And then they carry this into adult life. "Someone is strange? Someone needs help? Shun them, they`re not like you, they`re dangerous. Shun them and chase them away." -- this. This is the root of evil.

While children are allowed to nurture their herd instincts into proper xenophobia, nothing will address the issue at hand. Nothing whatsoever.

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I didn't say that reviving mental institutions will "resolve the issue". I said "I don't know what the answer is, but it's going to have to involve discussion" of the problem of mental illness. Ignoring it clearly isn't making it go away. And clearly, as I've said, it's far from the only answer. Most of the answers people come up with are wrong, because they're not asking the right questions. -rc

Posted by Tim, California on December 14, 2012:

According to some research we have read, the "uncertainty factor" plays into this matter. In nations where the social safety net is unpredictable and the loss of assurance regarding the future viability of ones job/career/sustenance comes to the fore, more individuals than ever are "going postal". Didn't the postal shootings take place after a major downsizing of the USPS? A marital breakup, a sudden bankrupting illness in the family, being bullied relentlessly in school -- or misunderstood on a continuous basis in home, school, workplace -- seem to be common triggers. I want to see this issue addressed. Thanks, Mr. Cassingham.

Posted by Cevin in Cambridge, MA on December 14, 2012:

When looking at incidents such as these shootings, researchers look for correlations and try to determine if any of these have a causal relationship. Naturally, events can occur independent of these causes, but that does not invalidate the presence of "a" cause (e.g. the mass killing in 1927). In most of the major shootings that have been witnessed in the US over the last 20 years, the perpetrators have been on prescription medication, typically anti-depressants, with side-effects that include homicidal behavior. Perhaps, these people HAVE been getting help and this is a major part of the problem. Curious how this is rarely addressed.

Posted by Jim (Winnipeg) on December 14, 2012:

I recall reading that New York policemen are only 38% accurate when shooting in the line of duty (as opposed to target shooting). If this is the accuracy of highly trained professionals then I shudder to think what might happen when untrained people in a crisis situation might do when the shooting starts. I agree that better treatment for people who are mentally unstable is a necessity, but you also need far fewer guns and a system that doesn't create the instability by chewing people up and spitting them out with no safety net.

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You don't have to shudder to think about it: studies show that civilians with guns make far fewer errors and are much more accurate than police officers when they use guns to stop crimes. -rc

Posted by Jonathan, Jacksonville NC on December 14, 2012:

So much being said today, this was has to have been the most reasonable I have encountered. Thanks for what you do.

Posted by Don, Ontario on December 14, 2012:

The "helpers" are all around us, for sure those in uniform usualy are at the head of the pack...and in really difficult times, in times of crises, and catastophie, it is the ordinary folk, the ones who don't do those things for a living, that are the unsung heros. They, probably by chance, just happen to be there, and almost automatically become quiet, untrained heros, people like your next door neighbour or a total stranger on the bus, or in the street, that just react, they put them selves in personal danger to help a stranger. That is the "Humanitarian Helper" in all of us. Look for them too. They are everywhere.

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Indeed so. Even those in uniform are often volunteers: the fire department in Newtown are. -rc

Posted by Andrew, Melbourne Australia on December 14, 2012:

While its technically true that guns alone are not a problem, they do make it far easier for someone who's having a bad day to take out their frustrations with deadly consequence. Every time this sort of thing happens, the rest of te world just looks in wonder at the US and shakes their head with a "when will they learn?"

You provide a great contrast with the Chinese experience. Another complete nutter goes postal, but without a gun, and kills nobody. It's bad, but guns are the difference between a terrible event, and an utterly tragic one.

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Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used. -rc

Posted by Jim Houston, TX on December 14, 2012:

I tend to agree with a lot of what CathyAC, Brevard Florida said. While it has been a long time since I was in school (Univ of TX, 64-Jan '67, and US Army Military Intelligence School, 1971-72), I have heard the "overcrowding" theory before in sociology classes.

I also suffer from PTSD (RVN, class of '68) and am being treated for what my doc calls "Social anxiety" and what I call "agoraphobia". I not only dinna like crowds, I tend to get quite paranoid around crowds.

I honestly don't know, but I will say that -- IMO -- I wouldn't be that quick to dismiss the "overcrowding" theory. All of us are different and our "triggers" are different.

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A good point, but I'm still not seeing an upswing of violence that mirrors the growth of Facebook, Twitter, etc. -rc

Posted by Elise, Olathe KS on December 14, 2012:

I suppose it will take another 50 years for people to discover that institutionalizing young children may not be the healthiest thing for their development into adults. There are a lot of people with suppressed anger because of how they were treated as youngsters both in school and at home. Mental illness starts somewhere. Treating mentally ill people is only part of it. The other part is preventing it.

Posted by Fats, Hong Kong on December 14, 2012:

I'll be looking for the helpers from now on.

Posted by Jean in Oregon on December 14, 2012:

If Elizabeth in Dover, DE will go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_attacks_in_China_(2010%E2%80%932011) she will find the knife/cleaver wielders in China have killed many children and teachers, and injured many, many more.

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As of the last update, that page shows "at least 21 dead and some 90 injured." I hadn't even heard about it until today -- and I watch the newswires closer than most people. -rc

Posted by Mark, Burlington on December 14, 2012:

So true that the root cause is so many people believing that violence is the solution to their problem, whether that solution takes the form of a gun, a knife, a fist, or a tongue. And while I agree we as a society don't do enough to help the mentally ill, there are far too many "mentally well" people who also have that same belief.

What causes the teen to reach for a knife to settle a disagreement? What causes the husband to verbally abuse his wife in order to assert himself? What causes a person who wouldn't be diagnosed with mental illness to make a violent choice?

There's no easy answer, no single point of failure. The negative influences are everywhere. They are in our families, our schools, our friends. They are in our environment -- what we see and hear and do.

The only solution is to raise a child in such a way that they realize violence is never the answer, no matter the question. It won't be until every child grows up that way that this problem goes away. Sadly, I don't think it ever will.

Posted by Brendan, Adelaide on December 14, 2012:

The lunatic in China had a knife. He wounded a bunch of schoolkids, but most (if not all) will heal, and will go home to their families and live long and happy lives.

The lunatic in America had a gun. He killed a bunch of schoolkids. They are dead. They are never coming home. Their parents will never hold them again. Their parents will never fully recover.

I may well visit China one day. I will never visit America.

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Here is a place in China you might want to visit. We all have our faults, as well as our positive attributes. -rc

Posted by Brendan, Adelaide on December 14, 2012:

"Here is a place in China you might want to visit. We all have our faults, as well as our positive attributes. -rc"

That's kind of my point. I'm not saying all Chinese people are wonderful and all Americans are horrible, I'm saying that the psychotic Chinese have fists and guns, while the psychotic Americans have handguns and high-powered semi-automatic rifles.

Of course there are lunatics in Australia and China. And occasionally they do have firearms, like the lunatic in Port Arthur, for example. But that was one of very, very few. The lunatics outside the USA are (mostly) armed only with sticks and knives. And that makes me a heck of a lot happier.

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OK, cool -- I just wanted to know if your reaction was knee-jerk, or considered. Sounds considered, even if a bit prejudiced. -rc

Posted by Alan, Corpus Christi Tx on December 14, 2012:

I have viewed our country for 65 years and do think there has been a lessening of the concept of humanity in others. All too often the thought is that there are no humans except myself. This leads to a loss of respect for others up to and including murder. Our country is great and will weather this but only if no one loses their perspective.

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It's too late to keep large numbers of people from losing their perspective. The need is to help them regain it. -rc

Posted by Jonathan, Portland, OR on December 14, 2012:

We live in dark times, and they will get darker. Despite our hope of a Tomorrowland-type future, we are heading toward an inevitable precipice where our civilization declines and collapses under the weight of its own greed and apathy.

Take time to hope and actively work for the best, but plan and prepare for the worst so that you won't be caught unaware when things do go bad.

Randy, thank you for your efforts to spread a little light-heartedness while pointing out our foibles. I appreciate your efforts and am happy to contribute to that end.

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You're welcome, but I don't think there's anything "inevitable" about the scenario you propose. That's what thinking is all about: it's what can (and I think will) save us from that precipice. -rc

Posted by AnnMarie, Cohoes NY on December 14, 2012:

Timothy McVeigh didn't use a gun, either. In 1995, 19 children under the age of six died as a result of his actions, just the same.

I hope there is some way to stop or at least cut back on the violence. Banning guns isn't it.

Posted by John, England on December 14, 2012:

Whilst I agree with you in some aspects of what you have said I do disagree when you seem to think more gun control is not the answer. Surely the answer lies with more help for people with stability issues and tighter gun laws.

I feel for the families, at this time of year this kind of tragedy is one that we all would rather not happen. My prayers go out to the families.

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How have tighter gun laws worked for the UK? There's no violence anymore, right? You addressed the wrong problem. -rc

Posted by Charles, California on December 14, 2012:

Thanks and respect to the Helpers. I wish more of them were present *at the time of incident* and were armed. Another commenter said "nothing can be done (immediately)." Yes, something can be done.

Empower (and encourage) Helpers to be more abundant, present and armed so that they can stop these tragedies before they start. If even one teacher or staff in that school had been armed and trained with a tranquilizer gun, they could have saved lives.

Posted by Jane in Los Angeles on December 15, 2012:

Maybe looking for just one answer is part of the problem. Better mental health care is a must and will reduce these kinds of things, but some people will still slip through the cracks. Gun control -- not banning all guns, but certainly the high-capacity types that tend to be used in these kinds of shootings -- is the next layer of protection. Even that will not stop everyone, but then we can have a reasonable discussion about whether anything else needs to be done. (Probably not -- school shootings are extremely rare.) We have to think in terms of risk and risk reduction.

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We also have to think about why the Founding Fathers thought it important to enshrine gun ownership as a fundamental right. Do you really want the only ones to have guns to be the government and corporations? Without that right, we would all be speaking German today. Yes, we need a reasonable discussion of all aspects of this problem, not just one side. -rc

Posted by Tom - Oklahoma City on December 15, 2012:

Read the gut-wrenching story of the tragic Babbs Switch School fire out in Western Oklahoma in 1924 -- and the reforms that it drove.

Will we learn anything from the murderous events in Connecticut -- or will we go right on boxing our children up for the bad guys and leaving them without any guard? Think specially trained officers as guards with specially trained "school dog" K-9 companions. Whose senses are more naturally attuned to protecting kids than those of dogs? (And who can often "smell trouble coming before it actually arrives?")

There are an awful lot of great dogs languishing away in this nation's pounds and shelters -- many on death row. Could they be saved and employed in this special role (along with human partners) teaching many daily life lessons to the kids they also protect?

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A summary of the Christmas Eve fire at Babbs Switch is here (36 dead, mostly children; led to better fire codes). As for the dog idea, I'd like to know what Columbine's principal would say to this: he is clear that adding ever-more security to schools is not the answer. -rc

Posted by Falcon, TX on December 15, 2012:

A little over 10 years ago, my brother died. He bought a gun, he laid down on the floor, and he shot himself. We knew he was troubled, that he needed help. But he had not done anything to indicate committable mental illness, and he had not voiced any threat to others or to himself. Even if he'd been forced to talk to a doctor, he would easily have been able to mask the turmoil inside. The only way the law could have helped get him help is if it allowed people to be confined solely on their family's word. I don't think you want to live in that America. As much as I wish I could have my brother back, that's not the America I'd want to live in either. The fact is that it is easy to be mentally ill and suicidal without any "history" and without any actionable red flag.

You might respond that suicide isn't mass murder, and you're right. But here's what I knew about my brother: he was filled with anger and bitterness and rage. He kept entirely to himself, didn't communicate with anyone. He was able to fixate on a belief and pursue it with dogged determination. He believed God was going to make him rich, and famous (based on a belief that it was a "blessing of Abraham"). If he had been enticed by the wrong rhetoric, he could have easily have come to believe in society's corruption and in the importance of his agency in redressing that. Every time I see one of these shootings in the news -- and we see far too many of them -- I thank God that when he decided to go, he decided to go alone. He only had one bullet in his gun when he shot himself.

Now, you can dismiss my story, and say that because he didn't end up killing anyone that I am comparing apples to oranges. And if you do, I can't blame you. You didn't know my brother. But I did, and I PROMISE you that if we think this is only a problem with having better mental health care in this country, we will absolutely not stop something like this from happening again. We desperately need better mental health care, I have no quibble with that crusade. But that alone will not stop rampage killings. You will never be able to identify every ill person and get them help.

Now, as we can see in China, reduced access to guns does not stop rampage killings either. But, I think it's ENTIRELY notable that the China attack took place so close in time to this attack, and that no one in China died. There have been a number of horrific attacks in China, but in those attacks, the majority of those attacked survived (4-1). From the info I've been able to find, for school shootings in the US it is more like 1-1: for every person injured, 1 person is killed (on average). And, of course, between 2000 and 2009, 142 people were killed in shootings in America's schools.

The bottom line: gun control alone will not prevent people from making horrific attacks. Mental health care will not prevent them either. But when they do happen, and they will, the survival odds go way up if the attacker has a knife instead of a gun. And if they have a gun, the odds will be better the more slow it is to get off as many rounds. If today's shooter had had a bolt action .22, would the toll have been as high? I'd be willing to bet no. Do people think he would have gotten past the front office staff quite so easily with a knife? Guns won't go away, shootings won't go away, and no change will fix things overnight. But never attempting to make a change will only ensure that change never happens.

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Your perspective is terrific considering how close you are to such a situation -- you've clearly thought about it a lot, and have done a great job of putting the emotions in their place. But this brief essay is far from proposing that "this is only a problem with having better mental health care in this country". I think a careful reading will make that clear. -rc

Posted by Jack Lg - Kobe, Japan on December 15, 2012:

You nailed it: Thanks to the brave first responders. More thanks to the brave teachers who made every effort to protect and defend their students without thought to their personal safety. They're in all our schools and no one ever remembers to thank them.

I salute the brave and dedicated teachers that this day, and many other days, do so much extra for their students.

I am so sad for the parents that lost a child. They will never completely recover from this terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to every one of them.

Posted by John, Dayton, OH on December 15, 2012:

I'm going to be terribly cynical, here. Really hope I'm totally wrong.

After this disastrous killing in Connecticut (Never let a disaster go to waste!), Obama is going to propose some drastic new gun control legislation. Or maybe Pelosi or Reed or... possibly he can get a Republican to do it.

This legislation may need a new "enforcement branch" and an expensive bureaucracy to manage it. IRS and several other agencies already have a good stockpile of ammunition, but more may be purchased. This can be done by "executive order" and may totally bypass Congress.

Wouldn't it be a whole lot easier & cheaper to put targets on all the signs that say "Gun Free Zone"?

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Come back in a year, and loudly proclaim whether you are right, or wrong. I also hope you're wrong. -rc

Posted by Ed, UpState NY on December 15, 2012:

My hearts go out to all the families shattered by this tragedy, they will relive this every day for the rest of their lives. Thank God for the first responders: EMS, fire & police. As a first responder (medic) I couldn't contemplate notifying 28 families or so of the death of a loved one in one day. One at a time is draining enough, and I sadly get to do that as one who is educated to. Next random thought: drug cartels use the torture and killing of the children of those who cross them as a warning. Throughout history this and rape have been consistent. These are unspeakably evil acts. Maybe there is something to this "evil". Lastly, as of last night the guns were legally owned, but not by the shooter; he apparently stole them from his mother and then killed her and her class.

Posted by Joakim, Denmark on December 15, 2012:

Trying to find a single answer is always going to be futile, whether it is guns or something else. But ignoring that guns is part of the problem, and clinging to outdated constitutional rights, isn't going to solve anything either. But the gun debate will always overshadow the debate on how to solve this problem, and therefore it will never go away as long as the gun problem isn't solved first.

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Trifling with rights is foolish. What enables you to say what you think here? Your freedom of speech -- which many would like to regulate (example). I'd much rather live in a country with occasional school shootings than in one without the basic freedoms that you would discard so lightly. -rc

Posted by Randy, Bellevue on December 15, 2012:

Of course you are correct -- the core problem is mental health, something that isn't as easy to fix as we would like. Access to weapons is, however also a factor. Fixing both will reduce the death toll better than either one alone, but the former has costs and uncertain outcomes while the latter is our own little demon, complete with delusions about 'taking our guns away'. That canard is used in most conversations when limiting gun access to responsible adults comes up.

I don't want to take responsible people's guns away. Randy is right that counterexamples exist where other weapons are used, but they are the easiest, most accessible weapon. All I want is to have a serious discussion about how to effectively restrict those who should not have access without impinging on responsible people. I suspect that the gun owner population would have some good ideas in this area if we can just stop fighting over it and have adult conversations.

Posted by Trisha in Texas on December 15, 2012:

I tend to agree with CathyAC and Jim Houston in that we are more and more bombarded with noise, not just social networking, but also TV and radio. The entire mind numbing media blitz leading up to the election sent me into a mental bomb shelter just to maintain my sanity. I think it would be a telling project to see just how much more frequent such killings have been over the last century of increased noisy communication. I'm no Luddite, I don't suggest going backwards in technology, but I know how painful social noise can be.

And why children? It hurts more. If someone's intent is to cause the most pain and fear in others they usually threaten children first. This young man's mother taught at that school, how best to hurt her (besides killing her) than to hurt the other children she loved.

Thanks, Randy, for a place to voice a comment without fear of being blasted and bombasted over gun "control". It is truly people and how we think and act more than what we pick up to fulfill an action.

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I absolutely do agree that there's a lot more "noise" in the world; I just don't agree that it's leading to school shootings. The political ads bother you? (And I'd wonder about you if they didn't!) Then take control! TV remotes are popular because they have a mute button. Use it! Pretty much the only commercials I see are online -- when someone says "This is so funny/interesting, you should see it" -- and it IS so funny/interesting, it's posted on Youtube so I can. -rc

Posted by Robert from Wisconsin on December 15, 2012:

I doubt that you regularly read the New England Journal of Medicine, but I'll suggest you read a piece called "The Question" in the latest issue. It contains the musings of a Pediatric Oncologist and shows how those rare helpers can feel privileged to be among the real helpers.

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No, I don't read medical journals. If you (or someone else) sends me a link to that essay, I'll include it here. But I suspect it's behind a registration wall, if not a paywall.... -rc

Posted by Misti, Maryland on December 15, 2012:

I agree -- banning "stuff" is not the answer. Though I'm not sure I agree about mental hospitals.

What if we took one step back from mental hospitals... Why do people end up there? Why do so many people need medications to "detach/zone out?"

While I don't have THE answer, nor do I think there's one answer, I think at least part of the answer is in creating/building stronger communities.

Part of what drives us to harm ourselves/others is isolation. Imagine if more people reached out and included us. Helped us to see that we are all a part of something bigger, and we're fully supported.

The noise inside our heads might just be calmed through connection. It seems to me that big things happen in small packages. A million people reaching out and including strangers, welcoming and supporting them. Wow, the difference that would make.

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Indeed so. The "helpers" Fred Rogers was talking about is part of that. Just basic social connection -- "creating and building stronger communities" -- is another part, and a very important one. Sociologists call it "social capital," and that has been declining over the years. We absolutely do need to work on building it back up. You can start by talking with your neighbors now and then! -rc

Posted by Scott, Deployed - Horn of Africa on December 15, 2012:

Randy, this article of yours has created a bit of a miracle, and a dilemma. Karen, my Mother-in-Law from the People's Republic of Eugene, in the great Blue State of Willamette, and I actually agree. Put this one in the books for all posterity!

To the writer who posted the statistics on motor vehicle deaths, "Hooah!" I have been making that same argument in relation to our casualties while we have been fighting this current war. More than 10 years engaged in direct combat operations and less than 10,000 KIA in some very hard fighting, far less than during the months of June-August 1944. Yet still fewer every year than all of the homicides in the US by all methods of death. All homicides, including all combat deaths, are still fewer than the numbers who die in motor vehicle collisions, and no one is calling for the blood of drivers, or to take away the basic privileges of drivers using vehicles on and off of our roads, amazing!

To the rest of the avid readers of this page, "If you disagree with gun ownership, why? What guns would you outlaw? Why?" This particular trend in school shootings has been on going since at least 1764 with the first recorded school shooting in what would become the United States. Those were muzzle loaders. Just what would you do? Who would you punish for being law abiding citizens? Who would you disarm? The keeping of the peace, policing, is incumbent upon all citizens, not just those of us who are paid to enforce the law. That is one of the very foundations of our system of self governance.

I find the responses to this most recent school tragedy to be most heartfelt, but the anger is so often misplaced. The raw truth is that this kind of incident has a very long and storied history that is almost as old as mankind. The history of "School shootings" in the USA is also quite old. There are many incidents that I am sure have been lost to our history. This is mostly because of the lack of ready and rapid forms of communication, and an underdeveloped Fifth Estate during the early years of our nation’s history. However, for once Wikipedia has some very good information in a reasonable format.

Of note are the following sections: The first recorded school shooting in the US (North America minus Canada, Mexico and points south), was July 26, 1764. Violence on school properties has fallen significantly since the 1990s. The trend is downward. While it is a horrible event to have just one child injured in the course of a day's education (outside of the normal daily boo boos and injured pride), the reality is that this is not a BIGGER problem than it was 20 years ago. The rate has declined from 1992-1993 (44 Homicides and 55 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.) to 1999-2000 (25 Homicides from school shootings in the U.S.). The lowest recorded year in recent history was 2007-2008 (3 Deaths resulting from school shootings in the U.S.).

What we need to determine is why the school children (our children) starting in the 1990s have started targeting many victims rather than the ones with whom they have some form of injury or grievance. This trend along with the growing trend of situational ethics and a general lack of personal accountability is greatly disturbing.

I personally believe that a large part of this is due to the failure of parents since the late 50s to early 60s and beyond. These generations of parents have had an ideal of what an “ideal childhood” should be, with no hard lessons, bruised pride and encouraged mediocrity through denying failure as a legitimate teaching tool. We have taught our children that they are all “special” and that success is unnecessary as long as you try really hard and do your very best, even if your very best is not to society’s set standards.

As the WWII generation of parents quit having children to raise, and the next generations of educated idiots became parents, our society (Western Society) has seen a marked increase of mediocrity, a decline in our traditional societal values, and in particular in the US a deepening feeling of regret, failure and sense of loss of purpose, looking to the past with a morbid nostalgia. Allowing extremist or fundamentalist backlash attitudes to try to bring back a fading glory that may never have actually existed. These stressors coupled with the economic stressors, and a general lack of personal accountability, ethics or morality are creating a veritable soup of malaise and discontent from which these horrific events are made more possible.

Ultimately none of this is new. There have been events of revenge attacks and familial homicides, massacres, terrorist attacks, and all kinds of mayhem targeting the weakest and most vulnerable parts of our societies since the dawn of time. We need look no further than our own histories, even the holy books of our greater Western Culture, to find such incidents. For did not God strike down the first born of Egypt to secure the release of the Hebrews from Pharaoh? Have we not slaughtered the innocent to preserve our own power and status in many other historic and religiously significant events throughout our history? It is only in the motivation of these innocents slaying other innocents on a grand and terrible scale that we find such an evil for our times.

Thank you Randy for bringing this discussion out to the many, and actually getting my Mother-in-Law to agree with me for once!

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Wow! Leave it to a military guy to come up with this exquisite gem: "The keeping of the peace, policing, is incumbent upon all citizens, not just those of us who are paid to enforce the law. That is one of the very foundations of our system of self governance." Brilliant; I bolded it in your comment so more would see it (read: Scott did not bold it). I applaud you, Scott -- and your service. You're one of the Helpers. And if I helped bring you closer to your mother-in-law, that's a nice thing too. -rc

Posted by Dick, Arizona on December 15, 2012:

It is sad that the gun people automatically go into defense mode when these tragedies happen (again and again). It is NOT OK to keep parroting the line -- "if they can't get a gun they'll use a knife or a hammer or a bomb..." Don't they get it?? It is SO much easier to snuff out a life in an instant with a gun than with any other implement. Access to these deadly implements should be MUCH more tightly controlled. What is the harm in that?? Right now you can get a handgun over the internet with no background check. That is INSANE.

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Got a reference for that last claim? I don't believe it's true. It's not legal to ship a gun to a civilian, period. It has to be shipped to a federally licensed gun dealer, who then has to qualify the purchaser as legal to gain possession. Let's stick to actual facts here, eh? -rc

Posted by Tom in Vermont on December 15, 2012:

Just a thought for Brendan from Adelaide: I have lived in the United States for seventy-six years and have never experienced anything like this shooting personally. With over three-hundred million people in this country, you should put this incident in perspective.

As far as the availability of guns is concerned, it should be remembered that most of these young men who committed these terrible shootings stole the weapons that they used. Most often they were stolen from family members. Stricter purchasing regulations won't address this.

As for the mental problems being exhibited, I have to think that the use of drugs or other unnatural substance abuses may be the culprit, especially with young men. "Huffing" household cleaners or cans of compressed air can affect one's ability to reason.

Thanks, Randy for a well thought out and sensible article. We never get pertinent facts from the mainstream media. They tend to give us just enough information to help us reach the conclusion that they want us to reach.

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While I don't agree with your assessment of the mainstream media, your no-nonsense reminder to keep things in perspective is important. -rc

Posted by Robert, North Carolina on December 15, 2012:

Very well said, Randy. I'm an EMT and our local hospital at any one time has 3-4 "psych" patients in the ED waiting for beds. I've seen them wait up to 10 days for an appropriate bed. My wife is an RN at a regional psychiatric hospital that is only a few years old and had fewer beds when it was opened than the hospital it replaced. Mentally ill people are released to families that have no idea how to care for them or desire to do so. We (NC) have doubled the prison beds in the past 15 years, but reduced the number of psych beds available. The common thread in a lot of these tragedies is mismanaged mental health systems.

Posted by Dave - Munford, TN on December 15, 2012:

Had the faculty been armed, someone might have been hurt.

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How can you get more hurt than dead? -rc

Posted by Ralph, South Carolina on December 15, 2012:

It's human nature to associate cause and effect. Why did that person do such a horrible thing? Because he was mentally ill of course. His mental illness was that he rejected the morality of our society. Perhaps his act was the public announcement of that repudiation. To seek any answers beyond that is futile. Isn't the "definition" of crazy someone who is different from society? We should, of course, seek ways to prevent a recurrence. The first thing I would suggest is a blackout of news coverage. There are more of such disturbed individuals in the U.S. We don't need to give them ideas of horrendous acts for them to emulate.

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I don't think that's the definition of "crazy". If it was, then you'd officially be crazy. Even if it was, taking away the basic rights of everyone else isn't the way to solve anything. -rc

Posted by Casey, Stoneham, Ma. on December 15, 2012:

If some of the teachers were packing or at least had a gun in a locked drawer, and everybody knew about it without knowing WHICH teachers were packing, that would go a long way towards discouraging thugs that that man.

Posted by Roger - Tucson on December 15, 2012:

40 years ago the mentally "challenged" were "main streamed." No one is looking at the ramifications of that.

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Actually, we are: right here, right now. -rc

Posted by Anne, Michigan on December 15, 2012:

I had to turn the TV off after I saw the first reports, I couldn't watch anymore. My heart goes out to the families and community. I heartily thank the first responders -- I saw a picture of a firefighter holding and comforting a child who hadn't found family yet. They do so much for their communities.

There is a health website I subscribe to, mercola.com. I did a search "mental illness" on the site and came up with dozens of articles. I opened up around 10 of them (have seen a few of them before, great refresher reading) -- all very thought provoking about why mental illness and violence (in a few of them) is on the rise. There are links and sources within the articles for further research. One was about placebos vs Rx drugs -- very interesting reading!

Also look up niacin, EFT and vitamin D on the site. Vit D worked for me -- I've had very few "blue" days (much happier) since my vit D levels are now closer to an optimum range, and more energy. I do spend a lot of time outdoors and do not use sunscreen (most of them are just chemicals and can block over 90% of vit D uptake), but my body isn't processing the vit D correctly. I now take 20,000 IU's liquid vit D3 per day. D3 is better, D2 is what would probably be prescribed to you, do some research on the difference. Most estimates put 75% of adults (seniors % is even higher) with low vit D levels.

Posted by Harmon, Houston, TX on December 15, 2012:

I grew up 5 miles away from the Bath school you mention. The typical childhood joke about blowing up the school was not used very much in my neighborhood.

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Nice to hear that it's still remembered to that level. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 15, 2012:

In a country of 312 million people, there are 16,000 murders a year. That's 5/1000ths of ONE percent. Just to point out a perspective. Not the "epidemic" that the news makes it out. That means that, on average, there are 44 murders a day. Most of them happen one at a time, occasionally there are several at a time. That doesn't make it any less tragic, but it also doesn't mean anything has gotten out of control. Murders happen everywhere. The only newsworthy item is the MEANS of the murders.

To put it more in perspective, how many of YOU know anyone PERSONALLY who knows someone who lost a loved on in a mass shooting? In my 60 years, there have been a number of mass shootings, yet I do not know a single person, personally, who knows someone that lost a loved one in one of those shootings. That doesn't make it any less meaningful, but let's not make MORE of it than it is, either. The same can be said for a tragedy of a multi-vehicle pile-up on a foggy interstate in which high numbers of people have died. Make no mistake, I cry for those children, and cry more for their parents. But I also cry for the children who die of cancer each year at St Jude's Hospital and the other medical centers that try to save them. The ones who ALSO never had a chance.

What IS the question? How do we prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again? Utterly ridiculous. You don't. You can't. There will ALWAYS be someone to create an act of a monster. They're called Terrorists. But it's not as prevalent as the headlines make it out to be.

Posted by Dot from Florida on December 15, 2012:

The problem lies in the primitive state that psychiatry is in today. If you know a person whom you believe is mentally ill, who do you tell it to? If you do find someone to tell it to, what do they do about it? Probably nothing until the person commits a crime. Psychiatry is still more of an art than a science today, and trained psychiatrists often disagree on a diagnosis. People are working on it but they still have a long, long way to go.

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It's not just an art, it's a black art -- we're still in the infancy of understanding the mind. But the solution is neither in "lock them all up" (our earlier answer) nor "dump them on the streets" (our current answer). It is, rather, somewhere in between. -rc

Posted by Connie, Kelowna BC Canada on December 15, 2012:

Just heartsick about both events -- makes me think if they had a process like Minority Report -- one instance where Big Brother would actually be helpful. I've worked in China too teaching ESL. Chinese people are very kind.

Posted by Rachel, Virginia on December 15, 2012:

Referring to people who have mental illness as nut jobs is part of the problem of stigma surrounding mental illness. Way to propagate that.

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As a subscriber for years, you know that part of the mission for TRUE is to prompt people to think first, react second. If you take a moment to actually read what I wrote, you'll see I didn't say any such thing. Not all of the mentally ill are nutjobs, and not all nutjobs are mentally ill. But you picked on a nit of semantics rather than looking at the big picture. "Way to prove my larger point." -rc

Update: Rachel couldn't handle this response and again reacted before thinking -- she unsubscribed, taking one final potshot as she left. Sad. -rc

Posted by Fred in California on December 15, 2012:

I think they should take the shooter's brother out and publicly execute him. Why just take an innocent person out and execute him? Well he might do something just like his brother. Sounds ridiculous, yet the same thing applies for gun control, because one nut kills someone they want to take everyone's guns. Guns weren't used in 9-11, the Tokyo subway attack, Jonestown....

Unfortunately since the beginning of time these types of killings has been going on and it will get worse. Say .1% of the population does this as the population grows so does the numbers of people that commit this. There's only 2 solutions, live in a complete police state, think TSA on steroids, or live life while you can.

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Except it's not getting worse, the numbers are going down, not up, even as the population increases. Something to think about, isn't it? -rc

Posted by Bob in Oklahoma on December 15, 2012:

Randy in Bellevue, take a close look at Connecticut gun laws. You're not even allowed to pick up a gun in a gun shop without a permit on your person.

People who are bent on committing crimes like this won't be stopped by laws about guns. They'll ambush a cop, kill them, and steal their duty weapons if they think that's the only way to get the gun they want.

Any action that's going to try and prevent or mitigate things like this must be a multi-faceted approach, or it's not going to be effective.

Posted by Joakim, Denmark on December 15, 2012:

It's not that I think that all constitutional rights are outdated, and maybe the right to bear arms is perfectly valid, but your constitution was written in a time before automatic assault rifles. I'm not calling for a ban on guns, but your reaction is exactly why the debate on guns will never move forward in the US, and why the underlying issues will likely never get the debate that is needed. Banning guns is obviously not going to happen, but even if it did, it wouldn't solve anything as the guns are already out there. But you need to address and debate the problem, without the "from my cold dead hands" rhetoric.

All in my humble opinion of course.

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Of course! :-)

You miss the point of the Second Amendment: it's not just to provide for self defense (and we are, by law, responsible for our own self defense). It's also to put down the government should it grow out of control. Crazy? Maybe, but that's what it is for, as noted in this very blog. Yes, that right was enshrined in our Constitution centuries ago, but it hasn't just been sitting there gathering dust: it's discussed and chewed on and interpreted constantly by our courts, up to and including the Supreme Court. Courts don't always get everything right every time, but over time they're right more often than not. To simply dismiss basic rights as "outdated" relics we "cling" to is far more dangerous than the occasional shooting you're trying to solve by stomping on every citizen. Humanity deserves a much more thoughtful approach. -rc

Posted by Ali in Oregon on December 15, 2012:

Well said. Like they said above many die in car accidents and we don't ban those, however they were not intentionally mis-used just to kill, but the same can not be said in those countries where they are used as car bombs. But if you take it one step further, more people died on 9-11 because someone used an airplane as a weapon, yet everyday thousands all over the world use them responsibly for travel. Or machetes in Africa killing thousands.

It is a slippery slope, at what point do we stop blaming the weapon and put the blame where it belongs, which is squarely on the shoulders of the user. Some people say "Who cares why he did it" but in finding that out we can perhaps take step to help and prevent it from happening again. We need more mental health programs.

Posted by Stewart, UK on December 15, 2012:

Back in 1996 a man called Thomas Hamilton walked into a school in Dunblane, Scotland, and killed 16 small children and their teacher, then killed himself. It was disclosed after the event that Hamilton owned 6 legally licensed handguns. The following year the ownership of handguns was banned in the UK. Of course, it hasn't stopped criminals from owning guns. The average annual rate of homicide by firearms in the UK is 0.3 per million. In the US, the equivalent rate is 29.8 per million. That means that Americans are nearly ONE HUNDRED TIMES more likely to be murdered by a firearm than in the UK. It is not because Americans are more aggressive, or less well-educated, or poorer, or more crowded than in the UK. It's because there are 300 million legally owned firearms. America is the most heavily armed society in the world, with something like 90 guns per 100 people. And the events yesterday in Connecticut are a DIRECT result of America's lack of gun control.

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What is your rate of knife murders? And I'll quote myself from above: "Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." -rc

Posted by John, Arkansas on December 15, 2012:

Sadness, just sadness was my first visceral response from the reports. My next response was to turn off the TV and media coverage until more solid facts could form a more complete picture. Only now do I feel I could begin to address the question posed here. What could prevent this? Nothing really, is the answer I fear.

Let’s look at some of the proposals.

First, gun control: We have ample evidence here of people wishing to do violence, who used other means when guns were not available to them or even when they were but did not suit their particular purposes. We further have ample evidence of guns in the hands of responsible citizens preventing tragedies like this. We even have the examples of countries with strict gun laws, where they were circumvented and even in the cases here in the U.S.A. where the perpetrator(s) illegally obtained their guns. With the millions of guns out there and the millions more being produced each day, it is doubtful that any gun laws will do much to prevent events like this. Instead, it is far more likely to incite violence from those who responsibly own guns and provide a second layer of security from the madness that our police and law enforcement cannot.

Second, mental health care: As a free nation, all mental health care must be voluntary until one makes one a “threat to self or others.” Some here seem to advocate moving the line to allow the government unprecedented intrusion into our lives. Then people who are not like us exactly can be rounded up and warehoused to protect us. This was used before, in my lifetime. It was suggested to my parents when I was the tender age of 4, that I be placed in one of these institutions. Why? Because I appeared to be “retarded”. About a year later, through my parents insistence and perseverance it was discovered that my problem was a hearing loss. It’s through this lens that I look when I hear, “just lock them away”. Or when I hear those against, “mainstreaming” of children with mental or physical disabilities, I think “where pray tell is the other stream for us?” Why should we live a lesser life? What did we ever do to you?

Third, many have suggested that our crowding world is part of the cause and just are not quite sure what could be done about it. I too, have had these thoughts, as our populations continue to increase, it does seem to me there is an uptick in perhaps not violence, but intolerance of others with differing beliefs, skill sets, looks, etc. In these shallow cesspools of our natures, our rigidness only becomes more rigid. We claim to be creating “new communities”, but instead we are creating microcosms of society that are ever so harder to cross than in the past. Mini-communities not built for the inclusion of our neighbors but to keep out the “wrong kind”. To keep out ideas that challenge our “values” and ways of “thinking.”

I think the closest this discussion has come to an line of thought worthy of following up on was Scott when he stated, ”The keeping of the peace, policing, is incumbent upon all citizens, not just those of us who are paid to enforce the law. That is one of the very foundations of our system of self governance.” We are all responsible to look out upon our neighbors, try to help where we can. We are all one community. Just because I believe differently than you, worship differently, think differently, have different strengths and weaknesses, does not make me better or worse than you. It makes me, me, and you, you. I think I can safely say we all believe in some core things, freedom being chief among them in our nation. The other being citizen involvement. We need to look out for our neighbors, not necessarily advocating the big brother reporting to government of every little eccentric action of your neighbors. But, know them. Know them enough to know when things are wrong. Incredibly difficult in this age. But, democracy is never easy. It is not a form of government for the lazy.

Could this be foreseen? I don’t know. Could it have been prevented? Maybe just one kind “Good Morning.” Maybe this would have only resulted in one more victim. I fear the solution to this would only be the ability of the government to see into our souls. And that I fear much more than a man with a gun. For the man with the gun knows eventually he will face a reckoning. A government rarely does face a reckoning, especially if it could see in advance who has the heart to oppose it.

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Yes, we were way too quick to lock people up in institutions in the old days. As I said above, "...the solution is neither in 'lock them all up' (our earlier answer) nor 'dump them on the streets' (our current answer). It is, rather, somewhere in between." -rc

Posted by Nathan, Bend Oregon on December 15, 2012:

Simple question: as a Law abiding Citizen, do you know where to go buy illegal drugs? No, of course not. But criminals do, and do so daily, regardless of the risk of any legal repercussions. Can you guess where i am going with this? That's right, In the end gun control laws make it illegal for law abiding people to defend themselves and their
loved ones, from the people that have no concern for man or his laws!

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Or, as someone on Facebook put it, "Oh? Gun control will take guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals? Well, then let's make meth and heroin illegal!" -rc

Posted by Lenny, Fl. on December 15, 2012:

I am a gun person. The answer to your question is so complicated that it will never be resolved to the satisfaction of too many people, and will not remove guns from crime. As I worked in a gun store 30 years ago, I showed many people guns, and often, how to use them. I answered a lot of questions from people. Management told me that anybody who files proper paperwork could sue us if we refused the sale.

One day, a young man came in and asked to see a gun. We chatted a bit. There was something peculiar about him, and I asked if he lived with his parents. He sad "yes", so I asked him to check with them, before he brought in a handgun. I told him to come back and finish the forms. He agreed. I felt relief. I didn't know it, but he was home for the weekend, on leave, from a mental hospital. He had come back, and bought the gun from another salesman. The salesman was then was confronted by a homicide cop and the guy's angry mother. Had killed himself.

Back to the question. The paperwork was done right, but the man lied on it. He said he never had been committed to a mental hospital. He answered negative. But he lied. Who would do such a thing as lie. Anybody? You know that. I got lucky. I also trusted my gut. Now, what to do. We who own guns must protect them from anybody else. That should be required that they be kept secured. We have those laws already.

Posted by Trisha in Texas on December 15, 2012:

I am going out on a limb here, but it is one I've been sitting on and contemplating for a long, long time. As a Vietnam Era vet I have had my share of all night conversations with men and women who have faced death and killing and seen the physical and mental scars that it leaves behind. Why do we do it? What prods us again and again to put ourselves in the position to kill each other? I watched a commentary from one of the CSI programs where the writers talked about how they were afraid they would run out of ideas, but combing through police files and headlines they realized they have only scratched the surface of the variety of human ability to take life.

I wonder if ancient, well-honed survival instincts, our fear of the rustle in the grass that could be a predator, our fear of the dark with its many moon reflected eyeballs, so deeply entwined in our genetics have been outrun by our supersonic cultural changes. Are we living this crazy modern life with old and maybe ill-fitting responses? Fight or flight is very real, but who are we fighting and where can we run? And who knows in any one human mind/body what action trips that crazed adrenaline rush and how any one person will react if that person hasn't been physically and mentally well educated by the tribe (family, village, culture) on how to properly respond?

We don't have so many formal rites of passage anymore that test a young person's ability to survive with the temperament that they will need to cohabitate with others as an adult. Spring break trips, hazing and alcohol poisoning at the frat house don't count. I suggest that a percentage of what we call mental illness is a person’s inability to reconcile what they see, feel and think with what they are told they should see, feel and think. Especially in a society like ours where we are constantly bombarded with the culture of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, ‘it’s only wrong if you get caught’ and ‘money changes everything.’ We need to find a lot more ways for our kids to practice good response under stress and we need to walk our talk.

Staying alive and staying sane is hard work. Hang in there.

Posted by Chris, Canberra, Australia on December 15, 2012:

As you've intimated, the answer to this will not be simple. In this light, to say banning guns isn't the answer is as knee-jerk as much of the other commentary out there. Maybe banning, or severely restricting access to, guns is just one of a number of fronts on which this problem must be attacked. Don't reject it out-of-hand; all I'm asking is that you treat it with the same level-headed approach you've shown with other aspects of this terrible tragedy.

Take the Port Arthur massacre in Australia in April 1996. 35 people were killed, another 23 or so injured (my parents were supposed to be there that day with a relative visiting from England - luckily he wasn't feeling well and they didn't go.) This was the straw that broke the camels back and led to the final raft of gun control laws in Australia. Since then the number of gun-related deaths in Australia has almost been wiped out (down from an average of around 0.6 per 100,000 to around 0.1), and those deaths previously attributable to gun-related violence have not reappeared as the result of the use of other weapons. Does this mean gun control in Australia has been effective? You be the judge.

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It's not at all "knee-jerk," it's based on trying it again and again and again and again in country after country after state after city. The result is the same every time: violent crime goes up, simply because the wrong problem is being addressed. "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result" applies here. Sure gun-related deaths go down, but what happens to knife-related murder? What happens to bludgeon-related murder? What happens to strangulation-murder rates? What.... I could go on, and on and on. But "Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." -rc

Posted by Joakim, Denmark on December 15, 2012:

Not to argue with you Randy, I would lose every time, but I think you are missing my point. I understand why the second amendment exists, and it's not that I dismiss its validity, even though I believe most western first world countries do fine without the constitutional right to arm themselves against their own government. My point is that this debate and people's strong beliefs in their rights to carry guns gets in the way of more productive issues. As a country you are divided on the gun issue. But the guns are already there, so no matter bans or tighter control, shootings and other gun related violence will be a part of American life. Just as it has always been and will likely continue to be for our lifetimes at least. But as long as you argue whether more guns or more control is the solution, that argument will overshadow all the other parts of the problem. I don't have any answers, but neither more guns nor more gun control will solve this, so you need to get past that argument and work on the other parts of the solution.

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I appreciate your thoughtful attempts to clarify your point. To clarify mine, I'm not arguing along the line that either "more guns or more control" is part of the solution, I'm arguing that this line of thought doesn't address the actual problem. The actual problem is violence; the tool used to perpetuate it is beside the point, since if you take away one, the violent will simply grab or create another, and we can't ban rocks nor hands. Mental health care is just one part of the answer, but we won't get to the right answers if we don't focus on the right questions. -rc

Posted by Alex, Asheville, NC on December 15, 2012:

I find it interesting that you seem very Liberal in your views, but "Conservative" about gun control. You see, I am a Liberal (somewhere between a Social Democrat and a Democratic Socialist), and am very protective of our First Amendment, and vociferous in that protectiveness, but am the same way about our Second. Why? The First rests upon the Second, and if you deconstruct the Second, the First won't be far behind.

This desire to "repeal the Second Amendment" (and yes, I have heard it, on a nationally syndicated radio show) or to "rewrite the Second Amendment" (ditto), if consummated, will open the whole Bill of Rights to revision. Many wish to repeal or rewrite the First (religion in schools, prayer in schools, muzzling the press, arresting protesters), and especially the Fifth, and, yes, I have heard the ideas that the Second is outdated; in that case, the whole Bill of Rights is outdated!

This desire to make the guns the problem is like a group of dogs in a room barking at a cat in the room, but ignoring the elephants tramping around among them, dodging the elephant feet, while trying to get at the cat. The elephants are the open sores of social problems that are making people go crazy and go violent, whether they use hammers, knives, or axes. This needs to be addressed along with background checks on buyers, even (especially) at gun shows.

Gun deaths in 2010 were 11,105, and that includes accidents and suicide. Auto deaths were 32,000, and of those, alcohol accounted for 10,228, but I see no calls for outlawing cars or alcohol!

We need to have a hard look at our society, its social problems, and what can be done. Taking away a right that our Founders and Framers thought necessary enough to say that it "shall not be infringed" is not really the answer.

Thanks Randy, for a reasoned, thoughtful column.

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I started with eyes rolling: what, again someone thinks they know my political views better than I? And then you proved that thought can be nuanced, and not toe a party line. I do hold some "liberal" views, and I hold some "conservative" views. Neither side is all correct, nor all wrong. Such simplistic thinking is one of the reasons we're in a mess, and the resulting "us vs. them" (aka "we are good, they are evil") is exactly what leads to the violence this page is discussing. So while your first sentence got my eyes rolling (and boy, is it hard to read when that happens), the rest is exactly what I want: thought about the ramifications of knee-jerk reactions, and people saying "Hold on: what about THIS?" -rc

Posted by Victoria, Ill. on December 15, 2012:

You are absolutely right in saying the government does not care about the mentally ill. Medicaid will pay for birth control but not for psychiatric counseling as outpatient in hospitals. My 4 yr. old son's father died almost 10 months ago & is on all kids insurance due to it. I have searched around to find him a psychologist who does it through play therapy because he started to have ticks. I took him to a pediatric neurologist to find out what was going on with him & it is just the stress of the loss of his Daddy that he needs to talk about. So it all starts right here with the government not wanting to cover necessary treatments to help a young child. I have searched other avenues to help my son and think I finally found a program we can get involved with. I will do whatever it takes to help my child grow up to be a HEALTHY adult. Some parents unfortunately don't take the time or feel it necessary to get their children the help they desperately need. They come up with so many excuses as to why they don't & it is truly a shame cause the child is the one who suffers as an adult in the end & crazy things like these killings happen!!! If everyone in this world went to a physiologist this world would be a much better place!

Posted by John, B.C. on December 15, 2012:

I agree with you about the answer: I don't know either.

But the astonishing difference in murder rates between the US and Canada and Europe shows something (maybe not just the obvious). Arguments on both sides of the problem can sound good and reasonable.

I'm in Canada and we're starting to get a lot more gun crime in major cities. And I have US friends who say small-town life in the US is as safe as in Canada. People safely leave their doors unlocked and it's almost like the 1950s and Leave it to Beaver. It's mostly in the inner cities where gangs and drugs create third-world areas within the US.

And yet, these mass murders occur in nice places. What a nightmare that there don't seem to be any answers.

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There are answers -- if we start asking the right questions. That doesn't mean that murders will never happen again, but we can see radical improvement if we're willing to really look at ourselves. -rc

Posted by Owen, Washington on December 15, 2012:

I agree that addressing mental health is an important part of the solution. However I think we need to revisit the issue of gun availability and owner responsibility. As a result of past incidents, explosives are controlled much more strictly. You can no longer walk into a store and buy dynamite or other explosives. Even ammonium nitrate purchases (fertilizer) are controlled. Guns are now the easiest way to commit mass murder. The 3 day waiting period to buy a gun probably helps, as it allows people to get over an emotional crisis. Banning guns is not appropriate, but requiring some training may be. We require people to demonstrate proficiency to get a driver's license. I would argue that the right to drive is even more critical in today's society than gun ownership, but we don't allow anyone to drive without demonstrating some proficiency.

Unfortunately, rational discussion addressing the issue of gun control gets drowned between the gun nuts who insist on their right to own any firearm they want with no regulation and the anti-gun nuts who want to ban all guns. Gun dealers have regulations on gun sales, but as an individual I can sell a gun to anyone. As pointed out, many guns are stolen. Having a firearm includes a responsibility to secure it.

We need to come up with a sensible answer that protects potential victims, while protecting gun owners rights. Should automatic or semi-automatic weapons, or large magazines require a permit? Should people have to take a course before owning a firearm, as is the case with concealed carry? Should firearms be banned from more places, like we do at schools? Someone needs to develop a serious discussion. I think responsible gun owners need to be proactive. You and your readers are a good group to start this discussion to develop a sensible policy. Otherwise, we'll get a knee-jerk regulation which will probably trample gun owners rights without increasing safety.

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Your analogy suffers since there's no Constitutional right to drive a car, but I absolutely agree these ideas need to be part of the discussion. -rc

Posted by David, Arizona on December 15, 2012:

"Treat the mentally ill" is fine. But how do we identify them before they snap? Mandatory psych evaluations for everyone?

How low do we set the bar for labeling someone "mentally ill?" Is every melancholic teenager (all of them, in other words) mentally ill?

We have laws and informal rules that strike a balance between public safety and individual liberty. Whenever a horror like Sandy Hook occurs, there are calls to tip the scale towards public safety. What did Ben Franklin say about those who would trade liberty for security?

He said they "deserve neither."

More often than not, the best thing to do about our fears is nothing. Most of the things we worry about never happen.

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Certainly we don't go and test everyone to see if we can identify them before they snap. But there are people we know are violently mentally ill, and we aren't allowed to do something about it. Often (but obviously not always), their family members know. Sometimes they call the FBI and say, "I think who you're looking for is my brother." (Unabomber). Here's another example, posted Friday night after the Sandy Hook Shootings: "I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am Jason Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother." She knows that her son is not just mentally ill, but violently so. And she cannot get help with him. It's a sobering read from someone who is living it every day, and knows her son could well be the next infamous murderer. This is what I'm talking about when I say we need better mental health care in this country. -rc

Posted by Walter, N Conway, NH on December 15, 2012:

My version of gun control: you buy a gun, you buy a gun lock and/or a gun safe. You use them all or lose them all. You also must take/show proof of taking a gun class/hunter safety/self defense course.

Also, why does a non-military, non-EMT or non-police person need a bulletproof vest? May this be a clue for instability? Why does anyone need a gun with 38 (or more) rounds? If you cannot shoot a deer with a 5 shot clip, you should not be hunting. And shooting targets at a range just means more reloading.

20 six and seven year olds with 3 to 7 gunshots each is sick. With smaller loads, perhaps the principal and the psychiatrist (and others) would have time to tackle the shooter without getting shot, during reload. Yes, some would die, but perhaps fewer.

And a question, how easy was it to buy explosives in 1927 compared to now? I do not believe I can just walk in to a TNT store and buy a box of dynamite. As said in the NYT, it is easier to buy a gun than to adopt a puppy.

Posted by Florian, Munich on December 16, 2012:

if only one amok shooting could be stopped by stronger gun laws, I personally think that it is worth looking into. If you want to do a shooting in the states, its a lot easier then compared to almost any other part of the earth. Other shootings over the world showed, that the shooter had easy access to guns (Gun nut father and so on) So if the laws where a bit harder for everyone to have guns at home, it will might make it harder for mentally unstable people to get their hands on one. And if only one school gets saved from a tragedy like this. Wouldn't it be worth it?

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It depends on the cost (and I don't mean in dollars). Yes, we can make the world safer by removing all of our rights. Easy! But as I told a previous commenter, "I'd much rather live in a country with occasional school shootings than in one without the basic freedoms that you would discard so lightly." And this clearly needs to be repeated until it sinks in: "Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." -rc

Posted by Snezhana, Russia on December 16, 2012:

I am very, very sorry. It is so hard to imagine. I have a kid of my own and I cannot think of what I would do. I do not want to think about it. But (again, I am very sorry!) it is American. We had everything in our history: terror, maniacs, violence and crime but not mass killing at schools or universities. Probably the first incident took place in October -- in Moscow several killed in an office massacre. The first! Why?

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Because your government didn't want its citizens to know what was going on. They wanted you to think that nothing like that could happen in a Socialist Paradise, as if it only happens in Evil Capitalist countries. But even though glasnost is nearly 30 years old, you still cling to that propaganda. I'm not sure if there were mass school killings during the Soviet era, but that official head-in-the-sand denial certainly enabled serial killers. Some examples are here, in English, on a Russian web site -- but notably, by a Western journalist. -rc

Posted by Tony, Tel Aviv on December 16, 2012:

The Newtown Massacre has stunned people all over the world. While watching the networks broadcasting the reactions of the citizens of Newtown and other communities, I kept expecting to hear one reaction that never came on air. I expected to hear at least someone express the plea "When, oh when will our legislators do what is necessary to protect us?" Every thinking person outside the USA recognises what is staring you all in the face: the ludricous ease with which anyone -- literally anyone -- can get their hands on lethal weapons is one blatantly obvious cause of these all-too-frequent tragedies. Of course more should be done to help unstable people; of course one can always to more to educate against violence; of course better preventive security could be helpful; but the head-in-the-sand attitude of "It's not the guns, it's who uses them" is an insult to the intelligence, an indefensible moral stance and a kick in the face of every innocent victim. As long as so many of the wrong people can legally buy, own, borrow and use weapons with consummate ease, every single person who has contributed in the smallest measure to such a situation should take responsibility for the murders in Newtown.

I dispute the weird logic in the account of the Pearl High School shootings. Has someone forgotten that the shooter shot nine people, killing two, before he was apprehended? The prevention of more harm was a blessing, but cold comfort to the victims and their families. A clear case of too little, too late.

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You dispute it?! OK, let's say the vice principal did nothing, except call the police. And as the police rushed to the high school, the boy went to the junior high and shot up another 11 people, killing several. Nothing can help the already-dead high schoolers, but you're saying the VP should tell the parents of the dead students at the second school, "I had a gun, and I could have stopped him, but I didn't agree with the theory that it was possible. Gee, I'm sorry you all have to bury your children." Yeah, that makes sense. How can you sleep at night?! Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used. -rc

Posted by Kay, Washington on December 16, 2012:

I have responsibility for a mentally ill relative who periodically (at least once a year) gets off his medications and needs hospitalization. It usually requires several months to find an available bed for him since funding problems have closed many mental health hospitals.

Last summer he carried an axe into stores and a church while the local mental health agency was trying to locate a bed. The agency eventually got him into a hospital to "protect him from potentially overreacting public safety officers" but it later turned out that the mental health agency was not aware that he was frequently carrying an axe.

Community-based mental health can only go so far.

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Another example of someone who knows her family member is violently mentally ill, but is prevented from getting him the help he desperately needs. -rc

Posted by Frederick in San Diego, California on December 16, 2012:

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 15, 2012: "In a country of 312 million people, there are 16,000 murders a year. That's 5/1000ths of ONE percent."

A illustration of perspective:

Many individuals' common approach seems to place that person at the top of a triangle shaped like a pyramid in their relationship to "everyone else". My search for understanding has me empathizing with with this shooter. From that perspective I place myself AND him at the bottom of a triangle shaped like a funnel.

There have been times that I have felt the crushing weight of "the world" in my personal life; this I share with this agonized soul. I have been institutionalized; thankfully for a brief period a long time ago. Was it "the solution"? For me, no. Fortunately I recognized that experience as an introduction to the possibility of finding help when I needed to search for it subsequently. Why do we separate ourselves from our brothers (and sisters) in such need?

Posted by Sharon Charlotte NC on December 16, 2012:

Can you tell me any purpose for the civilian ownership of a military assault rifle or any gun that can shoot 1200 rounds per minute? I don't think the gun control subject will be all or nothing, just a reasonable discussion on what should be on the open market and what should not.

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Who is it you think has such weapons? Exaggerating the facts to ludicrous levels doesn't add to the discussion, it obfuscates it. -rc

Posted by Dan, Cape Girardeau, MO, USA on December 16, 2012:

I enjoyed reading this and will be posting the link to my page. I will however say that the thing that upset me the most was the fact that it took less than 8 hours for members of the current administration AND the national news companies to use this incident to start calling for more and stricter gun control and, as some have said before, calling for the "disarming of America". The problem is, to quote the NRA, "If guns are made criminal, only criminals will have guns." According to FBI statistics, 93% of all violent crime NEVER involves a gun, and prior to the "Assault Weapons Ban", those type of weapons had NEVER been used in ANY crime.

Yes, it is horrific that things like this happen, the other question that no one seems to be asking is "Why now?"

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First, just like the previous poster, spouting ridiculous propaganda is asinine. Provide your reference for the "current administration" saying that we must begin the "disarming of America" 8 hours after the Sandy Hook shooting. Go ahead: I'll publish it.

It's refusing to even have a discussion that makes you look like an idiot "gun nut" -- the kind of moron that it's EASY to fight against. You can't have an intelligent discussion about the issue? Why the hell not? What Obama actually said was, we need to have a discussion. Period. And we do. To scream that he was "actually" saying we must begin the "disarming of America" is idiotic. What Obama has actually done in his first term about guns: he signed a bill allowing people with permits to carry in National Parks. Yeah, that's right in line with the "disarming of America," isn't it?

Why now? Why not now?

Shrill idiocy isn't the way forward; again, that's so easy to counter that it makes your side weaker, not stronger. Use your damned brain: if you can't have a reasonable discussion, then you're saying you don't have a reasonable position. -rc

Posted by Neil Schenectady, NY on December 16, 2012:

I have spent some time reading various rants posted elsewhere that blame the shooting on: The President, video games, movies, lack of church, too much church, guns, lack of guns, parents, teachers... and on and on and on.

How refreshing it is as always to come here for a dose of reason and sanity amongst all the stupidity and insanity.

I can offer no answers, nor even the proper questions on this tragedy. But I can observe that the majority of people discussing it are sadly not using their brains.

Posted by Hal, South Carolina on December 16, 2012:

I agree that we need to need to address the problem of the mentally ill. However, I think an earlier question that you dismissed needs to be answered. If I may I'll re-phrase the question: Can you tell me any purpose for the civilian ownership of a rifle such as the Bushmaster .223 calibre, which apparently was the weapon used by the Newtown shooter?

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I already answered that, nearly four years ago: http://www.thisistrue.com/blog-guns_in_america_why.html -rc

Posted by Tony, Tel Aviv on December 16, 2012:

Why does a discussion about guns make people lose their equilibrium? It is a very thin argument to say that a potential killer will kill somehow, anyhow. Putting a gun in his reach is simply making it more feasible, more likely and much easier to kill, and to kill more people with less effort.

I made no criticism of the Pearl High School vice principal: he acted decisively and with courage (his name -- Joel Myrick -- deserves honourable mention). My point is that the crimes at Pearl High and Newtown should be considered PREVENTABLE, and not some unfortunate accident that has to be dealt with by a gun-toting schoolteacher. Take off the blind-fold, America! What on earth can justify legally enabling a Nancy Lanza to acquire an arsenal of fire-arms? And do not delude yourselves or try to convince others that Adam Lanza would have been able to slaughter those little children and their teachers without access to such weapons.

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I don't know why you've lost your equilibrium -- that's up to you to discover. You said you "dispute the weird logic" of Mr. Myrick's actions. Sounds pretty disrespectful to me. And OF COURSE Lanza would have been able to kill those children -- and more -- if he had no access to guns: did you actually read the 5-paragraph essay above? Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used. -rc

Posted by Mike from Dallas on December 16, 2012:

There have been a number of comments that such an incident is much less likely in countries where firearm ownership is severely restricted. Allow me to refute those claims.

Norwegian gunman Anders Breivik killed 70 people in a 90-minute shooting spree in July 2011.

In the Jokela school massacre (Finland, Nov 2007), Pekka-Eric Auvinen murdered 8 people with .22 caliber pistol before killing himself. He had no prior criminal record nor any history of mental illness.

March 2009, Winnenden, Germany, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer blew away 15 people before killing himself.

Cuers, France, Sept 1995, a 17-year-old boy killed 16 people, and wounded several others before killing himself.

Dunblane, Scotland, March 1996 is credited as the incident that served as the catalyst for the highly stringent guns laws in the UK that followed. At Dublane, 16 students and their teacher were murdered before the gunman killed himself.

Unfortunately, in spite of the strict laws that followed, in June 2010, a British taxi driver named Derrick Bird drove through several communities, racking up a death toll of 12 people and 11 wounded. He also ended up taking his own life.

Sept 2001, a gunman opened fire on a local government parliament in Zug, Switzerland, killing 14 members.

Oct 2001, a railway worker opened fire at an intersection in Tours, France, killing 4 and wounding 10.

Friesing, Germany, Feb 2002, 3 people dead in a mass shooting.

March 2002, Nanterre, France, a gunman killed 8 members of the city council during their meeting.

April 2002, Erfurt, Germany, a former student killed 18 people at a middle school.

Nov 2006, Emsdetten, Germany, 11 dead at a former student's high school.

2008, Matti Saari shot and killed 10 people at a college in Kauhajoki, Finland. With a .22 caliber pistol.

There are so many more, but the space here is limited and my point is made. Stricter gun laws do no eliminate mass shootings. Notice that even in some of these incidents, it didn't involve high-powered, or high-capacity, weapons. Maybe such laws reduce the likelihood, but that's NO consolation to the victims and their families. Anyone who suggests that FEWER killings are somehow "preferable" is sadly out of touch. NO killings are preferable, but that will never be as long as there are human beings.

I repeat what I said in another topic: Laws do not prevent crime. Their purpose is to deal with crime after its been committed. One of the major flaws I see in American society is that there is ALWAYS an excuse for someone's criminal action. He believes he was entitled to commit the crime, or external circumstances combined so that he "couldn't help himself." Stop making excuses. Accountability and responsibility belong to each and every human being, not the "other guy." Integrity begins with adherence to the small stuff.

Posted by Glenda, Alaska on December 16, 2012:

I have read many comments to your article that I agree with and several I totally disagree with. I do not believe our problems have anything to do with weapons.

I own several weapons of various types including handguns and rifles, even a .223 that is great for caribou hunting. My grandfather taught me to shoot, and how to safely handle a weapon, when I was 5. I was in 1st grade. Some of my fondest memories of childhood including hunting wild rabbits and pheasants with my grandfather. Most of my guns have what would be considered high capacity magazines. I doubt I will need to respond to a home invasion incident; however, should that occur I would not want to face multiple intruders with six rounds of ammunition and my three German Shepherds.

I think the person who came closest to hitting the nail on the head commented in regard to the lack of community with many micro-communities and lack of tolerance for others.

There are basic needs for any living organism to survive including air, water, food, and a suitable living environment. How many people in America today lack those basic needs?

I think our country has been moving away from the suitable living environment, which I think involves community rather than isolation, neighbors who work with each other and help each other, to a situation where people want "the government" to provide for them and make them safe. This cannot happen.

America was born as a republic, in "we the people," which safeguards the rights of the individual and the minority over a democracy majority rule. To me, this means the individual bears a responsibility in their choices and parents bear a responsibility in raising their children. Governmental interference in the last few decades bears a direct relationship to parents afraid to provide those choices because there will always be rogue government "helpers" who think they know what is better for you. This article is, I think, a prime example of why parents are in fear over providing discipline and guidance in regard to their own children.

Then we have examples of "government protection" in the form of Rudy Ridge and WACO. What threat were these people? 86 people died in WACO, about one-third children. Why is it okay for "the government" to kill innocent people or invade people's homes with guns?

It would seem reasonable to me, we will never totally avoid disasters but we might progress toward a better society by evicting "the government" from the lives of the majority of people. United we stand, divided we fall; "the government" tends to divide us ethnically and categorically. I think individuals in America need to stand together in our republic, support each other and our right to individuality, accept each other rather than segregate, help each other in times of crisis, and denounce government interference. We have a long way to go.

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The parents in the story you link to have sued the hospital. -rc

Posted by Rob, Sydney Australia on December 16, 2012:

I normally agree with your usual balanced and well thought out opinions -- but on this one you have completely lost me. From an outsiders perspective it is amazing and perverse to witness the American obsession with firearms. And not just any firearms -- but a propensity for heavy calibre handguns and automatic weapons -- which are not needed for 'traditional' hunting type roles. Your arguments that guns don't kill people kill people (paraphrasing your 'it's the mentally ill to blame' argument) -- it's actually people with guns who have far more propensity and ability to kill masses of others. Your China example hardly backs up your side -- a knife or hammer has far less capacity to do mass murder than an automatic military style weapon? And your comment to John in England; "How have tighter gun laws worked for the UK? There's no violence anymore, right?" Is not worthy of your normally sane statements -- one swallow does not make a summer -- and one act of violence does not mean gun control in the UK is therefore not working. As you would know, being a person who is keen on research, the rates of gun related death in the UK (0.25 per 100,00) are far far below that of the USA (9 per 100,000)!!! So yes Randy -- UK gun control IS working. You would know this -- so I'm really disappointed that you'd even make such an insane statement.

Following a mass shooting at Port Arthur in Australia there was a banning and buy back of semi-auto and various other weapons, along with a tightening of ownership laws. Murder rates have halved since that time. Just because there's still some murders doesn't mean its not working -- there is no single answer -- but to take gun control out of the mix is just ludicrous as it has repeatedly been shown to be a major factor.

It is also achievable -- unlike many of the calls to somehow 'control' those with mental illness. These types of incidents are largely unpredictable -- so do we lock up millions of people who may be experiencing various levels of mental illness (from very minor depression upwards -- and frequently for short periods) -- just in case they might one day commit mass murder? America already has over 2 million people in prison (another idiotic issue to argue another day!) it is finding hard to deal with -- what kind of financial impact will several million more health patients have -- let alone the human costs?
The 'cars kill people too' argument is also facetious -- cars actually have a practical use. They get us from one place to another and transport huge amounts of goods. You also need to do training, have a licence, registration and insurance, there are ongoing advances in technology to improve their safety. What practical and helpful role does an M16 or a colt 45 serve sitting in the closet?? Not to mention the increased rates of successful suicide and accidental shootings that occur with firearms in a house? And the second amendment -- please -- written so long ago and with a civilian militia in mind -- its outdated and hardly holds water in todays society -are you really that fearful that the British will try and invade again?? Get a grip.

And your claim that not all mass school murders use firearms -- there was a bombing in 1927!! Wow -- and how many shootings since then? And how available are explosives nowadays?? Don't tell me they started controlling its availability so nutters couldn't blow up more people? Yet for guns no such consequences? Surely it should be your God given right to have a few pounds of C4 in the garage -- you know 'just in case'? And after all -- explosives don't kill people -- people kill people right?

You really need to have good hard, objective look at yourselves as a nation -- the rest of the civilised world can see what a ludicrous obsession guns have become in the USA. Your NRA needs to start considering people's lives over and above their own selfish and perverted self interests --- and your politicians, on both sides of the House, need to grow a pair and get on with the hard decisions.

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You will indeed you will remain "lost" if you don't actually read what I have to say, including this linked blog post, not to mention this page. Again (and again and again), the guy in Bath didn't use a gun. No guns? No problem: they'll always come up with something else. Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used. -rc

Posted by Rob, Sydney Australia on December 16, 2012:

"Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." - So what IS the 'actual problem' Randy? Mental health issues? So you propose that there should be a national mental health screening process for the possibility that someone, at sometime in their lives may have the propensity to go out and kill lots of people? Yeh good luck with that. So... if we can't adequately or realistically address that core issue -- surely we need to look at the 'tools'? I would imagine that other western countries would have a similar rate of mental health problems to the US - so why is the US's murder rate so much higher? Could it be ..... the guns?

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Read the page, Rob. It's a complex issue, and it takes some thought and effort to gather it all up, and your smarmy toss-off about mental health screening ain't it. It's all here, if you're willing to actually take the time and effort to understand it. -rc

Posted by Sharon, Charlotte, NC on December 16, 2012:

I just asked a question because I don't understand the purpose of owning a gun that is used in wars or that shoots that many bullets that fast. It can't be for hunting, is it for collections, for competitions? Answering my question with a question is not helpful for me to learn the purpose of such weapons in the hands of anyone who wants it. I saw weapons for sale on the internet. I don't know who owns them but apparently they are for sale. This is not a culture I know much about. I "get" guns for hunting and handguns for protection. My boys are in scouts and enjoy shooting shot guns and rifles. I would just like to understand the reason someone would want to own these types of assault weapons.

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Simply, there is no civilian gun that "can shoot 1200 rounds per minute." That rate translates to 20 rounds/second. Even if you had a 100-round magazine, that translates to being empty in 5 seconds. So the minute-rate of fire would be ...100 rounds/minute. That aside, any machine gun takes very difficult-to-get federal permits; no one does that for hunting. Some Hollywood prop houses, and manufacturers of military arms, have such licenses. Very few civilians do. The point: let's keep silly theoretical hyperbole out of it. When you argue from ignorance, it's easy to dismiss your arguments as ridiculous. Instead, argue from knowledge -- facts. That way, you're not easily dismissed. -rc

Posted by John, Arkansas on December 16, 2012:

I am going to attempt to try to make others outside the US understand a bit how the right to bear arms limits the power of government that they may not be able to appreciate having never experienced it. I am going to start by explaining I grew up in a VERY rural town.

On my last trip home during Thanksgiving week, I did my usual stop at the barber shop. As the mayor was cutting my hair, we discussed some recent asinine and restrictive regulations emanating from my new local government here in my new home city (a much more populated city and with a much lower rate of gun ownership.) The examples are really irrelevant but I will delve briefly into them. One concerned natural debris (read leaves, etc.) being considered as "litter" even when blown off of a car after sitting the night under a tree. The ordinance basically made this a separate form of littering and would bring you a stiff fine of $250 for just the first offense. The other was a regulation about parking cars on grass *in your own yard*. (Which incidentally incited one man to cement his yard and then cover it all, including the driveway, with "grass like" carpet.)

The mayor was amazed that they had even tried such. His simple statement summed it all up: "If I had tried that here, someone would have shot me." And let me explain he was not joking, he was fully serious. Small town, and even big town officials are well aware that when the populace has guns, you go treating them like subjects instead of citizens and they will SHOOT you. We even had a lively discussion of who would have gotten him first, his brother-in-law or a couple of other well-known town hard noses.

To put it simply, a government faced with a well-armed populace is well aware they are not subjects but citizens. Even those not so armed, benefit by the very existence of their well-armed brethren. In the case of the above asinine regulations eventually they were repealed after popular outpourings but it did show the very different perspective of two similar local governments. One, a small town, was well aware of their citizens being free. The other, a larger more powerful town, thought of their citizens as nothing more than subjects to be dictated to.

So think of that the next time you in the UK, Australia, Canada, elsewhere or even here in the big cities of the US, are faced with a asinine and intrusive regulation that is quite unpopular being dictated to you. Would they really try to do that to a fully armed populace?

No, I am not advocating the shooting of government officials as a way to settle disputes, just noting that government officials do consider such things when they decide how much power to try to wield.

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Somehow, I don't think that story is going to change any foreign minds. -rc

Posted by Tyler, Massachusetts on December 16, 2012:

I laugh at your repeated copy/paste of the "Which is WHY we must address the actual problem, not the tool used." line; it's astounding how many don't get it, but I suppose that they're not really reading.

At the same time, I seethe at the suggestion that it would be MUCH better if the murderous psychopath "only" had knives -- how many fewer children would be killed! As if that's a solution? What an amazing thought process these people have. Why, it would be GREAT if the kids were slowly hacked to death, since it would take 10X as long, and the cops could get there and stop him after only killing a few kids!

Wow.

While you're right -- it's about the violence, not the tool used to commit the violence -- maybe it's time to stop posting every comment, and leave room for more intelligent ideas.

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Oh, believe me, after the first half-dozen comments, I started getting picky about what I'm approving, which just shows how many comments are coming in. Indeed I'm tossing more and more that say the same thing. It's ...interesting... how many people think they should comment (which means they want their words read), yet won't go to the trouble of reading the comments that are already here. Too much bother to see if what they have to say has already been said! (And probably better! :-)

And yes, the idea that if we simply get rid of guns so that the nuts will "only" have knives is boggling. Surely NO ONE will think of using household chemicals to make a bomb, which will take out many more kids than even a gun. The lack of just plain thinking is astonishing. -rc

Posted by Dale - Roscommon on December 17, 2012:

Well stated. Until we stop pointing fingers according to our particular biases, and stop trying for the quick and simple band-aid on a cancer, recognize that the root problem is mental, and that we are both inept and stingy at dealing with mental issues, these horrific incidents will keep occurring. As you note, these are not unique to this culture or time. To go "berserk" is a Scandinavian term at least a thousand years old, to run "amok" is a south Asian term of similar or older lineage. People will do that. The affective means of controlling such is to intercede with the individual before that person "loses" it. Blaming guns, society, parents, games, the media, or etc, etc. may be politically entertaining, but accomplishes nothing.

Posted by Trisha in Texas on December 17, 2012:

First, I have to answer the question that has been asked many times in the above comments, why would I want a high powered handgun and an AR15 rifle.

I very much enjoy target shooting and shooting competitions. They are a test of my ability to improve at a skill that I enjoy practicing. My .45 cal 1911 fits my hand properly and I can actually see the hole I make in the target. It gives me confidence that I can control a piece of equipment and have it react the way I want it to, much like archery or discus throwing or shot putting or cabel (is that how you spell it? That metal canon ball with a rope attached to it?) tossing, etc. I can compete in a sport on an equal basis with men without having to pump iron or wear shoulder pads.

The AR15 is a little different. It would not have been my rifle of choice, but I have had extensive surgery on my right shoulder which has left me with painful arthritis and a shortened grip with my right arm. I can no longer shoot higher caliber (recoil to the shoulder) or longer butt stock (trouble actually reaching the trigger) rifles. However, the AR15 with a collapsible butt stock has very mild, almost unnoticeable recoil and is comfortable for me to hold and shoot. I have been practicing for several years now to be able to be able to rejoin my husband in long range rifle competitions.

We have a gun safe in our house and our firearms are always locked up when not in use. I grew up in a house where my dad had a deer rifle and a service revolver and he taught us to respect these weapons. There was never a gun accident in our house and none of us kids would have dared to touch those weapons without dad's permission.

Education and respect. Education, respect and parental attention. How do we change a culture that has been so ingrained into our living standards over the last century or so as we gradually changed from an agrarian to industrial to information age? To me, it seems, that we have moved very far away from the type of extended family of cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc., who would KNOW what little Billie was up to in the barn (Momma, Billie's playing with the dynamite again!) to very small, isolated families where many children feel quite on their own and only accountable for themselves and their tunnel visioned point of view. (The world hates me so I am going to shoot up the world.)

No, I am not advocating moms quit work. I am advocating a way of living where parents earn enough money to live adequately on a forty hour week and can be home with their kids, to be able to educate their kids, teach them respect for other people, let them know that they are loved and cared for, instill them with self-discipline and self-esteem. And in this fantasy world we wouldn't be ashamed of kids because they are different or need mental health intervention, we would understand brain chemistry and would recognize when that chemistry was imbalanced and know what to do to correct it. And we would all have adequate medical care to deal with these challenges.

It is a big, big problem once the pieces start shaking out. I don't know the way to get there, but I do know that it is better to talk about it and try to work down to real issues and answers than to just band-aid the symptoms with 'gun control.'

Posted by David, CA on December 17, 2012:

OK, I get it. It's the violence, not the weapon. I also will agree that the violence doesn't come from the movies and video games. I would suggest that violent entertainment is a result, not a cause, of the violence that lies in our national spirit.

Now, the question is, where does that violence come from? Our national identity is tied to the frontier spirit, rugged individualism and a healthy (usually) suspicion of the government. Could these be factors leading the rare, disturbed individual to commit acts of mass violence? What of the many, many other acts of individual violence?

The U.S. is far from the most violent place on the planet, but also far from the least. What is it about those countries that all murder, not just gun-related, is so much lower? Off the top of my head, I could guess ethnically homogenous population, lower poverty, restrictive gun laws, universal health care (presumably including comprehensive mental health care), totalitarian police state, a national culture of "we" not "I". However, there are many exceptions on both sides, so certainly no one factor is decisive.

What concerns me most is the comments in defense of our current gun policy and culture. I don’t argue with the statistics that show that guns save more lives than they take, and I can see how a well-armed (and trained) citizenry can restrict the over-reach of government power. My concern is the unspoken, and possibly unthought-of, corollary that this is just the price we must pay for our freedom. No matter how sad we feel at the wrong use of a perfectly good tool, a few extra murders a day and deaths from the occasional mass shooting are acceptable losses for retaining the right to be the master of our own destiny.

No, I don’t have answers, just questions. I wish everything could stay the same and still get better, but it doesn't work that way.

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You are, at least, starting to ask the right questions. -rc

And with that, I've closed the comments on this one. See the next entry for my response to the latest from "Rob in Sydney, Australia".

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