Skip to content

Thoughts on the Massacre

Is it my imagination, or do we seem to be having a spate of random and largely unexplained massacres lately?

They are horrible, and I think that there are things we can do to prevent them in the future. But I’m afraid that we are unable or unwilling to have a reasonable conversation about how to go about doing that.

Why? On one side, we have people who claim that school teachers should be armed. Those people are nuts. There is absolutely no evidence that arming everyone would reduce murders. Even school teachers go off the deep end. I know I would if I were confined to a school full of unruly kids every day.

On the other side, you have people who say that strict gun control laws would have prevented this. But the guns used in the Newtown killings were legally purchased, registered, and owned. And they were not real assault weapons. So I’m not sure that is the solution either.

Is there nothing we can do? Hardly. I tend to agree with Roger Ebert, who just repeated something he wrote after the Columbine murders:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?”

The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them.

I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

I know newspapers want to report the news, but it seems that by doing so they are contributing to the problem. I’m not trying to lessen the horrible nature of this tragedy, but as Juan Cole points out, approximately 176 innocent children have been killed by US drones raining death from the sky. Isn’t this at least as horrible as 20 children in Connecticut killed by an unstable kid? I think we should all ask our local news outlets to stop giving so much publicity to mass murderers.

What else can we do? For one thing, stop cutting mental health budgets. For years, we’ve been cutting treatment for mentally unstable people, dumping them on the streets to become homeless, or sending them to prison, which is far more expensive (and far less helpful) than the treatments they used to receive. I think providing better mental health facilities would do a lot to reduce the number of massacres.

As I’ve said before, I believe that the second amendment clearly states that US citizens have the right to own guns. You may not like that, but you can’t legislate it out of existence. You would have to amend the constitution. But that also doesn’t mean that we can’t put in place common sense restrictions. After all, we have free speech, but that doesn’t mean you can yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. I would support requiring all gun owners to take a gun safety course, as well as pass a simple background check to make sure they have no criminal record or serious mental health issues. These tests should be no more difficult to pass than a driver’s license exam. Nobody should be allowed to purchase or own a weapon until they do this.

UPDATE: Anyone who wants to express an opinion about guns and gun control should read this article in The Atlantic “The Secret History of Guns“. Did you know that for most of its history the NRA supported gun control laws? As did Republican saint Ronald Reagan? And the Ku Klux Klan. And that the group most responsible for starting the modern movement promoting the right to bear arms in public was the Black Panthers? It’s true.

While you’re at it, read this article too.

UPDATE 2: And here’s a must-read article about a mother with a mentally unstable child, and the problems with mental health care in the US.

UPDATE 3: A post by cartoonist Matt Bors, concerning the media’s role in this craziness.



  1. abracadabra1 wrote:

    I think you are underestimating/disregarding the role that *easy* access to guns has to play in normalizing gun violence. Yes, all of the guns were legally purchased and owned but if they had been more difficult to obtain — not even impossible — and it if it were that case for everyone, would they have been?

    If guns were difficult to obtain and fewer people had them would those who were so disturbed take this particular avenue — maybe but maybe fewer of them would have not. But you’d have a hell of a lot fewer “dad accidentally shoots son” or “preschool shoots toddler sibling” etc. headlines.

    I think Chris Rock’s proposal of bullet control pretty much sums it up. It isn’t just that we *can* own guns, it is that it is so damn *easy* to own them, which makes too damn easy to *use* them.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:12 am | Permalink
  2. Peter wrote:

    After all, we have free speech, but that doesn’t mean you can yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

    A common misconception.

    It is perfectly legal for you to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. However, you cannot use the first amendment as a legal defense if you are charged with complicity to manslaughter or some such thing.

    I’m pretty sure that there isn’t anybody who is saying that a person who shoots other people is somehow protected by the second amendment.

    I would support requiring all gun owners to take a gun safety course, as well as pass a simple background check to make sure they have no criminal record or serious mental health issues.

    Which I believe currently exist. However, in this case, the person got the guns from his parent, who did not have a history of mental health issues.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:24 am | Permalink
  3. anon wrote:

    US president was tearful when he gave the speech. If you are wondering why he cried, it was because he felt guilty of totally avoiding the gun control issue and avoided to renew the assault rifle ban, for the sake of few votes. If Obama had the spine like Clinton, who made those bans effective, he wouldn’t have to cry like this today.

    As a side note what kind of people need automatic , semi automatic and high caliber/capacity rifles for self defense. What are they defending with these machine guns, the whole country or state or their ranch. Now that wouldn’t come under the self defense section, does it. That is why there are Army, Navy and Coast Guard for.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:39 am | Permalink
  4. One of the weapons (the semiautomatic rifle) would have been classified an assault weapon under the previous (expired) ban.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 2:19 am | Permalink
  5. Arthanyel wrote:

    I may post something longer tomorrow as I have been commenting about this since Friday, but quickly:

    1) Assault weapon bans are useless and pointless. “Assault weapons” is a liberal buzz phrase. Real assault weapons are already highly restricted and very few people have them. And the difference between emptying 1 30 round magazine and 5 6 round magazines with any chance to hit anything is about 2 seconds for anyone that cares to practice.

    2) Machine guns and the like are already highly restricted and few people have them. It takes a lot of work to get a Class III license – and you have to have one.

    3) A gallon of gasoline has the explosive force of 44 sticks of dynamite. Building satchel charge gasoline bombs takes seconds, and kill far more people, far more quickly, than any legal firearm. Are you going to ban gasoline?

    4) All of the above said, there is NO REASON we should not implement significantly more regulation and control on gun ownership. Not by clip size, that’s silly, but by competence and responsibility. Guns are as dangerous as cars. Gun owners should be PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for any illegal act that occurs with their guns, including if they are not properly secured.

    5) And finally, FAR MORE IMPORTANT than any form of gun control, we have to address mental health, our media society that makes these demons celebrities and incentivizes more of them to try it, and our cultural stress that drives so many people over the edge.

    In the MAJORITY of mass killing incidents, the perpetrator was known far in advance to be mentally unstable and dangerous. If you are a parent and your 17 year old is wearing bulletproof vests and building bombs in the garage, THIS SHOULD BE A RED FLAG. And we don’t, as a society, deal with mental illness until AFTER the event, when it is too late.

    We can’t stop crazy people from killing. There are too many ways to do it (car into crowded shopping mall, fertilizer truck bombs, you name it). But we can try to minimize the number of crazy people that are loose to try, we can stop making them celebrities, and we can make sure that gun owners have their arms secured and unavailable to people that should not be allowed to touch them.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 2:24 am | Permalink
  6. Austin 3:16 wrote:

    Hey Guys,

    A view from Down Under – In Australia we had the Port Arthur massacre years ago. In the wake semi-automatic weapons were largely banned. I don’t think anybody really misses them.

    Why does a civilian need high power semi auto weapons? The legitimate uses would be few and far between.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  7. Iron Knee wrote:

    People keep mentioning “legitimate uses” of firearms. Remember that the framers of the constitution had just taken up arms against their own government (the British). You might not think that armed insurrection is not a legitimate use of weapons, but I’m not sure that the people who wrote the second amendment would agree with you.

    I’m not saying that this is a good or bad thing. I’m just saying that you can’t simply decide that you don’t like part of the constitution and ignore it. You have to amend the constitution.

    Peter, you claim the killer’s mother (the gun owner) did not have a history of mental health issues. Please follow the link “Even school teachers” — does that qualify as a mental health issue? And anyone can buy a gun at a gun show without a background check.

    Arthanyel — we are agreeing.

    As for some of the other commenters, you make a lot of assertions, but they are just opinions. As such they are no more valid than opinions such as that the solution to school massacres is to arm all the teachers. Please back up your opinions with evidence (at least links to evidence).

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:32 am | Permalink
  8. ebdoug wrote:

    Ligitimate use of fire arms would be to murder critters like deer. If you practice ahimsa, there is no ligitmate use of fire arms except to protect our country against invaders.

    President Reagan cut back mental health laws and put the mentally ill out on the street. At the time, I could see this coming. No one has reinstated the mental health laws. In my experience in nursing home at St. Elizabeths in Washington, many mentally ill want to be institutionalized. We call them homeless now. They want to be warm and fed without the problems of ordinary life.

    When I was eight, we still had all the mental health laws. I took my dogs out for a walk. They ran upstairs in the garage. I stuck my head over and saw a man lying there in a heavy over coat. I ran back to tell my mother. My mother said, “Well, ask him in for breakfast.” She called an ambulance. The man came in and ate breakfast while we waited. The ambulance men recognized him as one who had frequently been released from a mental institute and took him back. So very humane and civilized I thought.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink
  9. Duckman wrote:

    I tend to agree that the media causes the problem.

    Also a nice little tid bit related to shootings:

    “Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century.”

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  10. Patricia wrote:

    Like almost everyone, I am sickened by what happened. I have read anything I could find that rationally reported factual information about the incident. I have read Pres. Obama’s words from last night and seen the emotion in his face that must be genuine. Yet, this morning, reading these posts; I found myself remembering the Sgt. In Afghanistan shooting up one (or was it two?)villages, the endless drone strikes on civilians, etc. This so-called mental health-centric problem is much deeper than anyone in this country is willing to own up to.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  11. ThatGuy wrote:

    Arthanyel, I agree with most of what you wrote, but I am so tired of this false comparison being made over and over again between some potentially dangerous item or substance and firearms.

    “X can be dangerous too, should we ban X?”

    Generally the difference between whatever X is (cars, gasoline, spoons (yeah, I saw one for spoons), knives, baseball bats, etc. etc.) is that X has a non-destructive purpose whereas firearms, regardless of how you use them, are designed to destroy, and to destroy efficiently.

    I don’t support banning all firearms. I enjoy going to the range and shooting targets, and being from NH, I understand hunting for sport. Our state would be overrun by deer without hunters.

    What I don’t understand (not suggesting any of you are saying this) is the rush to blame a dozen other things that contribute to violence as a whole rather than putting a laser focus on the tools that so often enables the violence to reach such an unimaginable level. Yes mental healthcare is an issue, and should be improved. Yes the media is sensationalist. Yes some people are influenced by violent games, music, and media. All of those things contribute to someone believing violence is okay, but none of them enable a person to shoot 27 people at an elementary school. Only guns do that.

    Background checks need to be more in-depth, as almost all shootings in the US since 1982 involve legally obtained weapons, a clear indicator that whatever we have in place to prevent the wrong people from getting these firearms are simply ineffective. Obtaining a firearm should also be at least as hard, in every state, as getting a driver’s license. A drivers’ ed type class required for gun ownership might help people understand the importance of locking up their weapons, or at least tip off the instructors to some questionable motives in owning a firearm.

    Again, I’m not discounting culture, the media, entertainment or whatever else as having a big impact on what violence people decide to carry out, but to give any of these the attention that should be focused on gun control is silly. For the myriad of motives, influences and mental illnesses that lead people to be violent, the only concrete connection between Columbine, Aurora and now Sandy Hook, are the firearms and the fact that these people shouldn’t have gotten them so easily.

    Interesting facts on shootings, including the basis for my statement on how many legally purchased firearms are used in mass shootings:

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink
  12. Mike wrote:

    I just have to add that in CT no regulation anyone is talking about would have helped I think, but 80% of mass shootings are done with weapons purchased legally by people with mental problems. That needs to be fixed.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  13. ThatGuy wrote:

    One more thing: it seems like Nancy Lanza wasn’t a teacher, at least not at Sandy Hook. The Washington Post now mentions her having worked in finance.

    Though I agree, arming teachers is just asking for a negligent discharge or a rampage after a layoff or even a shooting after an unruly kid winds up an instructor. I’ll refer to point 8 in my previous post’s link.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  14. ebdoug wrote:

    Patricia said the Operative word “read”. As in keep the TV off. If you want to watch a video like West Wing Week, you can watch it on the computer. Reading does away with the sensationalism. Took my four year old granddaughter all four years before she realized I don’t have a TV in the house.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    By all means, let’s quibble over terminology while gun manufacturers find clever ways to skirt existing laws concerning assault weapons. Legal or not, a semiautomatic weapon is lethal far beyond any reasonable need outside of the military.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  16. westomoon wrote:

    Iron Knee, I think you have succumbed to the oddly-primitive reading of the Second Amendment the far right has been pushing for 30 years now.

    The amendment ties the right to bear arms to a national need for a “well-regulated militia”. A single mom in Connecticut owning an assault weapon seems to me to have not the remotest tie to a well-regulated militia. And the language of the amendment seems to me to very clearly include the need for gun regulation.

    I heard recently that now every State in the Union allows concealed-carry of firearms. How does that tie to a well-regulated militia? Concealed carry is not a Constitutional right.

    The Swiss have actually mastered this approach to gun ownership. They’re one of the few countries in the world with a higher rate of gun ownership than the US, and it’s tied to a sort of permanent-reserve approach to the Swiss military. I think we should be asking them how they keep things in balance so well.

    I’m a gun owner, and would like to stay that way. But I have to point out that there is no other form of violence that requires so little of the user — pulling a trigger is clean and abstract, more like a cartoon than any other method of doing damage. It just requires one step, and just a split second, to do considerable damage at a safe & convenient distance. You don’t have to engage with your target, or with the process of delivery, at all — and that, IMO, is why guns require special controls.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  17. Arthanyel wrote:

    Westomoon – that debate (militia vs personal right) has been permanently settled. It was clear from all of the writings and discussions at the time the Second Amendment was being drafted that the objective was personal rights, not “militia rights.” The reference to militias was that at the time, it was expected that states could raise fighting forces from the general population, and if the population wasn’t armed they couldn’t do it. But that was the tail, not the dog.

    Visible Mystery (and other similar comments) only someone that doesn’t understand firearms would make the inaccurate statements that “all semiautomatic weapons are lethal far beyond any reasonable need”. Nonsense. Semiatuomatic doesn’t mean “fully automatic” i.e. machine guns. And semiautomatic guns, especially pistols and rifles, are the by far the most common weapons owned.

    We need appropriate gun control. You should have to be competent, responsible and be held personally liable for your owning a firearm. EVERY transaction, public or private, should go through the same rigorous background checks to ensure that the mentally ill or criminals do not get to purchase guns. The same license should be required to buy ammunition because guns don’t kill people – bullets kill people.

    No one wants to see a mass tragedy, and unlike some of the extremists on the right, MOST gun owners believe we need some controls as part of a COMPREHENSIVE solution. But mental health, access to treatment and early identification, is FAR MORE important than gun control to prevent these kinds of events.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  18. Hassan wrote:

    I am very sad, I have no solution. Its very painful at all levels.

    Does anyone know if there was any security in school? I mean how secure were the building and access to the students. Where my daughters go to school, no one can go in unless someone opens the door. Of course the children can be playing in play area during break time. It would be nice if there is an armed security personnel on campus patrolling.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  19. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thanks Arthanyel. What he said. I’ll just add that I’ve actually read quite a bit of the writings and discussions from the time of the drafting of the second amendment, so I don’t think I’m succumbing to any far-right reading.

    I also want to point out that my concerns here are about the constitution, not about guns. I have never owned a gun and would never own one or use one. Several people (including Westomoon) have pointed out that there are several countries that have higher gun ownership than the US, but have lower rates of gun violence because they control who can own a gun (background checks) and require gun training. That’s what I’m proposing, along with restoring funding for mental health treatment.

    I also want to thank everyone — and especially those people who included links — for engaging in a thoughtful and though provoking conversation about a controversial and polarizing topic.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink
  20. Don wrote:

    Westomoon, the Supreme Court, the arbiter of what the Constitution means, has separated the clauses you espouse as being tied inextricably together. In its ruling in 2010 in the case Columbia v. Heller, the Supremes found, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” Wm is most certainly correct.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  21. Don wrote:

    Hassan, it is my understanding that the doors to the school were locked every morning at 9:30 ant that the shooter had to break a window to gain access.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  22. ThatGuy wrote:

    Sorry, I just completely disagree that mental health is far more of an issue than gun control. Gun violence, by definition, involves guns. It isn’t deranged person = mass shooting. It’s deranged person + guns = mass shooting. Easy access to guns just means this scenario plays itself out more than it should. If we’re going to take a serious approach to this problem, we need to look at both with a strong focus on the tools that are enabling these people to kill so efficiently.

    Hassan, the principal of the school had just instituded a policy whereby the doors would be locked at 9:30 each morning. The shooter simply broke through the door. As for armed security, I don’t know where the schools would get the budget for it, not to mention such guards would give the schools a very… prisonlike feel.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  23. westomoon wrote:

    It’s hard for me to regard a ruling from the current Supreme Court on any issue espoused by the far right as “permanently settled”.

    I hope eventually we will return to a Court that eschews partisan politics and ideological voting, and I hope that cleaner court will have occasion to revisit a number of this court’s decisions.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink
  24. Arthanyel wrote:

    Thatguy – I recall a survey that was done back in the early 1990’s during a gun control debate at the time, asking convicted felons what they would do if using a handgun in a crime carried a mandatory 10 year additional sentence. 99% said “We would switch to using sawed off shotguns.”

    And that’s the problem. You can’t stop criminals and crazy people from doing bad things. If you try to take away one vehicle, they will use another. Yes, perhaps we have had more “mass shootings” because there are more guns, but if there were more restrictions and fewer guns, they would have been “mass bombings” or “mass deaths from driving a truck through the schoolyard at recess” or “mass fires” or . . .

    The problem is crazy people. Anyone that would kill a bunch of school children for some warped perception of reality isn’t going to be stopped because his mother had a revolver instead of a semi-auto. We need to take action to properly regulate firearms – but mental health is the BIGGER issue if you actually want to slow these things down.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  25. ThatGuy wrote:

    So why do we need to apply different rules to different weapons? Why do we permit gun crime over gun control with the speculation that they’d switch to gasoline bombs, Toyotas, or knives? Crazy people have been around as long as man kind has. Their ability to kill becomes greater when efficient killing tools are easily available.

    Again, I’m not saying care for the mentally ill is a small issue, but to top your 99% of somewhat clever felons, 100% of mass shootings involve firearms. We see patterns in this shooter, as others, that simply wouldn’t work applied en masse. Should we institutionalize every quiet, white, middle class, socially awkward male who likes video games? Or maybe we should just try to make it harder for them to get their hands on the weapons they are using to kill.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  26. Austin 3:16 wrote:


    According to these tables as published by the Guardian newspaper in the UK the USA has the highest rate of gun ownership on the planet. Nobody else comes close. The rate of firearm ownership in Switzerland being nearly half that of the USA.

    Why do you guys need so many guns ?

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink
  27. Duckman wrote:

    ThatGuy – You can make all the laws you want. Problem is the country has over 300 nonmilitary guns and if you want to make laws the black market is just going to explode. The country was founded in violent revolution and we’ve proven we’ve never lost the violent attitude. As I posted before, mass shootings are down, don’t let the illusion of more media coverage fool you

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  28. ThatGuy wrote:

    But 6 of the 12 most deadly shootings in our history have happened in the last 5 years.

    Again, I don’t understand the attitude of “legislating against guns is hard and illegal guns will exist so why bother?” Yeah, the regulations may take a while to kick in, that doesn’t mean they won’t amount to anything. You can supplement them with a buy back program of some sort.

    Why is gun control more far fetched than fixing a broken mental health care system or changing American culture?

    As for being founded on violent revolution being related to our current state. Sorry, but that’s a poor test for predicting future violence. France had a bloody revolution. Spain had a civil war much more recently than the US did. The Balkans conflicts of the 90s were pretty blood too. But those countries (including the big players in the collapse of Yugoslavia, as data isn’t available for Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro) all have lower homicide-by-gun rates than we do.

    Most of Europe’s borders were shaped by guns and swords, some quite recently. We should at least come up with a better reason for our insane gun violence rate than “we fought the British 230 years ago.” I’m still going with the availability of firearms, but maybe I’m naive.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  29. Arthanyel wrote:

    Thatguy: Please don’t state a tautology and offer it up as a discussion point. “100% of mass shootings involved guns”. Yes and 100% surgeries that ended in death involved surgeons, and 100% of all arson fires involved open flames, and 100% of all heart attacks involved hearts.

    You make a good point but you should consider it completely. That point is “6 of the 12 most deadly shootings in history have occurred in the last 5 years.” What has changed in the last 5 years? Not per capita gun ownership in the US, at least not much. Not “easy access to assault weapons”, they existed before 2008.

    What has changed is the increased glorification of violence and the dramatically increased levels of hatred and vitriol in our society. And more media making these kooks into celebrities.

    I still maintain you are putting the cart before the horse. We have insane levels of violence – and guns. Therefore we have an insane level of gun violence. If we had fewer guns, we would have an insane level of fires, bombs, knives, or whatever replaced guns as the tools of the violent insane.

    And therefore we have to start with violent insanity and glorification of violence. Not stop there – do more gun controls, especially licensing, registration, personal liability and better locking up of the tools. But don’t just focus on the tools and think that’s going to do anything.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  30. Duckman wrote:

    You should read Outliers to better understand how what happened hundred of years ago still reflect in us today.

    Also I’m not saying gun control is far fetched as a solution. The problem is that you risk throwing the country into chaos. Taking guns away from people is relatable to taking away our freedom of speech. People believe it is our god given right to have them.

    Then of course you have people who don’t trust Obama already and others who feel our guns are the only thing stopping tyranny.

    Also yes 50% of the most deadly have been in the last 5 years, but you must look at the times. The mostly violent killing activity in US history was in the 20s, you cannot compare the population count, population density, ease of access to mass amounts of people, and better weaponry to those times

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  31. il-08 wrote:

    What’s the problem with saying that the second amendment should be repealed and most guns should be outlawed? Hunters should be allowed to own bolt action/single shot hunting rifles/shotguns and any individually owned handguns should only be allowed after extensive background checks and with a real good reason. Why does it scare people to propose this? What do we lose as a country? It will take generations, but eventually gun violence will be sharply curtailed.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  32. ThatGuy wrote:

    The assault weapons ban expired in 2004, but my point was more to respond to the claim that mass shootings are on the decline, even so, we still have an incredible amount of gun violence. With regard to the 20s, you had a massive influx of weapons from or meant for the battlefields of France, plus a lot of young men with not so many employment opportunities.

    In the end my point is to do it all. Make our health system better, but gun control needs to be front and center. Countries with more guns have more gun violence, tautology, sure, whatever, but it’s true. If we can make regulations such that there are fewer firearms out there, we will absolutely see a decline in gun violence, and again, knives, fires and bombs, deadly in their own right, really aren’t as efficient as guns. We can argue bombs, sure, but we outlaw those already. We permit guns and therefore permit things like Sandyhook to happen again, and again, and again.

    I subscribe to IL-08’s long haul bit. Results won’t be immediate but we have to take a much more serious approach to gun control.

    Monday, December 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink
  33. Patriotsgt wrote:

    Sorry to jump in so late, but this has been a terrific conversation to read.
    Just couple points and thoughts I’d like to make.
    Taking away a right no matter what you think of it is a slippery slope and wrong. When we don’t like what a few people say shall we take away everyone’s freedom of speech? Weren’t we all in an uproar when a few tried to suppress the vote, another right?
    We shouldn’t confuse rights with priviledges like drivers licenses, but we can still regulate as long as we don’t restrict.
    We can take away a right like the vote for law breakers and felons shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. But, most if not all of theses massacers were not committed by criminals. They were all troubled people and the last one illegally took the guns after killing the owner. No amount of regulation save taking away the right could have stopped that.
    Flying is a priviledges, but after 19 people used 4 planes to kill 3000 people we didn’t stop flying, we adapted and implemented safeguards to make it less likely to occur. I think we should concentrate our efforts on how to minimize the possibility of the wrong people getting their hands on weapons and having a discussion about speaking up and making the right people aware of potentially dangerous persons or behavior. We’ve all been bit by the nice or politically correct bug, but it may not be the best choice. I bet many of us see something but are afraid to say anything because we don’t want to offend.

    Great thread lets broaden the discussion

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:01 am | Permalink
  34. Don in Waco wrote:

    This is a great discussion. Here’s an interesting take on the topic from Jim Wright:

    On banning assault weapons: I like guns and use them primarily for hunting and target plinking (its kinda in your DNA growing up in rural Texas). I see no hunting usage for the various AK-47s or Bushmaster rifles except perhaps feral hogs. However, restricting sales would only go so far as attending any current gun show would reveal. Even polite and reasoned discussion about a ban would increase sales above and beyond the Obama-has-been-reelected panic buying already happening. The Luby’s shooter in Kileen, Tx., did plenty damage with semi-auto pistols, and they’re basically ubiquitous. Bans won’t work, but education and licensing and background checks might help along with liability for guns not secured. Gun show loopholes need to be addressed also.

    Perhaps we could have at least some mental health education to go along with less bullying. Picking on the quiet anti-social white kids at school doesn’t seem to be a good strategy these days.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  35. il-08 wrote:

    Patriotsgt, I love to read your posts if only because you think so differently than I do!

    First of all I believe that all slippery slope arguments are shortcuts for not having any facts.

    All taking rights away is wrong? How about the right to own slaves? They took that one away a while ago and I have to say I still agree with it.

    On the other side, the right went along with the patriot act, where was the outcry about rights then? Lets face it, the right is all about not taking away MY rights, to hell with everyone else.

    False equivocation is another shortcut for a bad argument. You’ve equated the freedom to own guns with freedom of speech. Speech is not a dangerous commodity in its root, and speech can be limited in the situation where it is used to purposely harm another individual (‘FIRE’ in a crowded movie theater or liable). Guns are a basically dangerous commodity in their core, whose main purpose is creating damage.

    I didn’t understand from your post if you think that gun ownership is a right or a privilege, and I’m not sure there is a difference. I don’t functionally see one. Maybe that is a big point though that gun ownership should be thought of as a privilege and not a right.

    I agree with you that under our current way of thinking, no amount of regulation could have prevented these tragedies, so we have two choices, either put up with the annual massacre or really move to eliminate guns from our society.

    If the second amendment said you have the right to hunt, I would be all for it. I think it needs to be changed to that.

    But under our current system there are two and ONLY two choices, either agree that an occasional 20 dead first graders is acceptable or make some real changes to eliminate guns.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  36. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Good Article D-I-W, interesting take from the author and I’d say on the money.
    I found another opinion piece that had some research to back it up:

    I know in the Army over the past several years with suicide rates sky rocketing and finally getting media time, albeit not enough, the DOD has taken some serious steps that might make a model that can be used in schools.
    In our units we are now required to have resiliency training, sexual harrassment and assault training and suicide prevention. The last 2 are not new, it’s the amount of focus that is the difference. Both of those programs now feed through the resiliency program and self report surveys are conducted and scored to assess the climate and health of the unit. The resiliency training is key and there are small group exercises to talk about social, family, unit and civilian difficulties and concerns. There are problem solving and emotional training exercises and group support exercises. Soldiers get more used to sharing their fears, concerns, difficulties and problems. It promotes better health, making better choices reaching out and looking out for one another. In my unit it was difficult for me to share in front of my Soldiers (I am the Sr. Enlisted member) what kinds of problems I have, but it helped them see that everyone can have difficulty and everyone can seek help. I was surprised by the openess and the willingness of the majority to share. It also gave those of us in leadership positions a chance to see who was having more difficulty opening up and talk to them outside the group.
    I liken it to the old fashioned exercise that we still do in my family of coming together and sitting around the dinner table eating and talking about our day. We turn off the TV’s put away the phones and distractions and look each other in the eyes and listen and share.
    All the media we have from phones to TV’s to ipads to facebook to twitter are as much separating us as creating a web of connectivity. It’s much harder to look someone in the eye and say something derogotory then twit or post on facebook. The new age of social media is not a bad thing imo, but it shouldn’t be the only thing either. When I see a mom and her 2 schoolage children eating out at a restaurant and all 3 are actively engaged in their electronic devices and never say a word to each other thats a problem to me. I sat at a nearby table with my wife and 2 of my children and we talked, no phones allowed. I shook my head when the only time they put the devices down was to eat their food, and then they were still watching them closely. I see drivers old, young, dem and repub (from bumper stickers) driving and using their phones doing email or texting and thats dangerous. I saw 2 young 20 somethings on a date and each had their phones out never saying a word to each other, but typing the heck out of a keyboard. I finally had to say “you know it’s ok to talk on a date, you don’t have to text each other when your sitting at the same table”.
    Our disconnect from old fashioned social interaction is also part of the problem. along with the media and not enough common sense and control of guns.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  37. PatriotSGT wrote:

    IL-08 – Speech is used to harm others on a regular basis, from threats to bullying to putting down, to making fun of to intentionally belittling and causing serious damage. I’d even say that speech has damaged more lives then guns, with the caveat that they it doesn’t kill as often. How many suicide victims were also victims of hurtful speech?
    I do believe that the right to own a gun comes with responsibility just like speech. I think there should be regulations governing their purchase and use and there are many such regulations. I think we do need to revisit the regulations on clip size, quantities of ammunition, etc, and if it saves a few lives it’s worth it. But, if we take a different approach and look at the causes for the tragedies and fix the problem verses the instrument we can save more lives. see my ideas in 36 🙂

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  38. John wrote:

    I suppose recognizing there is a problem is a start.
    When I was 7 I was lucky enough to purchase a genuine replica tourist copy of the U.S. Constitution and the first 10 Amendments, or Bill of Rights, as a tourist in DC. It was all very flash on fake parchment and old world twirly handwriting. It was also pretty cool at ‘show and tell’ back home in Australia. But that was 1973. And I read the bloody thing. So I think that would put me ahead of 90% of Congress.
    It strikes me that in all the talk of the second amendment much has been placed on certain phrases and intent. But the one word that seems to slip by the side of whatever selected snippet either proponent chooses to use is “people”. This would appear to be a fairly unambiguous word. ‘People’ would imply collective, as opposed to ‘person’, that would imply individual.
    Now the Constitution and Bill of Rights weren’t just knocked up on a Saturday night by a group of blokes sitting around a keg, almost every word was keenly and hotly, as well as very publicly, debated. Nothing is by chance.
    So it would appear to me that the term ‘people’ refers to the collective citizens of the USA, not individuals within that collective. If that had been the intent they would have used the word ‘person’. If the word ‘people’ is taken to mean ‘collective citizens’ it is also implied under the Constitution that citizens, ie individuals, will be guaranteed protection by the ‘people’, being the ‘collective citizens’.
    That would appear to a layman such as me that the Government, being by the people, for the peo…blah blah has a constitutional obligation to defend the rights of the collective against the individual. ie crazy people and nutbags of all descriptions from their access to firearms.
    Basically what I am saying is that the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America does not guarantee the right of the individual to bear arms, but of the ‘collective'”people” to organize forces to bare arms for their protection. Just the thought of someone that doesn’t really know.
    Sorry, is ‘collective’ a bit too socialist? Like ‘Universal Health Care’ or ‘minimum educational level’

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  39. ebdoug wrote:

    My reading says that Adam Lanza’s mother never trusted him alone. When someone stayed in the house, she advised the person to never turn his back on Adam, don’t even go to the bathroom.
    Now with that in mind that she was living with a very disturbed son, she went out and bought guns.
    I know in 2011, my son had problems. We as a family all over the east coast were having a crisis. I called his wife and advised her to get the gun out of the house.
    So we have a mother of a disturbed child who had guns in the house. I would say the mother who was killed was responsible for the carnage.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  40. Arthanyel wrote:

    EBDoug: Exactly so. His mother KNEW he was dangerous. KNEW he was unstable. And so dangerous and unstable she told visitors “don’t turn your back on him”.

    And yet he was not in a hospital. He wasn’t restrained. And she did not make her firearms impossible for him to get at – with fatal consequences.

    She paid the ultimate price for her mistake, but the responsibility WAS HERS and she (and our mental health system) failed. And again, in the majority of these cases it was KNOWN that the perpetrator(s) were unstable and dangerous, but there was no action taken.

    And that is why we need restriction, testing, and appropriate gun controls.

    As for the argument we should “eliminate the Second Amendment”, if you believe that you have a mechanism – go for it. The same mechanism racists want to use to get rid of equal rights, the same mechanism some extremists want to make it impossible for you to freely speak in places like this. But you will fail, because there is NO POSSIBLE WAY you will get the necessary votes. And look at what happens – thanks to all of the talk since the shooting, gun sales have skyrocketed and sales of “modern sporting rifles” (the NRA euphemism for semi-automatic rifles dressed up like combat arms) have gone up more than FIVEFOLD because every gun owner that thought about maybe someday getting one is rushing out to get them now before they are made “illegal”.

    And if you think 30 or 40 million people are going to line up nicely to turn them in, in THIS country, with the conservatives thinking the way they do, think again.

    THAT is why we need to go after the comprehensive problem, and why our actions have to be sensible and not tool oriented. Because we need a significant majority’s cooperation and we wont get it by trying to take away something half the country (or more) believes is as important to them as free speech.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  41. dickt_cal wrote:

    Should teachers be armed before or after more anti-union legislation gets passed?

    Just wondering since I just listened to some Congressman trying to explain that the reason for everyone being armed was to protect themselves from the government. Since the Republicans typically oppose measures with as much a 70% public support, I would think that they might want to think a little more about consequences when they defend the idea that everyone should be armed.

    Yes, the above should be considered satire.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  42. Don wrote:

    John, one correction to your comments: the Constitution and Bill of Rights were not publicly debated. They were both done behind closed doors. During the writing of the Constitution in Philadelphia, they even kept the windows closed despite the stifling heat in order that “common folk” wouldn’t hear their discussions.

    I like your personal take on the Constitution. It’s important to remember that the fellows putting those documents together had some pretty definite opinions on what the common man was able to do and what they should be allowed to do. Serious concerns. The right to vote, for instance, was very restricted and done so for a reason; to keep the riff raff (meaning common folks) from taking over. Remember, neither the President nor the Senators were elected by the voting electorate. Senators were appointed and the Electoral College was a buffer between the electorate and the office itself: it was truly there as a guarantee that the wrong person wouldn’t be elected. Seems like a pretty weird idea today, but it is reflective of the worries that our Founding Fathers had relative to folks less enlightened than them.

    The clause about gun ownership, regardless of what the Supremes said in 2010, reads to me to be about the potential need for a citizen militia and that those potential militia members needed to be ready to bring their own arms. (If it was simply about the right to own guns, why didn’t they just say so?) PSgt makes distinctions between rights and privileges and I pretty much agree with his argument at a fairly basic level. That being said, the evolution of our country has seen the establishment and embellishment of limitations to what might have seemed to be simple, clear rights as defined by the Constitution. Rights and privileges are pretty much the same thing, they are simply presented to us through different avenues. They are both agreed to by a legislative body (or bodies) through processes that are somewhat clearly defined to be different. It’s much harder to change a right through that process. It’s much easier to change that right through the legislative process with the hope the the Supremes will formalize it as part of the redefinition of that right rather than through the laborious process of amending the Constitution.

    We have already demonstrated that owning a gun isn’t a no holds barred right. It is regulated and has been more forcefully regulated in the recent past. Creating constraints to individuals exercising this right in order that the greater good of the society can be protected or increased seems more prudent than hiding behind the claim that it’s a right and therefore cannot be modified in any way. So, that being said, making modifications to the definition as to what is an armament that is legal to hold falls right in line with what we, as a nation, have done in the past, but now seems impossible to do because of the polarized schisms we all see within our socio/political entities.

    Ah, me. It’s not a simple question and my pragmatic side says that if we try and take some folks guns that we, through a legislative process, have ruled no longer fit within our accepted definition of a legal armament, that we will see some pretty serious growth in the already existent militia movement and, quite likely, additional gun deaths.

    Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, often with guns.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink
  43. Hassan wrote:

    When Obamacare was in supreme courts, people wrote article about mandates:

    “That’s not all. In 1792, a Congress with 17 framers passed another statute that required all able-bodied men to buy firearms”

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  44. Don wrote:

    Hassan, very interesting article. Thanks for posting it.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  45. TENTHIRTYTWO wrote:

    Not sure if this was posted:

    This topic is a very tricky and murky one overall but I find myself being incredibly frustrated by the oversimplification and, yes, blatant stupidity being pushed by some of the right wing crowd. Arm the teachers, they say. Seriously. Is that the America you want to live in? Where your children go to school amongst teachers and principles with rifles strapped to their backs?

    Ironically as a gun owner I’ve found it increasingly easier to convince a severely anti-gun person that I should be allowed to own a firearm than it is to convince a severely pro-gun person that they should not be allowed to own an MLRS system.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink
  46. anon wrote:

    Almost all the pro gun people argue by stating “They have the right to have arms” and that it is mentioned in the US constitution. I am pretty sure that the constitution only uses the word arms. By that logic it could be any other arms other than guns. It could be knife, RPG, even a JDAM. So by that logic every citizen can have their own RPGs, grenades, missile. You never thought about that did you?

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  47. Anonymous wrote:

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Permalink
  48. Dan wrote:

    Some people I know are actually blaming liberals for cutting mental health so this would happen and freedoms could be taken away. Has anyone read the Patriot Act? I entered the military in 1981, I willingly gave up some rights in order to help defend the Constitution. Twenty years later, upon retirement, I discovered that my rights as a private citizen had eroded to the point that they were less then I had on active duty back in 1981. The culture of fear and Plutocrat worship is what is destroying this country and alienating individuals to the point where they feel the need to vent by killing multiple people at the same time. We need to restore the American dream and start really caring about one another. Don’t claim to be “Christian” practice Christian, Islamic, and most other religious, ethical standards. Stop pointing fingers and look at yourself.

    Friday, December 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink