It Is Time to Stop Talking At Each Other and Work Together On A Solution.
By now, I am sure that you have heard about the tragic shooting of 20 small children and 6 adults by a deranged 20 year old in Connecticut on Friday. It has been the lead on all news shows and many entertainment shows since it happened.
As usual lately, the early reports were mostly wrong as the new mantra in the main street press seems to be “Report any crazy rumor you hear before the other network reports it. It does not matter if it is correct, only that we say it first. We can correct it later if necessary.” The trouble with this method, beyond simply reporting wrong information, is that many people never hear the corrections and believe the crazy rumors. An example of this type of “reporting” occurred in the hours following the shooting. It was reported that the “gunman legally purchased the firearms he used that day by using the ID of someone else.” This is wrong on so many levels. First, if it were true, using someone else’s ID is fraud and far from legal. Second, Connecticut has strict gun laws and imposes a five day waiting period for gun purchases. And finally, he did not purchase them at all. He stole his mother’s guns. This type of irresponsible “reporting” only incites the anti-gun lobby and causes the pro-gun lobby to distrust the media even more.
Even though the murders took place only three days ago, the gun control forces and the pro-gun forces are already on TV with their respective talking points. At least one senator has promised to introduce legislation bringing back the so-called assault weapons ban; this despite the fact that during the period when the previous ban was in effect, there was no noticeable decrease in crime and no increase since its expiration. These people blame the easy availability of guns for the increase in mass murders.
On the other side, the pro-gun people say that the solution lies in arming the masses so that one bad person with a gun would not have an advantage against a crowd of good guys with guns. They want armed guards or teachers packing heat in our schools. Ironically, on the same day this incident happened, the Michigan legislature voted to create a new, advanced class of concealed carry permits which would allow people who already have a concealed pistol license to take advanced training and get a license to carry a gun on school property, in churches, and sports arenas. Currently these places are gun free zones even if you have a license to carry a gun. It would remain illegal to carry a gun in these areas unless you have had the specialized training on handling a gun in a crowd and obtained the advanced license. This would not be an easy license to get. Currently, criminals know that these are gun free zones and they are easy targets for someone willing to ignore the law. Of course, in reporting about the legislation, the main stream media is leaving out the part about requiring specialized training.
The pro-gun people correctly point out that since many states have made concealed carry permits easier to get, the murder rate has decreased. They view this as a cause and effect, though many other factors are also in play and it would not be fair to jump to that conclusion. What we can say, however, is that more people legally carrying guns has not led to increases in gun deaths as many predicted.
Guns have been around for hundreds of years now and their basic principle has not changed. A chemical mixture (gunpowder) is ignited in a confined space creating a large pressure spike. The only way for the pressure to escape is by pushing a projectile down a barrel and out the end. Momentum carries this projectile forward until gravity pulls it to the earth or it hits something causing damage to the object it hits. Modern guns are more reliable and easier to operate, but the principle remains. Repeating rifles and revolvers appeared in the 1800s and semi-automatic rifles and handguns became available in the early 1900s. The civilian model “assault rifle” (this is an improper name given to this gun by the media. A true assault rifle is a military weapon capable of full automatic fire) is nothing more than a semi-automatic rifle that looks like a military weapon. Unless it is illegally modified, it can only fire one shot each time the trigger is pulled. This is the same operation as a semi-automatic hunting rifle or handgun.
The most common privately owned gun of this style is the AR-15 which is the civilian gun that looks like the M-16 military rifle that our troops use every day. It fires a .22 caliber bullet (.223) at high velocity. It has a flat trajectory so it is ideal for target shooting and varmint hunting. Many people use it for home defense, but it is really poorly suited for that purpose. At close range, the .22 bullet would poke a ¼ hole through the bad guy, then pass through your home’s outside wall, your neighbor’s wall, the neighbor’s dog and into the neighbor. Unless you hit a vital organ in the intruder’s body, he will keep coming at you. A shogun with small pellets is much more effective at close range and will not continue into your neighbor’s home.
Because they look like military rifles, many otherwise intelligent people confuse them with real assault weapons. Even the name sounds ominous. It is virtually impossible to define what an assault weapon is. This is why the previous law emphasized cosmetic appearance rather than function. The previous ban also limited magazine size to 10 rounds. This is more of an inconvenience than a real deterrent.
I don’t know why the number of mass murders has increased in recent years, but it is not the availability of guns. The US has a long held love affair with the gun, and they have been a part of this country since its inception. We were born of the gun and when the end comes, they will pry guns out of our cold dead hands. The current number of guns in this country has been estimated to be as high as 300 million, though it is impossible to get an exact count. As a practical matter, if the manufacture and sale of guns ended today, the existing inventory would be sufficient for every criminal for the next several hundred years. Only honest, law abiding citizens would be unable to obtain guns. Would that make us safer? I don’t think so.
On the other hand, the second amendment does give us the right to keep and bear arms, but like all other rights, there should be realistic limits. Fully automatic guns (machine guns) have required a special hard to get license since the 1930s. I cannot have a working Howitzer in my back yard, though it is just a very big gun. Gun owners need to accept some compromises to get compromises from the other side. For example there is really no justifiable reason that I can think of for a civilian to own armor piercing ammunition.
I have spent a lot of space on the side track of guns and gun control, but this is not the real problem in the mass murders. Politicians will spend countless hours and resources discussing this side issue, while ignoring the real problems. If someone can come up with a workable piece of gun control legislation that would prevent a crazed individual from acquiring guns, I would be all for it, but I do not think that sort of law is possible. I am not sure that if it were possible, it would stop all of the mass murders. It would just force the killers to use different weapons.
In our 24 hour news cycle, the mass media is constantly looking for stories and people to highlight. They have lots of time to fill and incidents that would previously have not been noticed are made into big stories. Does anyone really need to know how many times Lindsay Lohan has been arrested or what Kim Kardishian is doing? Of course not, but with all that time to fill celebrities are created out of nothing. A sick individual sees all of the attention that a killing spree generates across the country and in his twisted logic see this as a way to become famous. When some of the recent killings such as the Wisconsin ones did not generate as much attention, the sick individual felt it was necessary to become more outrageous to gain attention. What could be more outrageous than the slaughter of innocent children. The next potential killer is probably looking at all of this media attention and trying to think up something more heinous.
As a society, we promote violence all of the time. Don’t like what the Iranians are doing? Bomb them. Our drones are killing many innocent people for every real terrorist, but we are numb to all of this violence. After all, by just associating with these people, they are probably guilty of something. We condone the firebombing of Gaza and the murder of thousands of innocents there. Why are we surprised when someone brings it home to our country? Movies and games glorify violence though, so far there has been no correlation made between mass murders and violent game play. Some played the games and some did not. Also millions of people play games and don’t become mass murders.
The sense of community is not as strong as it used to be. When I was young and played outside, neighbors that my parents knew kept an eye on me without my knowledge. Young people don’t play outside with their friends as much now due to several factors. They sit in front of computers and have “friends” online rather than in real life. Parents are afraid to let them run free with all of the scary people out there. They were also there when I was young, but it was not publicized as much.
In most families now, both parents have to work to survive and the kids are in day care away from their neighborhoods. People have become very litigious and threaten to sue any teacher that disciplines their child. Children are not allowed to fail. Scores are not kept in games and no one loses. Without learning how to deal with small failures, the young person is unable to deal with the inevitable larger failures that are a normal part of life. Since he has never failed at anything, the problem must be “Him or Them.” The sick individual then must get rid of those who cause him pain by killing them. While he at it, a higher body count insures more news coverage, so why stop at the “guilty?” In the Connecticut case, there was a great deal of overkill with some kids being shot up to eleven times, like more hits would get “extra credit.” The definition of legal insanity is that someone can’t differentiate right from wrong. This type of person, though highly disturbed is not legally insane. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but somehow feels justified. He then usually kills himself or commits “suicide by cop.” Because he is already sentencing himself to the death penalty, what kind of law could prevent this from happening? I don’t think the answer lies in more laws.
Until a real solution can be found, perhaps we need armed guards or teachers in our schools. I don’t like the necessity of having to do this, but it is the one solution that would, at least, limit this type of killing spree. Inner-city schools have long had guards, metal detectors and heightened security and this has not happened in one of those schools. True, students are killed outside of the school, but those incidents are directed at a particular person and are often gang related. There are not mass random shootings. People don’t get as excited about these killings as it is expected out of “those people who probably deserve it.” They also don’t involve large numbers of dead.
With states struggling to make ends meet, it becomes necessary to eliminate many state services and all too often, one of the first cuts made is in mental health. Several years ago, our governor virtually emptied our state mental health facilities. These disturbed individuals were dumped on the streets and today many are still out on the streets. Others are in prisons (at a much higher cost to the state) or dead. Many returning veterans from our Middle East “adventures” have joined them.
In conclusion, I would like to send my sincere condolences to the families of those slain and the survivors. They face a lifetime of disturbed memories of that day. I also feel for the surviving members of the killer’s family and friends. They will live with guilt of wondering what they missed seeing and what could have been done before it got to this point.
Michael Chester is retired from his career in industrial technology. After graduating from college, he taught this subject until deciding that he preferred doing the job himself more than teaching it. At various times during his career, he has designed, built, installed, and repaired industrial manufacturing machinery. His specialty was in electrical and electronics controls.
After retiring, he concentrated more on his hobby of cooking and attended one of the top culinary schools in the US. Mike competed in bass fishing tournaments for several years, but had to leave the sport due to an injury. As a certified barbecue judge he gets to taste some of the best BBQ in the country and help select the winner. It is a tough job, but someone has to do it. He lives with his wife of over 30 years, has 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren.