Monday 17 December 2012

Why? And how? [update 3


THAT’S THE FIRST question everyone asked after another idiot committed suicide by massacre, shooting twenty-six adults and youngsters in cold blood in a school in Connecticut before—well, who the hell cares what happened to him after that. Twenty-six human beings died, and something non-human.

Why did he do it? Why do any of these random shooters do it? An email doing the rounds attributed* to Morgan Freeman (the modern American “voice of God”) has one answer:

This may sound cynical, but here's why.
    It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. [The Columbine murderers] are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.
    CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day-care center or a maternity ward next.
    You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.

Sound comments. As a news consumer myself, I’ve never found it hard to turn of the news at times like this.

And at this blog, I’ve always followed the policy of never naming murderers. Why give them the oxygen of publicity.


How can this be stopped from happening again? Answers were rolling in even before the mourning started, and well before facts started to come in. President Obama said “meaningful reform” must be enacted so it won’t happen again. Rep. Dianne Feinstein has a bill all ready to put to Congress in the first week of the next session, banning … something. And talking heads and talkback callers everywhere are calling for guns to be made harder to obtain, semi-automatic weapons to be banned,  gun licensing to be made harder the “gun culture” and gun ownership to be throttled by lawmakers bringing a clipboard to a gunfight.

Throttling gun cultures with more laws. Prohibition. This surely ignores that only the law-abiding listen to such laws. 

Newtown officials: Principal shot lunging at Adam LanzaAnd what have all the laws against guns in schools done but disarm everyone there—leaving defenceless the people who run them and all the youngsters they should be protecting, and telling murderers they get at least thirty minutes of safe shooting before any threat to their life is likely to arrive.

It is said that as the armed idiot roamed the corridors bravely killing unarmed six- and seven-year-olds, a very brave school principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung (right) charged him in a desperate attempt to stop him. She died in the attempt.

Imagine yourself in that position, desperate to save the children in your care and utterly powerless to do anything about it.

I wonder what you would have wanted in your hand when you confronted the gunman: a small handgun? or a clipboard?

* * *

*Probably incorrectly. But since Morgan Freeman is the name most Americans would come up with if asked to name the man to play the voice of God, he’s the obvious choice for the actual author(s) to pick.

UPDATE 1: Lenore Skenazy from Free Range Kids comments:

It’s impossible not to feel afraid, sad, sickened and deeply pessimistic when something like this occurs. However, “something like this” — well, there aren’t a lot of somethings like this, and that’s a truth I am desperately trying to remind my heavy soul. It may feel like “school shootings happen all the time,” but they don’t. They are rarer than rare. They are as unpredictable as anything can be. And if today we find ourselves making a mental list, “Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook,” that’s because they are few enough, in a country of 300 million, that we know their names.
    This does not mitigate our sorrow, but it can — with some effort — mitigate our fear. It is not to dismiss the parents’ pain that I encourage you to turn off the TV. It is to keep some perspective…

And she points out the deadliest school massacre in US history was in 1927—and why its aftermath matters now .

UPDATE 2: Foregoing the knee-jerk, Australian Tim Blair takes the wide perspective, observing there are both more guns in the US, and fewer deaths

There is always a bigger picture. In the case of the latest horrific US mass shooting, the bigger picture is this:
    There are around 310 million non-military firearms in the US, basically enough to equip every man, woman and child with a deadly weapon. Close to 5.5 million new firearms are produced within the US every single year – two million more than the entire amount of firearms owned by Australians. Another three million firearms are imported to the US annually. Nearly 50 per cent of Americans have at least one firearm in their house. The market for firearms has increased constantly since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, with Smith & Wesson expecting almost $400 million in gun sales during 2012.
    And the rate of firearm-related murders keeps falling.
    You read that correctly. As the number of guns in the US increases, the deaths keep going the other way. “The rate of gun-related murder and manslaughter fell 11 per cent from 2008 to 2010, the most recent year for which comparable statistics are available,” Businessweek reported in October. Moreover, “the gun-killing rate has fallen a total of
51.5 per cent since 1993.”

UPDATE 3: Fred Rogers talks about discussing tragic events in the news with kids, which at the moment encompasses everything from Newtown Connecticut to Apia, Samoa. It includes this piece of advice for all of us:

[Hat tip Noodle Food]


Kiwiwit said...

I have followed your example and posted a brief tribute to Victoria Soto on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Great article Peter.


Fentex said...

As the number of guns in the US increases, the deaths keep going the other way.

The drop in violent crime these last thirty years or so is consistent across all industrial countries with widely differing gun laws - several of which have been implementing tougher ones and reducing gun numbers.

It's fairly obviously a coincidental correlation and not, as some often like to imply, causative.

Fred Stevens said...

I wonder what you would have wanted in your hand when you confronted the gunman: a small handgun? or a clipboard?

Been thinking about this one. The problem with the right to bear arms is that it makes it far too easy for young kids to get hold of guns and bullet proof vests and to commit such atrocities. Do you really think that all teachers should carry small hand guns, as well as their clipboards, in case they are confronted by a school shooter?

Peter Cresswell said...

@Fred: The shooters ARE getting hold of the guns.

Not all teachers, but you would think at least the school principal could be trusted, wouldn't you?

Start there...

Julian said...

@Fred: The biggest deterrent is potential shooters knowing that the teachers *could* be armed.

Scott said...

The solution is gun laws like in NZ which prevent lunatics having guns. The problem with the 'give teachers a gun' rationale is that at least a couple of children would have been killed before he was stopped.

To argue this is to argue that dead children are the price of liberty.

Julian said...

I think it was Murray Rothbard who said "A sign that says, 'Gun-Free Zone' serves not as a warning to murderers, but as a welcome mat."


Anonymous said...

The truth is simple - the principal, in not possessing a full-automatic handgun, and the unconstitutional laws permitting her to be a principal without such armament, are the only ones guilty of the deaths of these children

And when Wayne LaPierre said as much, the MSM pissed all over him.