Tragedies Should Be Calls to Action

I’m hearing it again. Eighteen elementary children met pointless deaths today, and yet my facebook feed has lit up with cries that gun control doesn’t solve anything and assertions that the problem is spiritual darkness, not things like guns or mental illness. Eighteen families have lost their children, and yet the cries of denial are loud already.

I am a mother. I have children, one of whom is fast approaching elementary school age. I cannot imagine the grief those families in Connecticut are going through right now. Actually, I think I can. And that, perhaps, is why I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut. Perhaps that is why the tears keep flowing. Perhaps that is why there is anger rising inside of me, and the need to scream pushes up in my throat.

And yet, they say, gun control does nothing. Mental illness is nothing but spiritual darkness. There is nothing we can do to prevent another mass slaughter but pray.

This is not okay. 

There is a national conversation we need to have, a national conversation that has been decades in the making. We need to talk about our gun problem, our violence problem, and the way we ignore mental health. I wrote about this last time there was a mass shooting, and I’m writing about it again. So let me start it.

Gun Control Does Nothing?

The numbers show that more guns = more homicide. More guns = more deaths. Countries with stricter gun control laws not only have lower levels of gun deaths but also lower levels of murder. Could part of this be that countries that are willing to pass gun control laws are countries that are culturally less violent? Sure. But it also reflects the facts that the more guns there are in a society, the easier violence and murder becomes.

Let me offer an example. There was another school attack today, this one in a primary school in China. Twenty-two children were injured, but all will recover and there were no deaths. What was the difference between these two attacks? While the attacker at the Connecticut school had a gun, the attacker at the Chinese school had only a knife. China, you see, has very strict gun control laws.

A Symptom of Spiritual Darkness?

We also need to combat the idea that tragedies like these are the result of spiritual darkness. You see, as long as people see these sorts of things as the natural results of people not accepting Jesus as their savior, the entire focus of efforts to prevent tragedies like this will be on things like prayer and conversion, rather than on things that could actually make a difference.

So let’s look for a moment at two things: first, the homicide rate in each continent, and second, the religious makeup of each continent.

Murder Rate by Continent
RegionRate
   Africa17.0
   Americas15.4
   Asia3.1
   Europe3.5
   Oceania2.9

This table unfortunately doesn’t match perfectly (it breaks up the regions differently), but it does allow for some comparison:

Percent Christian by Region
RegionPercent
   Sub-Saharan Africa62.7
   Americas86.0
   Asia-Pacific7.0
   Europe76.2
   Middle East/North Africa3.8

Am I saying that being Christian makes someone violent or more likely to be a murderer? No. I’m simply saying that the idea that our murder rate is high because of “spiritual darkness” while the murder rate in Asia and Oceania is a fifth what it is in the Americas even as only 7% of the people are Christian is crazy. And that’s something we need to be pointing out.

The Bottom Line

Today’s tragedy was pointless and senseless. But instead of putting our heads in the sand and our fingers in our ears, we need to have a serious conversation about how we can prevent this sort of tragedy from being repeated again, and again, and again. Do I have all the answers? No. But if we don’t start asking questions, we’ll never get any closer to finding answers. I believe we can make things better, and I can only hope that when my children’s children approach kindergarten, they won’t receive such strong reminders of their children’s mortality every time they turn on the news.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Highlander

    Isn’t it odd that the same people who insist that banning guns WON”T reduce gun crimes also insist that banning abortions WILL reduce abortions.

    • Kittens

      That is an excellent point that I never thought of before.

  • KO

    Agreed: it’s way past time to start the dialogue. Here are some more poignant facts about guns and mass shootings in the US: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/nine-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/

  • smrnda

    I get a bit disgusted by how Christians exploit tragedies to pitch their snake oil cures for ‘spiritual darkness,’ imagine how crass it would seem if a Buddhist stated that tragedies wouldn’t happen if the shooter (or the students) had been meditating more often. (In fact, just writing that, I realized that it sounds less crass and insensitive as it sounds ridiculous.) The violent crime rate in places full of ‘spiritual darkness’ are a lot lower than here.

  • Saraquill

    Are the people blaming this on gun control laws and lack of prayer saying this because they really want to be punched?

  • Leah

    Thank you Libby Anne for writing what has been running through my head all day. I am so sad and horrified but there is anger there as well. I am angry that this has happened again. I am angry at the reaction of some people immediately stating that this is not the time for a discussion on gun control. I am angry that I have never before had an ounce of reservation about sending my children to school and now I just want to keep them close to me. Thank you for speaking to that anger and giving it a voice.

  • acoustic_alchemy

    “[I]f we don’t start asking questions, we’ll never get any closer to finding answers”

    QFT. If now isn’t a good time to discuss the state of gun control in this country, when will it ever be? A few folks I know object to even talking about the issue, saying “We need to respect the victims and their families; politicizing the issue won’t help!” Bullshit. One of the best ways of normalizing violence in society (and thereby creating tragedies like this again and again) is by never acknowledging, let alone challenging, the structures present in our culture that perpetuate it. If we refuse to address what caused this horror in the first place, that would be the greatest disservice to the teachers and children who died so senselessly.

  • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

    It is interesting to consider that the US so quickly cites the constitution for defense of things like this. I thought this might add an interesting perspective to consider; “Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right. It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only.” – Thomas Jefferson on the Constitution to James Madison

    It would appear the writers of the constitution didn’t intend for it to be an “eternal document” he goes on to say that he doesn’t think that one generation should be enslaved to the wishes of the older generation. You can find more of the letter online if you want, I just think its interesting what the intent of the writers was in the beginning. If you go by the original intent, it seems the framers understood that generations will change, and that the Constitution should necessarily be fluid rather than static because of it.

    So what would they actually say about the gun violence and the second amendment? It’s a decent question to consider.

    • Kate

      Also, didn’t the second amendment have more to do with having an adequately armed militia than personal ownership? Not to mention that guns around that time were far less efficient than they are now.

      • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

        Kate, yes and yes, from what I have read, that is exactly the case!

  • J-Rex

    I understand why there is a debate about gun control and I’m not sure where I stand on the issue (though with tragedies like this happening more and more often, I’m definitely leaning left).
    What particularly bothers me is that gun rights advocates never bring up any solutions to these sorts of things. They say “people kill people,” which is true, but as you pointed out when talking about the incident in China, guns make it way too easy to kill people, especially with today’s technologies.
    Since they can’t bring anything productive to the conversation besides a few defenses, they would rather not have the conversation at all, so they say “Now is not the time.” Would they have said that “now is not the time” to talk about national security after 9/11? Would they say it’s not the time to talk about response to natural disasters after a hurricane?
    The most annoying part is that just because it’s a conversation we need to have doesn’t mean that all guns will be outlawed. It’s an obvious problem that needs to be solved and there could be multiple ways to solve it. There could be solutions which they might agree with too, but they’re too selfish to have the conversation in the first place.

  • http://www.twitter.com/softlysoaring Emily

    Question. When you say, “things like prayer and conversion, rather than on things that could actually make a difference”… do you think prayer and conversion actually make no difference? I think I understand what you are getting at… something akin to C.S. Lewis’s assertion that Christians can be “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” I completely agree with both him and you that (particularly evangelical) Christianity has had a nasty tendency to try and secure people’s “eternal destiny” without meeting their imminent needs and trying to solve their practical problems, thereby rendering itself irrelevant and giving Christianity a bad name. But the way you phrased that sentence seemed to imply that “prayer and conversion” could not “actually make a difference.” Am I reading you wrongly? If so please correct me.

    • luckyducky

      As I read it, Libby Anne is referring to those who are saying it is because of “spiritual darkness” because they are asserting that “prayer and conversation” *would be the only thing* necessary to make a difference — if we had prayer in schools and more people were saved, this wouldn’t happen. If my facebook feed is any indication, the people who are posting things like “Dear God, how could you let such terrible things happen in our schools? Love, Student/Dear Student, I am not allowed in the schools. Love, God” are in the same camp as those arguing against “politicizing” this event, increasing gun control, and even [shudder] arming teachers.

      In fact, a rough sketch of where things like this happen (particularly per capita) versus where people are religious and specifically where people are Christian shows no relationship. There is no evidence that if more people were saved that this still wouldn’t happen — of course, the people who are making that argument aren’t making an argument based in evidence but in faith.

      On the other hand, we know that guns make it easier/possible to kill a lot of people quickly with very little forethought or planning (unlike bombs and other high-fatality methods), and the faster and larger the firing the capacity only increases that. So limiting access to high capacity, semi-automatic firearms, making it more difficult in general to get guns, just working to reduce the normalcy of having and using guns (like we have about smoking) would make incidents like this less likely to happen and less deadly when they did. And that is supported by evidence.

  • BarkingMad

    I understand why so many people lash out at guns when a tragedy like this occurs. But I would like to point out that the arguments for stronger gun control are problematic for a number of reasons. First it is a fact that mass assaults like will occur even if stronger gun control laws are enacted. The example of the knife assault in China is strong evidence that a population without access to guns is not safe from mass assault. Saying that it is ok because there were no fatalities seem ridiculous to me. The recent assault in Portland in contrast to the one today shows that even in similar scenarios with guns, the outcome can be very different. There could be another knife assault tomorrow that proves much more fatal. Access to a specific type of weapon is not a precursor to mass assault.
    Second, many arguments for prohibition of gun ownership include statistics that fail the test of causation. While many show that yes, the US has a higher rate of gun ownership, and yes the US has had many mass assaults, none have shown that gun ownership causes mass assault. Correlation does NOT equal causation. We as skeptics bust a lot of others for using this fallacy, we must not fall victim to the same trap. But if you really like statistics, think about this. About 40% of households in the US contain guns. More than 99% of those households are not involved in mass assault.
    Third, focusing our attention on guns takes attention away from things that might help prevent a future mass assault. How do we do that? I don’t know. But I feel strongly that gun control is not going to improve the situation.

    • ABaker

      I would agree most of the way: I think the gun show loophole needs to be closed, because right now, I could (were I old enough) walk into a gun show and buy a gun, order a firing pin and ammunition online, and put it all together to have a fully-functional weapon without ANY background checks. I think they need to require the same background checks for people at gun shows as at gun shops.

      Beyond that, I would point out that if you make guns criminal, only criminals will have guns. I plan to obtain a concealed-carry permit once I’m old enough (in about a year), and I plan to carry the weapon I will purchase anywhere it’s legal to carry, and if I am ever in a situation like those in CT or OR or China I will use it to end the situation.

      I also fully agree with your point that correlation ≠ causation. And they need to be separated in any discussion about guns in America.

      • BarkingMad

        I understand your concern about guns changing hands without a background check. However a law preventing transfers at gun shows (or any other place for that matter) will not stop guns from changing hands. I don’t know if criminals go to gun shows or not, but I can offer some reasons why they might stay away, even if they can buy guns there without a background check. First, there are usually a lot of police officers at gun shows, hired by the show organizer, to provide security. I think a criminal might want to avoid that situation. Second, criminals don’t have to go to gun shows to get guns. As the recent “fast and furious” debacle pointed out, it is easy enough for a criminal to hire someone who can pass a background check to do so at a gun shop. They may also buy guns from other criminals or steal them from people who legally own then (they are criminals after all).
        Also remember that many who own guns and want to protect that right fear that the government will use the data from mandatory background checks to build a database of those who own guns. That information could be used to suppress freedoms just as easily as it could be used to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

      • Rosa

        If you make guns criminal, where are the criminals going to get guns?

        we are awash in guns. A few years ago a teen was shot in the head one block from my house, by himself, as he and a friend were examining a gun they found in the bushes.

        And the database thing is ridiculous. If you make a purchase, it’s tracked, without licensing (unless you’re a criminal who evades sales taxes.) Any government entity interested in that information could have it already.

      • That Other Jean

        You do realize that when the police get to the scene of the crime you stopped in your fantasy and see you standing over the body of the perpetrator you just shot, if you were lucky enough to hit him/her and not someone else, they’d likely assume you were the perpetrator and shoot you? Or that some other civilian carrying a concealed gun might make the same mistake?

    • Liriel

      Yes, some criminals will still have guns if they are illegal. Murderers still murder even though it’s illegal. But we don’t just say “oh well, we might as well make not have a law against it, since the law will just be broken.” I am not for complete no-guns-ever or anything, but just saying “making them illegal means only criminals will have them” is oversimplifying matter, IMO. I think real discussion about making them harder to obtain both legally and illegally is what’s needed.

    • Paige

      I’m not sure about your first point. Knives require a lot more physical strength to be used to inflict wounds on a large number of people. You need to be able to get closer to your victim to harm them, you would need to chase them down (no doubt after the first victim, everyone else would be running away) and/or physically restrain them, you need the strength to keep stabbing and swinging through flesh. Plus, I think if the parents of the victims were asked, they would probably prefer their child to be in intensive care than in the morgue.

      The third point seems to be a bit of a strawman. You can focus on gun control and the people who may wield them at the same time.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “The example of the knife assault in China is strong evidence that a population without access to guns is not safe from mass assault. Saying that it is ok because there were no fatalities seem ridiculous to me”

      Um, I don’t know a single person who is saying that the knife assault in China is “okay.” What I see is a lot of people pointing out that a man who, no doubt, had the same intent to kill as the one who committed this latest massacre could not do so because he did not have a weapon that was nearly as efficient or effective at killing. And that being alive and injured is better than being dead–which just seems objectively true to me. Pointing out the difference between “27 dead” and “0 dead” hardly seems “ridiculous” to me.

    • Sarah

      I have two children around the age of the kids in Connecticutt. Given the choice between them being dead or them being in the hospital with stitches and blood loss, even with permanent disfiguring injuries. I think I can safely predict that 99.999999999% of parents choose not geing dead as the btter outcome.

    • mary

      I agree, BarkingMad- and I think that, unless we can completely eliminate guns from all echelons of society (it’ll never happen) we should be prepared to defend ourselves. The bigger issue to me here, bigger than the fact that guns are easy to come by, is mental health- that is something we should take very seriously. I think his mom is partly to blame, too- gun ownership carries with it a responsibility to keep the guns secure and out of the hands of irresponsible parties.

      Also- a gun isn’t necessary for fatalities. Bows, machetes, etc. can do a lot of damage too, and in the case of bows/arrows at a distance to boot. outlawing archery won’t work, because a bow and arrows can be made. I think it’s not about the weapon, but about the person who uses it. What do we do when a drunk bastard gets behind the wheel and kills kids in an auto accident? Do we ban cars? Or do we toughen up the penalties for drinking behind the wheel?

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        The reason we don’t ban cars is that their purpose is for transportation. The purpose of guns is killing. So why should be make it easy for people to access weapons that are designed with the sole purpose of killing large numbers of humans?

    • tsara

      Red tape around guns:
      1. A longer wait or process to obtain guns means a longer amount of time before the person planning to shoot something is able to do so, and that increases the statistical likelihood of the person changing hir mind in some way (losing nerve, losing momentum, etc.) or of them being prevented from following through on their plans due to, say, getting hit by a car.
      2. More steps in the process means more opportunities for the people involved in monitoring it (hey, jobs) to notice that something’s up.
      3. Referral to a psychologist could nip many of these things in the bud. (Seriously, I think this should be a step in the process of obtaining anything other than basic hunting/biathlon gear. I don’t think people should necessarily have to obtain a clean bill of health, but paranoia and burning resentment should be looked for.)
      4. Limitations on the total number of guns or amount of ammunition a person can have/obtain within a certain period of time can further slow things down for a certain type of perfectionist, as well as creating a crossable boundary where people planning shooting sprees can be caught. If they aren’t caught there, the ammo limit could mean one fewer rounds fired.
      5. Someone planning a shooting spree who goes the route of black-market/illegal/stolen weaponry or ammo could be caught.
      6. If carrying a specific type gun around is prohibited, or there are storage rules, etc. this is another place for people to be caught.

      The point of regulations is not that they make it impossible for people to obtain the thing being regulated. They don’t. The point is this: when the thing being regulated is a thing that can be harmful, the regulations will increase the chances that anyone planning to do harm will not be able to do so.
      (Poor wording, but you get the point.)

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  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    I agree. I think the likelyhood of me using a gun to protect myself is a lot less likely than the violent man getting to me first. If people put others first, they would be willing for more gun control.

  • alwr

    I agree with what you say here. I just have one issue: I hope to God that you are in tears because you are human and not merely because you are a mother. I do not have children (and that was not my choice), and I have cried today. And I am sick of every single parent right up to the President of the United States who has declared that it is parenthood that makes one see and feel this as the horrifying tragedy it is. It is not. It is basic humanity. Think back to before you had a child, do you really believe that you would have shrugged your shoulders at this tragedy then? Did you really care nothing for children? Did you really not know or love a single child? Of course not.

    • J-Rex

      …I didn’t take that at all to mean that it’s just because she’s a parent. I don’t have kids and don’t particularly want kids, and I cried when I heard this. But I guarantee if I had a child, I would cry harder.
      It’s simply that the closer the situation is to you, the more pain you feel. Stories about people’s parents dying make me feel sad, but they don’t really affect me that much because I was never close to my parents. Stories about a boyfriend dying would be much, much harder for me to deal with because I would relate it to my own relationship.

      • Kate

        I understand what you’re saying (empathy vs. sympathy), and perhaps it’s irrational, but every time I hear/read a comment about a tragedy that is prefaced with “As a parent…” I can’t help but bristle at it. I’m sure it’s not generally the intention, but there always seems to be this implication that because I’m not a parent I can’t possibly understand how horrible something is. It just rubs me the wrong way. That said, I didn’t get that vibe from Libby’s piece.

      • Sarah

        I was an empathetic and loving person before kids. After them I can’t even watch murder mysteries or ER. There’s something about the hormonal change in becoming a parent that rips your soul open, and it never quite heals over. I could blame it on giving birth, but it happened to my partner as well, and he doesn’t have a uterus. Having a baby really does change everything.

  • Little Magpie

    My s***-disturbing, Canadian commentary…. basically, what is wrong that this KEEPS on happening, over and over again? And no-one’s seriously tried to figure out, how to fix it? Sad, but as many have said, angry that this KEEPS ON HAPPENING.

    Look… 23 years (and 8 days) ago, a 25 year old man went into an engineering college in Montreal, specifically targeted female students (although also some staff), killed 14 young women (and injured 14 other people both male and female) before killing himself, his motive being that he hated feminists. Okay, granted, we haven’t fixed the “war of the sexes” – but the instance prompted, over time, reforms that significantly tightened access to guns in Canada. (My experience has been that Americans haven’t *heard* of that tragedy, hence the explanation. For more info, here’s Wikipedia’s entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_massacre)

    On the other hand: This is a quote from washingtonpost.com today: “Mother Jones has tracked and mapped every shooting spree in the last three decades. “Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii,” they found. And in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally.”
    In a country where the dialogue about firearms was, you know, remotely sane and reasonable, stricter gun control would have happened after the first one or two incidents – and while crazy people might still go on murderous rampages, my guess is it would happen less often and with less loss of life.

    Peace to you all, tonight.

  • http://www.eaandfaith.blogspot.com Hannah Thomas

    I don’t have an issue if they placed some ‘common sense’ regulations on guns. Problem is society is so polarized I don’t see this happening right now. I mean look at it. One side says no guns, and the other side says don’t trample on my 2nd amendment rights or all guns are fine. There is no middle ground anymore. That to me is the bigger issue, and seems to be the same approach to almost everything today. Sad.

    Can they make it harder to get guns? Yes, for those that get them legally. For most of the criminals they don’t have an issue getting guns. Gangs with criminal histories for example. Okay. So we aren’t talking about them now. All I will say is their killing numbers are much higher – even towards children. I don’t have a problem with making it harder to get LEGALLY by the way. It depends how it is set up. Lately, government is talking to stupid about things. I mean seriously – ban on happy meals, supersize colas? That is not rational talk IMO. We have bigger fish to fry here.

    What about the fact that the last two gunmen didn’t own the guns they shot with? They both it would seem have major mental issues, because why else would you do such an evil thing to begin with. I don’t have an issue with them removing the nasty heavy duty guns from the market, but I believe (I could be wrong here) the supreme court said that was a no no. We can’t charge these two men with stealing the guns they shot with at this point – their dead. Stealing guns is illegal, but alot of good it does in this case.

    Do we stop all people with some mental condition from having guns? Here come the lawyers and say you are trampling on their rights. Remember black and white polarization again. Our society seems to feel everyone can or no one remember! We aren’t capable of figure out the difference it seems. There is no common sense. Its the same with not forcing those that truly NEED help but refuse it…and they aren’t forced to either(people that are insane). So we have tons of mentally handicapped people that aren’t truly capable of speaking for themselves on a capable level hurting people also – just not on a massive scale like today. Keep in mind I’m only speaking of the extreme ones that do hurt others or themselves due to this condition. We read stories of people hurting others, and everyone KNEW the day was coming. Their hands were tied. Their victims were no less tragic due to the numbers being less, or not all at the same time.

    The spiritual darkness crowd? Sigh. Lets face facts you can burn dinner and it will be the devil that did it to them. Their denial of reality blows me away at times.

    We have left all common sense behind, and got polarization in response. Its either black or white – there is no grey anymore. When we have tons of truly handicapped people left to fed for themselves when they can’t. When we ignore abuse of all kinds, and try to place silly excuses to calm the masses for the reasons instead. When all you have to do is tell people that you are following some faith – not following some faith – tell them your Conservative or liberal, etc – and everyone gets defensive AUTOMATICALLY? Then you mix in some people that not capable mentally? lol we are suppose to be the ‘rational’ ones here! Why does this surprise us?

    We can’t even talk sense anymore. Heck we can’t debate without being called a bigot! We are too busy getting into our own camps. You have to wonder if the mentally insane ones get frustrated because they don’t’ know which way to go, and instead get mad and blow us away instead. The news is all doom. The people are to busy fighting. There is never enough resources, but damn it all there is always a stupid reason – or law – or regulation, etc to fix it.

    Yeah right. Laws and rules don’t make things better. Rational thinking does. Common sense and decency does. Sadly, the criminally insane will always be with us. We just don’t know how to deal with them yet, and help them the way they need. We have them on the streets – in prison – and then you have families that don’t know what else to do except enable them. I don’t think we will ever be able to help all of them. Most of them we have abandoned due to our own society’s attitude.

    Sorry for being so jaded. I’m so mad at this circumstance – today’s awful happening – I could spit nails. It makes me cry out so loud that an entire kindergarten class – along with 6 adults had to die due to our attitudes towards those that are different. We are to weak towards abusive parents or predators. We don’t help mentally challenged people enough. We allow those are incapable of taking care of themselves – take care of themselves once they hit 18. We have turned into codependents of a social level. lol we have to make EVERYONE happy and be not offended. That’s not possible. Yet we TRY! Everyone is extreme and there is no normal anymore. There is no middle part. No center. It makes me crazy…lol what does it do to those that ARE truly nuts?

    We are to busy glossing over the true reasons for awful things that happen with extreme points of view, and we leave all rational thinking behind. Sounds like this young man needed help that he didn’t get, and should have been locked up so he was away from those that he would hurt. We will miss on occasion of course. Nothing is perfect. The polarization doesn’t help. We have way to much hate today, and its encouraged. They just make it seem covert. Why so many buy into it I will never know.

    Sorry for the ramble.

    • luckyducky

      Sorry, I don’t think that there is any reasonable gun control proponent who is arguing that there be *no* guns. I am sure that many of us would like there to be nothing but hunting firearms owned only by people who actually hunt — mainly because I have a strong personal aversion to guns — they scare me and not from lack of exposure. I grew up on a farm (rifles and shotguns always around) and have plenty of law enforcement members in the family (a big brother on a SWAT team and he was the one who really impressed upon me that guns are very dangerous instruments to be handled with extraordinary care). However, gun control advocates have been fighting a losing battle for decades and, in my experience, are pretty realistic about what are “reasonable” gun control measures.

      I teach, on occasion, American Government at a university. The first time I did, I had the students pick a “constitutional issue” currently in the news for a project. I made the mistake of *not* taking the 2nd amendment off the list. The reason why I should have taken it off the list is because the assignment was to pull together examples of arguments in the popular media for and against and use them to illustrate different concepts of was “American democracy” means to people (there was a chart…) WITHOUT taking sides on the issue in the body of the work. The NRA and NRA-friendly organizations have flooded us with such one-sided information and so successfully framed the issue that even people who support reasonable gun control (along with a majority of Americans) will assert things like that gun control advocates want to take away *all* guns. And, the students who chose the 2nd amendment, without exception, cited only pro-NRA sources and made only pro-NRA arguments. I don’t think most of these students started out with strong feelings one way or any other but the assignment unintentionally radicalized them because they didn’t find pro-gun control information to counteract the pro-NRA crap (and I do mean crap, they also didn’t follow guidelines about finding *quality* sources though there isn’t a shortage of pro-NRA op-eds, etc. in credible sources).

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        This. I don’t know a single person who is arguing that there should be NO guns. In fact, some of my friends who have been most vocal about the need for sensible gun control and regulation are gun owners, even gun enthusiasts, themselves (several of them military veterans) who know of what they speak. This is a giant straw man.

    • Anat

      If fewer people owned guns legally there would also be fewer people getting guns illegally, because their source would be reduced. But there are also things that need to be done outside of gun control to reduce the problem. A big step would be stopping the unproductive ‘War on Drugs’. If we started treating drugs as a public health problem rather than crime we would bring down the drug market and the associated gang crime, and demand for illegal guns should drop significantly. And if fewer people owned guns then your random burglar would be less likely to carry one either – they are not looking for a fight, just a quick escape.

      • smrnda

        As someone else (here or on another blog) pointed out, the comparison between guns and drugs concerning how legality will affect availability isn’t so valid. Anybody who can garden or has decent chemistry skills can make drugs. Guns are much harder to manufacture.

    • Sophie

      I’m sorry but could you be any more offensive about people with mental health problems? You have called them ‘insane’, ‘mentally handicapped’, ‘not capable mentally’, ‘mentally insane’, and ‘criminally insane’ in just a few paragraphs. You have also implied that only people with mental health problems are capable of doing ‘evil’ things. And that we should just lock them up.

      I appreciate that the young man behind this tragedy had mental health problems, and that we are all reeling from what has happened. However that does not mean that all people with mental health problems are capable of doing something like this nor should they be treated like they are capable of such an atrocity. The reality is that most people who suffer from a mental illness are not violent, or if they are it is usually violence directed at themselves. People like the man behind this shooting are the very very tiny minority.

      So please be more sensitive about the language you use in the future.

       

  • Skjaere

    My mother is on the side of more guns = more safety, which is maddening. As if bullets flying in two directions instead of just one would have been preferable option. But in a way, I understand the mentality? When something this horrific happens, people want to feel as if there is a larger plan for the universe, and that in some way, everything is going to be OK: Satan caused it. Good people with guns could have prevented it. The kids who died are in heaven now, and their families will be reunited with them there someday. I can see how thinking that would be comforting. But wanting it to be true doesn’t make it true. We have to face the harsh reality that these things happen, they are senseless, they are not part of a greater plan or purpose, and it’s going to be really f***ing hard to fix these problems within our society. Prayer is not going to cut it. Escaping to the fantasy world called “God’s will” is not going to prevent these sorts of events from happening.

    • luckyducky

      I have been spitting mad today at people arguing that teachers and school administrators should be armed. I have a kindergartner and a 2nd grader and the thought of militarizing their school makes me furious. Even if I could imagine (which I cannot) that having guns on a school campus would dissuade someone who is obviously suicidal from shooting up a school, I cannot stomach the atmosphere that would prevail in schools if every teacher had a sidearm in a holster (good god in heaven), not to mention all the “accidents” that would happen outside of the mass shooting situations.

      I seriously do not get how people make this argument. I struggle to find some empathy, I really do because it makes it easier to talk to them. But I can’t.

      More guns = more people dead. No question.

    • Christine

      The only way that makes sense to me, is that the “more guns=more safety” people think that everyone over a certain age should be trained as law enforcement. That’s the only way I can think of to make sure that people can not only safely carry the guns at all times with the fewest number of accidents, but that criminals wouldn’t just disarm you (and have another gun).

      For me to believe that carrying a gun would make me less likely to get shot, not more likely (all issues of escalating conflict aside – we’ll live in their world where it isn’t a factor), I would need to take enough training in unarmed combat (so the gun can’t be taken from me) that having a gun or not would be something of a moot point.

    • BarkingMad

      I don’t understand how a reasonable person could conclude that having fewer armed citizens will help when a mass shooting takes place. If there is no one to shoot back, the murderer will continue to kill people until he runs out of ammunition or gets tired. The ONLY way to stop a person on a shooting spree is with an armed response. If the only armed response are police, who might take minutes to arrive, the murder has a LONG time to kill people. If there is an armed citizen on the site with the skills and tools to stop the shooter, it could be done in a matter of seconds. The facts of mass murder support this position. In nearly all cases where mass shootings have taken place, the shooter continued to kill people until police arrived to stop them. The reason this keeps happening is not because guns are easy to get, it is because the shooter knows that no one will fight back. I own keep and carry guns for self defense. I have taken more firearms training than our local police officers receive. I have never been in a situation where I needed to defend myself. But if I was in that situation, I would much rather be ABLE to do so than to forced to sit idly by and watch people being injured or killed.
      Imagine the horror that the teachers in that school must have felt watching the madman shooting children. Imagine how it must have felt to know that this guy was going to kill children and there was nothing they could do about it. Can you imagine? No, you can’t. Neither can I. Our brains are not capable of processing that kind of horror by proxy. I have never felt that level of horror, and I never want to. That is why I have chosen to be an armed citizen. It it the same reason I have chosen to learn first aid.

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        Firstly, no, it doesn’t require firearms to take down a shooter–the gunman who shot Giffords last year was taken down without the use of a firearm.

        Secondly, you’re assuming that firing back you will only hit the shooter or scenery. While in some cases you’ll have ample room to miss, in others the consequence of missing will be hitting another innocent person.

        Third, how many shootings (purposeful or accidental) occur with guns that a person–often a minor–found in their own house, or that of a family or friend? The ‘home defense’ argument scares me for this reason, because if that’s why you have a gun you’re less likely to keep it safely stored. I’m not one to advocate for banning guns–both because it’s politically undoable right now and because I’m not that strongly opposed to them–but I really have a hard time understanding how people can look at how lax the laws are right now and think that this is OK.

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        @Barking Mad, this is how reasonable people draw that conclusion: More Guns, More Mass Shootings–Coincidence?

        From the article: “we set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 61 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. Moreover, we found that the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public. And in recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.”

        I’m sorry, but I think you’re very naive if you believe you would be able to stop a shooter. Everyone wishes that these shooters had been stopped, but the presence of guns has not, to this point, made a difference. A man at the Tucson shooting had a gun, but didn’t use it because he was afraid of a) being mistaken for a second gunman, and b) hitting bystanders. As Jayn points out, it is possible to halt a gunman with other methods. More difficult, yes, but at least people aren’t killed by stray bullets from multiple guns.

        I think most of us like to think that we would be able to stop a shooter. And I hate to be blunt, but most people aren’t that good in a crisis, and you really don’t know how you’ll react until it happens, even if you have crisis training. Maybe you’ll be calm and level-headed and able to take effective action. Or maybe you’ll freeze or panic. And you know what’s really scary? A panicky person with a gun.

        Also, many mass shooters commit suicide, or intend to commit “suicide by cop”. I don’t think they’d be deterred by the prospect of people fighting back.

      • luckyducky

        Barking Mad, my brother is former military (rapid deploy anti-terrorism unit and later MP) and current state trooper. He has pursued a lot of additional, specialized training and used it (I don’t know details because he intentionally does not let my mom in on what he does). So, he’s spent years training for situations like this. Recently, we had a discussion about hostage situations. So, I have some idea with what extraordinary caution he approaches shooting someone (not that I know when or if he’s ever had occasion to do it but he’s been trained for it) — even someone he knows is the “bad guy” particularly if there were other people around.

        Under the arm-everyone scenario you are going to have people who go out to the range maybe once a month and have no training in id’ing the “bad guy” vs. all the other people who would also have guns drawn and possibly firing them, training in anticipating what people might do in those situations, or, frankly preparation for actually shooting a person. It is naive to think that those people are going to be able to shoot the shooter before he has shot a number of other people without shooting a number of other people.

        In Tucson, there was a chilling account of how one armed citizen, Joe Zamudio, barely avoided shooting the wrong person — he almost shot the person who had just wrestled the gun away from the shooter. At the Empire State Building shooting, a number of the people who were shot were hit by police bullets – from one of the best trained police forces in the US and their accuracy was about what would be expected. More guns = more bullets = more people shot.

    • luckyducky

      My point, very briefly, is that there are people who get a great deal of training to do this and for good reason. Guns are deadly weapons and there isn’t a large margin of error.

  • Notreligious

    Only when UTERUSES (uteri?) use guns, will we have significant gun control laws. If a womans sex life, or fertility had anything to do with guns, there would be no more second amendment, no talk of freedom.

    Until then, Americans will keep blathering about freedoms and small government, all while stripping bodily autonomy from the people that have a uterus. Guns? Those are safe! Its women that need controlled.

    I am horrified by these recent shootings (Oregon mall, then this CT one), and wish we could at least discuss why this happens without so many people putting fingers in their ears and saying “Guns r great” lalalalala.

  • ArachneS

    Honestly, it makes me sick when there is a tragedy like this, and my facebook feed fills up with people arguing how they need to keep their guns. How we shouldn’t talk about gun control because it is making it political. Every time this kind of thing happens, and people jump to defend their guns, it is already political. They are making it political.
    So many shootings this year. I’m sick to death that it keeps happening, and wtf… to kindergartners in their classroom! And people want to post on their walls about how criminals get their guns illegally. The aurora shooter, this one, the Virginia tech shooter in 2007, those were legally bought guns. Can we really say that if they hadn’t had access to legal guns, that they would have had the connections to get illegal ones? These are people that friends and neighbors always say “seemed so normal and kind”. Because they are just everyday people. Not drug ring leaders. Everyday people that had something make them tick, when they were in a bad place/state of mind for whatever reason who have access to incredibly, massively lethal weapons.
    I have a 5 yr old who went to kindergarten today, and I cannot even imagine the horror of finding out I would never pick her up from school. When will it be ENOUGH?

  • Gail

    I agree that tragedies should absolutely be a call to action. I remember after the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan, a lot of conservatives were on tv saying that it was not the time to talk about tightening safety regulations on nuclear plants in the US. In my opinion that’s like saying that your neighbors dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in their house doesn’t mean it’s a good time to check the carbon monoxide levels in your own home.

    And I think tragedies like this one should definitely incite more discussion on mental health. We as a society need to be less scared of talking about mental health and need to encourage more people to seek treatment. I try to talk openly about my own mental health issues to people I know because it just makes sense to me. If I had cancer, I probably wouldn’t hide it from everyone I know, so why should I try to hide a serious bout of clinical depression?

  • http://belljaimie@ymail.com Jaimie

    The right to bear arms. I can only speak for myself, but I would give it up.

    I don’t understand gun proponents. Never have. Why are their guns so precious to them? I have never heard the level of anger, delusional paranoia, and shrill tone that I have heard from some people defending their second amendment rights. Their guns appear to be more precious than life itself.

    • Rae

      If I lived in a rural area, I don’t know if I’d want to give it up – I’ve hunted, and there’s always the threat of rabid animals.

      That said, I would be more than willing to go through what British or Australian people who want firearms for hunting or defense-against-animals purposes go through, and I would happily give up my rights to carry in public.

    • Rosie

      I live in a rural area, and we do have guns for hunting. One is a family heirloom. That said, I’d totally be willing to see a lot more regulation and red tape surrounding gun ownership. The things are deadly, they need to be treated with knowledge and respect, and there’s no reason somebody who’s not in a war zone would need an assault weapon. To my knowledge, the USA is not a war zone. Yet.

  • Anat

    A couple of links that may be of interest to readers of this thread:

    While assault deaths in the US are way higher than in other developed countries relative to population size, they have been declining since a peak in the late 1970s

    Factors in correlation and anti-correlation with <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/the-geography-of-gun-deaths/69354/&quot; death by firearm injury, at the state level.

    Some interesting points: More gun deaths are associated with poverty and having a high working class population, but correlation with unemployment and inequity is low. Fewer gun deaths associated with a larger proportion of college graduates and with certain gun-control measures: banning assault weapons, requiring trigger locks and requirements for safe storage. Also, though less than gun control measures, there is anti-correlation with well-being, immigrants, economical output and standard of living.

    Now, which of these correlations and anti-correlations is causative is a whole ‘nother question.

  • Nurse Bee

    This is one thing that I completely depart from other conservatives on. Nobody needs guns except military and law enforcement. Get rid of all the rest of the guns.

    But honestly, I think the % of Christians is a bit misleading. My husband has said that as a child on questionaires his parents told him to list “non-denominational Christian” as his religion. These are parents who taught him it was okay to cheat, steal, and lie as long as he didn’t get caught and certainly never took him to church. I agree being a “Christian nation” does little to prevent horrific events as we saw yesterday.

  • Cheri

    Libby, Thank you for this. All I’ve been seeing on facebook is “I told you so” and it makes me SO angry…arrogance and dismissiveness is NEVER an appropriate response to tragedy, regardless of one’s opinion on what caused it.

    Your response is thoughtful, serious, and timely. So thank you, thank you for not contributing to the madness of “I told you so.”

  • smrnda

    I’m a bit skeptical that armed citizens will stop shootings or assaults. First, armed citizens who think they are vigilantes can be quite dangerous (anybody remember Travyon Martin?) The other problem is that ordinary citizens aren’t likely to be trained well – in a high stress situation, are they going to be able to actually function well enough to identify the shooter and aim and fire without hitting other people? Also, let’s say one armed citizen pulls out a weapon – armed citizen 2 shows up at the scene of the shooting and pulls out a gun – who is armed citizen 2 going to shoot at if he sees two people with guns?

    • phantomreader42

      Let’s say armed citizen 1 pulls out a weapon and kills the shooter. What happens when armed citizen 2 hears the gunshots, comes running, and sees armed citizen 1 standing over a corpse holding a gun? What happens when armed citizen 3 shows up?

    • Christine

      My husband tells me that there was a test of some sort done where they put people with concealed weapons permits (and a paintball gun) in a mock “school shooter” situation. Pretty much every one of them stood up in a proper two-handed gun stance. i.e. they made themselves into a perfect target – they even looked like the pop-up targets!

  • Alessandra

    But what do we really know about any of the people in this community or related to the shooter? Almost nothing. What did anyone know or cared to know about him? Did he have a relationship with anyone in that school?

    The first question that popped into my mind was if the killer had a history of being abused or bullied, like the Columbine young man. And what went on within his family as he grew up? If he had serious mental problems, when did they become serious? When he was still in school? And nobody noticed or did anything about it?

    Was he just another kid with serious problems that was abandoned by society? Reports in the media say that he already displayed social problems while in school.

    Why would he target a school with children and not, say, a mall or movie theater full of adults? Does it reflect anything he might have experienced as a child himself in a school setting?

    Is this just another case where they were plenty of warning signs that much could have been amiss with this young man for a long time, but no one cared?

    • Kate

      Columbine was carried out by two perpetrators and the situation was much more nuanced than them being sick of bullying. Not trying to be a jerk, just a nitpick.

      • luckyducky

        I don’t think this is nitpicking. It is pretty important to understand why something happened in order to address the root causes. Unfortunately, the media ran with the first handful of theories of why as the established reasons why and very few of us have a good idea of what was actually behind it all.


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