Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tears For Right Wing Fear

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)

     When the President of the United States of America cries on national TV, that's a pretty good sign the nation is not having a good day.
     And just in case the "Neener Neener"-Obama Can Do No Right faction of the nation tries to make hay out of this, the president's tears yesterday were not John Boehner crocodile tears but those of a fellow parent who'd been devastated by the news of, by far, the worst elementary school shooting in all of American history. And that's how we ought to present this: Not, as the New York Times and others are labeling it, as "the second-worst school shooting" but the worst elementary school shooting in history, period.
      And perhaps the MSM could be forgiven for taking a pass on this one since they studiously refuse to join the too-long-delayed gun control dialogue aside from forgettable op-eds in the editorial section. As illustration of this, the MSM, true to form, got wrong the name of the Newtown, Connecticut shooter who'd murdered 27, including 20 small children. To ramp up the silliness factor, while openly speculating he may have been the parent of one of the children, they also listed his age at 20.
     To set the biographical facts straight, his name was Adam Lanza, not Ryan, and he had no children at that school or any others.
     With hideous timing typical of Republicans, on the same day as yesterday's shooting, the Michigan state senate approved a measure that would allow concealed permits for, among other people, teachers who may want to pack heat in schools.
     The problem with that, of course, is the three guns (Sig Sauer and Glock handguns plus a .223 Bushmaster M4 carbine, a semi-automatic assault rifle commonly used by our troops in Afghanistan) that Adam Lanza used to murder 27 innocents were owned by his mother, Nancy, who'd allegedly worked at the Sandy Hook school. As a warmup, Lanza murdered his own mother before marching to the elementary school and began his own impersonation of Anders Breivik.
     And what's missing from both sides of the one-sided debate about gun control is the motivation(s) of these gunmen and is there a possibility they could be inspired by or competing with one another?
     One would have to be a basement-dwelling, shopping cart-pushing conspiracy theorist to even suggest these men that have slaughtered dozens upon dozens of innocents personally knew each other through a secret website or were part of the MK ULTRA program. But this is the age of digital media, of increasingly endemic social networking sites in which many of us know what our friends had for dinner and what movie they watched last night. Lanza, who'd had the courtesy to eventually commit suicide, had a Facebook page. Radcliffe Haughton, the Brookfield mall shooter in Wisconsin, had a Linkedin page and Anders Breivik, at the very least, knew about Atlas Shrugged's Pam Gellar, who put up a letter by Breivik only to hastily take it down after the Norway massacre. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter from 2007, sent a package to NBC news mentioning Harris and Klebold, the Columbine shooters.
     So is it really beyond the realm of possibility that these social maladroits at the very least knew of each other if not each other personally and are involved in some collectively lone competition to outdo one another?
     We'll likely never know unless one survives and spills the beans. Breivik and James Moore, the Aurora, CO theater shooter, are rarities among these 2012 spree killers in that they survived. Most, like Lanza, turn their guns on themselves or commit suicide-by-cop before they can be questioned. Whatever their motives, whether idiosyncratic or shared, one fact is screamingly obvious: The answer to preventing these often random and wanton slaughters is not more guns, as the NRA and the right wingers who pimp for them would tell you, it's less.
     Texas congressman Louie Gohmert, hours after the Aurora theater shooting, refloated the increasingly silly hypothesis (aside from the one blaming the shootings on bans on school prayer) that if more people in that theater had been packing heat that maybe the casualties could've been reduced. Let's set aside for a minute the absurdity of random people pulling out their guns and aiming at a black-clad man in a dark theater with children in attendance and apply that "hypothesis" to an even more chilling scenario: Teachers pulling handguns out of their desk drawers and aiming at a gunman with many, many more children in attendance.

     The president's tears at his presser yesterday were appreciated by those of us who know he was speaking not as our president but as a parent of two children himself. But Mr. Obama needs to back up those tears by entering the angels' side of the debate on gun control that he'd studiously avoided during his first term.

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At December 15, 2012 at 12:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guns are like motor vehicles - when operated by folks without adequate training, they are an extreme menace to the public.

Just as we don't let someone drive an 18-wheeler without background checks, insurance, training requirements (classroom and hands-on), and a operator's license, we shouldn't let people have guns unless they are licensed and trained in their safe use.

At December 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...


Thanks for your thoughts, although I don't quite grasp your attempted analogy between a motor vehicle built for transportation and an instrument built to kill people. The problem with background checks is that, not only are they irrelevant and unnecessary online, they are also very poor predictors of future human behavior. There are many liberals (HST was one example) who were absolutely pro-gun. The problem many liberals have is the absurd ease with which one can buy an assault rifle and endless rounds of ammunition. It's literally easier to buy a fully automatic rifle in this country and thousands of rounds for it than it is to buy pseudoephedrine, which requires signing a federal document, for5 which limits are placed on how much a day you can buy.

Therefore, the answer is not more guns but less or at least much more stringent access to them. No civilian needs a semi-automatic rifle.

At December 15, 2012 at 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My point is that the Supreme Court has held that there's an absolute right to own firearms, subject to appropriate regulations. Therefore, we need to start putting appropriate regulations in place - and the regulations surrounding motor vehicle operation give us a good model.

This also accomplishes the goal of restricting assault weapon ownership. Imagine the consequences of passing regulations that allow people to purchase such weapons - but only if they first get the required advanced licenses and training (and insurance).

For someone to safely operate an assault rifle in an urban environment requires training such as police SWAT team members must have - and that training isn't cheap. Currently, lots of people buy these weapons because it gives them a feeling of empowerment at an affordable price. If we require annual license fees, plus special training requirements, I expect we'd reduce the appeal to the casual owner.

At December 15, 2012 at 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a veteran (USMC & USNR) I've said for the longest time the only people or organzations who need assault weapons are the military and law enforcement. Here in Missouri no one goes deer hunting with an M-16.I think we need to do away with the magazines with absurdly large capacities available for hand guns and assault rifles.


At December 15, 2012 at 1:03 PM, Anonymous cunning linguist said...

While I wholeheartedly agree that we must engage in a serious discussion about gun violence, and possible solutions to this sad epidemic, such discussion would be meaningless without examining the cause.

We live in one of the most violent societies to have ever stained the planet, although we cannot proclaim exclusive providence to this fact. A cursory examination of history is all that is required for proof.

That said, I believe violent behavior is exacerbated by the proliferation of violent video games. While a large majority of players are in it just for the "fun" of committing mass-murder in a digital format, it is no stretch to imagine an emotionally disturbed child on the fringes either incapable of separating the game from reality, or so desensitized from death that it just isn't real to them.

Gun control and its attendant legislation can only be effective if we make the difficult decision to self-examination. Guns are the tools of a sick mind; they are the symptom, not the disease.

Forgive me for suggesting this analogy, but a spoon is also a tool. If I use it to eat my soup, it is a good thing; if I poke you in the eye with it, obviously not. This is not to suggest some meaningful similarity between spoons and weapons, as weapons have one purpose, and one purpose only:
To kill. Period.

But in a world where so many items can be used in a lethal manner, it is of the utmost importance to study and find the root cause of such deadly behavior.

At December 15, 2012 at 1:12 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Sorry, Repub, no one in the civilian sector needs a semiautomatic assault rifle any more than one needs a uranium enrichment plant. The notoriously right wing Supreme Court had no business getting involved in "2nd amendment remedies" for the first time in its history and when they did, they seriously misinterpreted the 2nd amendment that was written during the 18th century, when we had not a standing, permanent army but "a well-regulated militia."

The wackjob that shot up that school yesterday, like the one that shot three people in an Alabama hospital today, like the one who shot up that mall in Oregon, like the one that shot up that other mall in Brookfield, like the one that shot up that Sikh temple, like the one that shot up that theater in Aurora and like the all the countless forgotten others that had visited violence on innocents because of too easy access to firearms were not "well-regulated militia(men.")

And passing a firearms test and background check and a gun permit is no more a guarantee of public safety than a driver's license is a guarantee against future car accidents.

At December 15, 2012 at 1:24 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Cunning Linguist:

It's not video games or TV or movies or anything like that. If anything, the cathartic effect of such media could be said to drain such violent urges. Plus, as one Irishman said on Twitter today, "We have the same video games and movies as you guys and we don't shoot each other up." (I refer you to the lead graphic showing only 8 gun homicides in GB last year).

You can make analogies until the cows come home. A gun is an instrument until it's placed in a human hand. Then it becomes a weapon. And while, theoretically, virtually anything is dangerous in the hands of one who knows how to exploit it, a gun is made for one express purpose: To kill living things. And it takes far more skill to merely wound with a gun than it does to kill. I used to use guns for a living. I know what I'm talking about.

Michael Moore, in Bowling For Columbine asked many people including some Canadians, why we kill so many more of our own countrymen than all other nations combined. No one had an answer but one Canadian came closest when he said that we live in a more concentrated atmosphere of fear than any other nation, Our news shows and government and private industry are constantly stoking fear among us even when there's no clear and present danger. If you ask me, the only TV that's responsible for these shootings and the atmosphere of fear and hatred that radiates from it are our own news shows, not drama or movies or video games. Video games and violent shows at least hold out the promise of resolution. The news does not.

At December 15, 2012 at 1:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If responsible gun owners are doing nothing wrong then they should fear not any regulations to guns....right?

I mean, this argument seems to apply to everything else that the wingnuts back. So let's apply it to guns.

At December 15, 2012 at 1:51 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

The role of media:

At December 15, 2012 at 1:57 PM, Anonymous cunning linguist said...

I did not intend to over-simplify a complex issue, I simply see it as a piece to the puzzle. We, as a nation are taught aggressive behavior from the cradle to the grave. Toss in the ease of obtaining firearms, and, well, what could possibly go wrong.

Other countries do indeed play the same violent video games, and there is always going to be that one nut who pulls of an atrocity; what they don't have, to my knowledge, are gun shows where, with minimal effort, one can legally purchase an assault rifle. Certainly a preeminent facet of a perplexing problem.

I am also unaware of any foreign equivalent to the NRA, its blood-dripping fangs at the throat of government. It does not exclude my native Germany from the list of places evil occurs.

Evil occurs in the mind, and I say this as the grandfather of a disturbed 7 year-old boy, who, lacking proper mental health care could easily become a future Adam Lanza. To let him play violent video games would be somewhat akin to handing a lighter to a pyromaniac.

And I do agree with you;
The fear. It is palpable, it is ever-present, and it is disseminated by a corrupted media without consideration of the harm it will cause.

I am trying to examine the issue from as many different angles as I possibly can as I try to solve the riddle of what's going wrong in a young man's brain. The epidemic of gun violence is a societal problem, but for me it's personal.

I shudder to consider the possibility of my wife or myself standing in front of TV crews, trying to understand how and why our little guy went off.

At December 15, 2012 at 2:13 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Cunning Linguist: It might also be posited that a disturbed child set off by a violent video game could've just as easily been set off by something else, such as watching endless loops of the Twin Towers falling down on 9/11, which was noted by child psychologists at the time.

It's also worth noting that your grandchild and any other disturbed child that age already provides a built-in seedbed for future violence, one that provides a predisposition or a susceptibility for violent behavior for which anything can provide a catalyst. Plus, all too often we hear said of people who commit these atrocities that, "he was a such a nice, quiet man."

One last note: All the mental health clinics and hospitals budget cuts and austerity measures had forced us to shut down certainly are not helping this deeply disturbing trend of gun violence.

At December 15, 2012 at 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I'm afraid not-- we're still likely to just end up with another George Zimmerman.


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