Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sandy Hook Should Teach Us How To Think

Following the horrific mass murder in Sandy Hook, Connecticut – 27 people slain, 20 of them innocent children – it took but a moment for some politicians to mount their various hobby horses and, in an effort not to let this bloody crisis go to waste, call loudly for “immediate action” on gun control measures. Here is the Hartford Courant lashing the political draft horses: “Stay angry. Remember how you felt this weekend. Don't let the faces of those children go until meaningful, actual steps are taken to make this a safer and less violent country.”

Any call for immediate action while the heart is bludgeoned by emotion should be politely resisted, because right action – the only kind that actually solves problems – generally follows in the train of right thought. Emotional responses, however appropriate given the circumstances, often lead to ineffective dead end streets and solutions that only solve the problems of those proposing solutions.

After barrels of ink have been spilled over the mass murder in Sandy Hook, this is what we know – or think we know – about the slaughter of the innocents:

The mass murder was committed by Adam Lanza, a young man of 20 years who was living in Sandy Hook with his divorced mother, 52-year-old Nancy Lanza, his first of 26 victims. Mr. Lanza shot his mother in the face four times while she was sleeping in the morning, acquired from the house possibly as many as four weapons owned by his mother, traveled in her car to Sandy Hook Elementary school, forced his way into a secure building, murdered the principal of the school, Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, who heroically lunged at him in an attempt to prevent the ensuing mayhem, entered two classrooms and murdered 20 students and 6 faculty members.

Mr. Lanza committed suicide shortly before or after first responders entered the building. This is an important datum because it establishes a connection between the time of response and the number of victims. It is reasonably supposed that Mr. Lanza would have murdered many more children if the preventative response from police had been longer. Had Mr. Lanza survived and been arrested, he could not have been executed in Connecticut, because the state’s General Assembly a year ago abolished capital punishment, except for those awaiting punishment on death row when the bill had been passed. The abolition bill followed closely upon the heels of another much publicized mass murder in Cheshire.

Early reports strongly suggested that Mr. Lanza was affected by the divorce of his parents. Assuming a causal connection between the divorce and the crime, no one has yet suggested that national legislation abolishing or severely controlling divorce would in the future prevent such horrendous crimes. And in any case, such a bill would never be offered. The divorce lobby in the United States would simply overcome any and all efforts of the president and Congress, many members of which are divorced, to impose restrictions on an accepted institution approved by a large part of the population.

Some attempts have been made by commentators and reporters to shift the primary responsibility of the crime from Mr. Lanza to his mother. According to this view, Mr. Lanza was a troubled child, suffering from a form of Asperger’s disorder, a condition characterized by a lack of social skills. The term itself has been dropped from a revised diagnostic manual used by the American Psychiatric Association. In the new manual, “Asperger’s disorder,” characterized by poor socialization, is subsumed under the category ‘‘autism spectrum disorder.’’ The terminological changes are important because insurance companies use the manual to decide which psychological conditions to cover. Mr. Lanza’s psychological disorder -- if any -- has not been determined. According to one report, his mother was on the point of committing Mr. Lanza to a mental facility when she was murdered. It has been speculated that Mr. Lanza’s discovery that his mother had intended to commit him involuntarily was the “tipping point” in his mass murder crime spree. That report has been denied by a friend of the mother. Others speculate that Mr. Lanza spent an inordinate amount of time playing violent video games in his “windowless cellar,” and this may have corrupted his moral sense.  All these speculations ought to be taken with more than a grain of salt. How does one go about proving a necessary connection between violent video games and, in this particular case, a massive and murderous assault on young children and their wards? That connection, if any, remains obscure because the uncommunicative Mr. Lanza took the precaution of destroying the hard drive of his computer before setting out on his murder spree.

Within the political arena, a rush is on to write legislation imposing tighter controls on guns while the events at Sandy Hook yet boil in the public mind, and some of the politics surrounding the massacre in Sandy Hook are positively ghoulish. David Axelrod -- one of the campaign advisors for lame duck President Barrack Obama whose associate, Rahm Emanuel, is best known for his sagacious apothegm “never let a crisis go to waste” – has sent out an e-mail urging supporters of the president to watch the president’s moving address to the community of mourners in Newtown; two links in the e-mail open upon a video of the president’s remarks, and two superfluous donate buttons ask for $15-$1,000 for his campaign. The donate buttons are more than awkward and gruesomely classless. They are unnecessary: The president is term-limited, and so are any future campaigns of his. But why let a crisis go to waste when one might use it to scoop up blood money? Do the mourners in Sandy Hook know what you’re up to Axelrod? Probably not – because the quisling media in Connecticut is emotionally and ideologically attached to solutions that advance the cause of the Chicago political mob and progressive Democratic politicians in Connecticut.

When is a solution to a problem not a solution to a problem? Answer: When it is proposed by former Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now, after the retirement of US. Senator Joe Lieberman, Connecticut’s senior US Senator. Democratic State Senator Brendan Sharkey, due to take over the Speaker’s position in the State House when scandal stained state  Senator ChrisDonovan leaves the chamber, did not feel he was stretching the truth when he compared the “madness” of the murderous attack in Sandy Hook to the "lack of compromise and common sense" that often keeps politicians from coming to a consensus in the legislature.

The General Assembly and Governor Dannel Malloy are about to apply their common sense to the events in Sandy Hook. “One thing you can count on,” wrote a skeptical commentator in the New Haven Register, “is that the Connecticut legislature will react to the Newtown shootings in a way that is stupid, ineffective and outrageously expensive. As long as the Democrats get a warm, fuzzy feeling that they've done something, all is well. I'm guessing you'll see a bunch of unfunded mandates about school security, none of which will do the slightest to address the real causes of this tragedy.”

Mr. Lanza is dead and cannot be questioned; his mother is dead and cannot be questioned. Important information on Mr. Lanza’s computer that might have exposed Mr. Lanza’s motivation has been destroyed. Newspaper accounts are larded with second hand information, some of which is not reliable. A formal report on the crime has yet to be released. Connecticut’s gun regulations are highly restrictive. Safety precautions at Sandy Hook Elementary school were in force when a determined Mr. Lanza shot his way in and murdered 26 people. It is highly unlikely that new gun legislation will prevent similar occurrences – which is NOT to say that reasonable regulations should be removed from consideration.  Norway, the site of the worst mass murder in modern times – 77 people dead – has the most restrictive gun laws in Europe, as well as the most liberal policy on capital punishment.

As might be expected, Norway has a massive population of hunters. Guns in civilian homes in Norway include semi-automatic and bolt action rifles as well as shotguns. There is a total ban in Norway on automatic weapons for civilians, and any modification of semi-automatic guns to fully automatic without police consent is a felony crime. There are caliber restrictions on handguns; the Smith & Wesson model 500, for instance, is too high powered to be legal; less powerful guns used in sport shooting are legal.

Norway restricts the purchase of ammunition, which is only sold to those who have a valid weapon license. In the absence of a special permit, only 10,000 rounds of ammunition can be stored by a single person,15,000 rounds if 5,000 of them are 22LR or smaller caliber. Two kg of black powder may be stored in a separate building if the person has a license for a black powder firearm.

Despite these restrictions, Anders Behring Breivik, armed with illegal weaponry AND HAND GRENADES, bombed major buildings in Oslo in July of 2011 and invaded a camp of the Workers' Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party on the island of Utøya, where he killed 69 people, mostly teenagers.The 33 year-old Mr. Breivik was unanimously convicted of premeditated murder by a five judge panel and sentenced to imprisonment for 10 to 21 years, the maximum allowed under Norwegian law. Mr. Brevick said his attacks were intended to inspire a militant uprising throughout Europe that would restore its nationalist purity and rebuff Islamic migration.

Mr. Brevick’s sentencing judge said of him: “He has killed 77 people, most of them youth, who were shot without mercy, face to face. The cruelty is unparalleled in Norwegian history. This means that the defendant even after serving 21 years in prison would be a very dangerous man."

Indeed, no place is safe from dangerous men who regard the kinds of bills that will be hammered out in Washington and, redundantly, in Connecticut in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre as momentary impediments to be overcome. The United States is not Norway. And if it were Norway, heaped round with the same restrictive gun regulations, it would not be safe from Mr. Brevick. Magic thinking – which supposes that if there were no guns, there would be no Brevicks or Lanzas – encourages dangerous illusions of safety that are certain to be pierced by a deadly reality. 

This does not mean that reasonable gun regulations are pointless.

We know that in Sandy Hook a quick response on the part of first responders was instrumental in saving lives. The principal of the school and first grade teacher Victoria Soto, both of whom bravely stepped into a line of fire to save children, are genuine heroes. If there were in schools throughout the state alarm systems connected directly to police departments, much as fire alarms are connected to fire houses, that system very well might prevent a massive loss of life in similar situations. Locating police substations in some schools might mitigate such horrific activity; in an age of instant communication, why must police stations be centralized? The single most important impediment to a much more massive loss of life in Sandy Hook was the arrival of the armed resistance. When Mr. Lanza became aware of the arrival of the cavalry, he stopped shooting. Some sort of an armed resistance in the schools, whether a police or enhanced security presence, might help.

Everyone in Connecticut whose hearts have been bruised by the loss of life in Sandy Hook -- that is, everyone in Connecticut – is praying for solutions that solve the problems of people who have been bludgeoned by reality. A political milking of the crisis helps only the milkers.


peter brush said...

Our legislatures can do little to prevent mass murders. At this point, it would make more sense for them to un-do some of the restrictions on guns that are already in place. Particularly, we should have more private guns in what are now gun-free-zones. John Lott has been pushing this argument for years, and it may very well be that the shooter in the Oregon mall a couple of weeks ago was effectively deterred from further destruction because he saw that he was confronted by another armed man. (
I also think it's past time that our cultural confusion and disarray be considered. Not that a legislature can remedy directly cultural decline, but it can stop doing harm. Same with our courts.
Here is the New York school prayer that the Supreme Court of Harvard Lawyers threw out in 1962 as violative of the U.S. Constitution's "establishment clause" as enforced on states via the 14th amendment's due process clause.
Regent's prayer
Almighty God,
we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee,
and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents,
our teachers and our country.

Don Pesci said...

As always, a very appropriate comment.

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