Since the day it happened there has been a common thread in the endless discussions about Sandy Hook. Over and over people have said, “This time it feels different.” Yes it does but only as a matter of degree. It felt different after Columbine too.
Remember, by the time those children and their teacher were murdered we had already witnessed berserk gunmen in the UT tower, Luby’s Cafeteria, McDonalds, and a dozen other venues. Then Ft. Hood felt like a tipping point; America’s heroes gunned down on a military base for God’s sake, and it really did feel different after Virginia Tech because we could actually put a finger on the problem; a shooter with acknowledged mental problems and a gun show loophole. Of course nothing happened, the loophole still exists and mental health services remain a national disgrace.
Now we have this universal outpouring of grief and revulsion and we also have a problem. That beautiful little victims were killed in a particularly vile and horrifying manner has prompted an outrage unparalleled in its depth and intensity but at the same time the known facts about the event and the killer himself could mitigate against meaningful changes.
- The 20 year-old man who killed those children was obviously some form of insane. This doesn’t differentiate him from most mass shooters (perhaps we should stipulate that anyone who kills that many people, especially children, is by definition insane; it would save a lot of energy and ink). However, shielded by his mother and with no official intervention on record, his brand of crazy was operating well below any radar that would trigger concern in a background check.
- It appears that his weapons, while technically stolen by him, were purchased legally and by no method that most gun control measures could have prevented.
- The massacre occurred in the state the National Rifle Association (NRA) says has among the tightest gun laws in the nation and the terrifying weapon involved was legal under those laws.
- Contrary to early reports, the shooter was a devotee of video games although there was no clarity about whether it was Grand Theft Auto or Frogger.
- Finally, the attack took place in a school, and I will return to this in a minute.
While we have a sickening crime it is one unlikely to have been prevented by any solution that might find common ground with the “guns don’t kill people” crowd. Rather it gives them the “ammunition” as it were to fight more stringent changes.
The blowback started quickly. By the time I started this piece I had seen as many posts in social media about the necessity to curb video/movie/TV violence as I did about banning assault weapons and calls for improved services to the mentally ill were increasing in number. Then the NRA got up off the mat and started hitting back, twisting what is known about Sandy Hook into the heart of their arguments against action; especially that it happened in a school, a “gun free zone.” The new rationale for the NRA is not the Second Amendment but that the “only defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
The NRA also trotted out the golden oldies; violence in the media and the need for mental health care services (while the very politicians they spend millions to elect vote consistently against all social and health services). But it is obvious that gun-free schools and the need to arm principals and the lunch ladies are going to be the focus of, not their defense – the NRA doesn’t play defense – but a vicious new assault.
We can’t let them turn our revulsion about Sandy Hook to their own purposes. We will keep talking about those brave teachers, the precious children, and their devastated families in Connecticut but we have to broaden the debate. We have to bring back Columbine – where there was armed security – and Ft. Hood where 13 were killed in the midst of a trained army. When LaPierre says “crazy people” we will say “Virginia Tech” where a known crazy person was able to legally purchase two guns. Let’s remind the world and Wayne LaPierre about the armed witness in the Tucson parking lot who knew he could do more harm than good firing his weapon. For every asinine suggestion he makes we can make an argument culled from one or more of the mass killings we have endured in the last fifty years.
And let’s not forget the smaller horrors: Trevon Martin and Jordan Davis might be alive if the NRA had not enabled two supposedly sane individuals to act out their perpetual grievances and provided them a legal rationale for doing so. Jitka Vesel shot eleven times with a gun bought on-line by her stalker also didn’t need to die. Call out the name of every women shot in her home because the TRO she hoped might protect her was foiled by the gun show loophole.
Most of all don’t let Wayne LaPierre, Louie Gohmert, and hundreds of Republican congresspersons, governors, and legislators control this conversation. And don’t allow them to dishonor the memories of any of the million people killed by bullets since 1968 by bringing more guns into all of our, their survivors, lives.
A member of One Million Moms for Gun Control has provided a list of all of the members of the NRA board of directors; information which they apparently purged from their website I have put this information on a dedicated page for anyone who wishes to write an NRA Somebody who may or may not have more brains and empathy than LaPierre.