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“Turning Civic Institutions Into Crime Scenes: Newtown Massacre Should Force America To Stare Into The Abyss

In this painful but necessary post-Newtown discussion, gun control advocates should prepare for the worst. That Republicans will ratchet up their extremism, that Democrats will cave as they do – some legitimately fearful that the NRA’s cartoonish villainy will haunt them next election cycle. It is likely, therefore, that even after such an unfathomable tragedy, policies like a national gun registry and the assault weapons ban will remain but pipe dreams, despite the fact that these guns – including a high powered rifle – were purchased legally.

Fine. If we can save lives without one iota of gun control, so be it. It’s time, then, that we talk about the deep-seeded malaise that is turning civic institutions into gruesome crime scenes. After all, there are people that own impressive weaponry who don’t feel the need to use it to tragic effect – so let’s launch an inquest as to why this is the case.

Mental health is becoming a massive issue in this debate and with good cause. The subject, in general, might have long been held as one of America’s last taboos. But that was shattered – at least in the context of mass murder – after a clearly disturbed Cho Seung-Hui circulated a ranting video to media outlets just before launching his killing spree on Virginia Tech’s campus in 2007. The Tuscon massacre committed by Jared Lee Loughner, too, made us stare the issue square in the face in early 2011, after his disturbing mugshot was plastered above almost every centerfold in the country. Aurora shooter James Holmes also reportedly sought out help before committing his heinous killings – and, allegedly, declared himself to be The Joker afterwards. And, while facts are emerging, it appears that Adam Lanza, too, “had some sort of mental disability or developmental disorder” and “often [made] those around him nervous because he was painfully shy and seemed to struggle to be social and form connections with people.” This isn’t to say that all mentally ill or developmentally different people are risks to the public order – far from it. Its just that they can act out in a spectacularly violent fashion when their conditions go untreated, unnoticed and misunderstood.

So what are some social conditions that might cause a mentally unwell person to deteriorate to the point of acting out in such a manner? On one hand, a collective failure to fully comprehend and care for mental illness exacerbates it. On the other, a regrettable frat-boy exalting culture stokes the flames of instability. Mark Ames – Matt Taibbi’s old colleague at the gonzo Muscovite paper, The eXile, for those unfamiliar – looked into common themes in rage massacres in his book Going Postal. He managed to sketch a compelling profile of workplace killers and school shooters as the victims of sustained bullying campaigns – a byproduct of the culture fostered by the dog-eat-dog Reagan years (though some of the killers might not seem to fit the profile of a goth nerd stuffed into lockers, neglect is a form of abuse). This isn’t to say that everyone who is bullied commits mass murder. But that mass murder often results from a culture that was unsafe to begin with.

Democrats could, therefore, use this mass shooting epidemic as an opportunity to talk about this: How we systematically encourage (if only tacitly) our children to bully for marginal gains in status; how our sons and daughters remain neglected because parents work long hours at menial jobs that barely pay the bills.

I assume that Republicans – having just failed to elect a cold-hearted bully of Presidential candidate – would squirm at the thought of having this discussion if Democrats increasingly demanded that it happen. It would be ideal, in my opinion, if we did address these issues. If not, then pressure on the GOP to engage in such a discourse, might at least force it into talking gun control instead.


By: Samuel Knight, The American Prospect, December 15, 2012

December 16, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Looking For America”: We’re Doing This To Ourselves Because We Don’t Know Who We Are Anymore

“I’m sorry,” said Representative Carolyn McCarthy, her voice breaking. “I’m having a really tough time.”

She’s the former nurse from Long Island who ran for Congress in 1996 as a crusader against gun violence after her husband and son were victims of a mass shooting on a commuter train. On Friday morning, McCarthy said, she began her day by giving an interview to a journalist who was writing a general story about “how victims feel when a tragedy happens.”

“And then 15 minutes later, a tragedy happens.”

McCarthy, whose husband died and son was critically wounded, is by now a practiced hand at speaking out when a deranged man with a lot of firepower runs amok. But the slaughter of 20 small children and seven adults in Connecticut left her choked up and speechless.

“I just don’t know what this country’s coming to. I don’t know who we are any more,” she said.

President Obama was overwhelmed as well, when he attempted to comfort the nation. It was his third such address in the wake of a soul-wrenching mass shooting. “They had their entire lives ahead of them,” he said, and he had trouble saying anything more.

It was, of course, a tragedy. Yet tragedies happen all the time. Terrible storms strike. Cars crash. Random violence occurs. As long as we’re human, we’ll never be invulnerable.

But when a gunman takes out kindergartners in a bucolic Connecticut suburb, three days after a gunman shot up a mall in Oregon, in the same year as fatal mass shootings in Minneapolis, in Tulsa, in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, in a theater in Colorado, a coffee bar in Seattle and a college in California — then we’re doing this to ourselves.

We know the story. The shooter is a man, usually a young man, often with a history of mental illness. Sometimes in a rage over a lost job, sometimes just completely unhinged. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, the air was full of experts discussing the importance of psychological counseling. “We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions,” said Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, one of the highest-ranking Republicans in the House.

Every country has a sizable contingent of mentally ill citizens. We’re the one that gives them the technological power to play god.

This is all about guns — access to guns and the ever-increasing firepower of guns. Over the past few years we’ve seen one shooting after another in which the killer was wielding weapons holding 30, 50, 100 bullets. I’m tired of hearing fellow citizens argue that you need that kind of firepower because it’s a pain to reload when you’re shooting clay pigeons. Or that the founding fathers specifically wanted to make sure Americans retained their right to carry rifles capable of mowing down dozens of people in a couple of minutes.

Recently the Michigan House of Representatives passed and sent to the governor a bill that, among other things, makes it easy for people to carry concealed weapons in schools. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School Friday, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger said that it might have meant “the difference between life and death for many innocent bystanders.” This is a popular theory of civic self-defense that discounts endless evidence that in a sudden crisis, civilians with guns either fail to respond or respond by firing at the wrong target.

It was perhaps the second-most awful remark on one of the worst days in American history, coming up behind Mike Huckabee’s asking that since prayer is banned from public schools, “should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”

We will undoubtedly have arguments about whether tougher regulation on gun sales or extra bullet capacity would have made a difference in Connecticut. In a way it doesn’t matter. America needs to tackle gun violence because we need to redefine who we are. We have come to regard ourselves — and the world has come to regard us — as a country that’s so gun happy that the right to traffic freely in the most obscene quantities of weapons is regarded as far more precious than an American’s right to health care or a good education.

We have to make ourselves better. Otherwise, the story from Connecticut is too unspeakable to bear.

Nearly two years ago, after Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in a mass shooting in Arizona, the White House sent up signals that Obama was preparing to do something. “I wouldn’t rule out that at some point the president talks about the issues surrounding gun violence,” said his press secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs.

On Friday, the president said: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Time passes. And here we are.

By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 14, 2012

December 16, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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