My View From The Country

Tragedies Should Cause Personal Reflection

We can debate whether anyone needs a semi-automatic weapon for recreation, for personal protection, or to fight oppression, but it doesn’t address the real issue.

The recent shooting in Newtown, CT, was an indescribable tragedy. While every innocent and needless death is a tragedy, this seemed particularly heinous in that young children were the primary targets and the massacre occurred ahead of the holiday season. Few would argue with President Obama’s statements that something needs to be done to deter these types of tragedies. Sadly, however, all I have heard thus far is: “I believe this tragedy can be used to advance a political agenda.”

In today’s political world, it’s inevitable that such senseless criminality would give rise to talk of gun control and rolling back the Second Amendment. And it is a reasonable discussion to have in a free and open society.

While seen largely as a black-white issue by both sides of the discussion, these types of issues have their shades of grey because it isn’t just a mixture of world views and paradigms but competing rights. Most importantly, these aren’t debates that should be shaped by majority opinion. By its definition, the safeguarding of rights should protect the minority from the majority.

Like most people, I have an opinion on gun control. I grew up in Wyoming in an avid hunting and sporting family; thus, few would be surprised at my leanings. This country was born as a result of citizens being able and willing to stand up and fight tyranny. That same dynamic is on display today in the Middle East where folks are battling oppressive regimes in the “Arab Spring” movement.

We can debate whether anyone needs a semi-automatic weapon for recreation, to protect themselves, or to fight oppression, but it doesn’t address the real issue. It isn’t that a psycho used a gun to kill innocent children, or that some of the deaths could have been prevented if the school principal had been armed. The dilemma is how to minimize these tragedies without paying too great a price in terms of freedom. Another question is whether any measure can succeed in preventing mass killings.

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If there’s to be some positive from this tragedy, then the conversation needs to be more comprehensive. That means in-depth discussion about violence in entertainment. I’d like to see a renewed focus on valuing human life, and correcting the cultural changes that have diminished that over time. The discussion should also focus on getting God back into our schools and not being afraid to teach morality to a society desperately in need of it.

We also need a serious discussion on improving mental health care, testing and diagnosis. If the issue is gun violence in general, then we should address this nation’s rampant drug problem, as well as the decline of the traditional family.

Sadly, we won’t have that type of national debate; it will merely center on gun control and, more precisely, gun control on a very limited class of guns. The idea, of course, is to prevent these rare actions of murderous psychopaths, but any criminal bent on having them will have access to them.

There are no easy solutions to the societal problems we face. However, if we are ever going to do more than pay lip service to these tragedies, we have to understand that applying a band-aid while ignoring the underlying cancer isn’t a solution. It just makes us feel better.

Discuss this Blog Entry 17

Joann Arata (not verified)
on Dec 28, 2012

Yhis is so very true, i agree with you. Thank you for the article.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 28, 2012

Change has to start with the individual...not the goverment, the schools, or the church. Today, we're all waiting for someone else to make things better; while we watch the downhill slide. I have a brother that's mentally ill. Today, he's in a better situation than he used to be in, but it hasn't been easy getting him there or keeping him there. So, I think two things need to happen. One, the individual take responsibility for themself and stop waiting on others to correct the problems. Two, we recognize that the mentally ill are among us. We have many of them locked away in our prisons, where we don't have to deal with them. Or, we ignore their problems until they make us see them by their act of violence. Then we feel sorry, but as quickly as we can, we go back to not seeing them. And, we can't depend on the government to handle the situation, they keep trying to cut funding to the very agencies; which try to offer services to those in need of mental health care. I believe this because my sister is a social worker and many of her clients have a history of mental illness and because more and more I have to pick up my brother's expenses just to keep him where he can get some services.

Thomas C Howard (not verified)
on Dec 28, 2012

The editorial is almost "fair and balanced." Gun control is not "a political agenda." There will be those who try to sway with political muscle but as you say a serious policy debate in response to real problems is in order. Semi automatic huge clip weapons will not be the focus of action for most, it will be weapons in schools. You say "principal...could have..." I question your wording. "Might have if... quite likely would not have." The chain of "if's" necessary to justify "official" weapons in schools is daunting and since each is a probability the probability of success to virtually zero. Start with "if the person with the gun is on the spot and superbly trained." Chances are entirely too high that the person will not be "there" and will be average. Helpful responses at the local level, no guarantees, are more attention to mental health, more attention to security measures already taken, advocate for sensible additional gun control and sensible assistance to the home.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Dec 28, 2012

Thirty-one people are killed in the U.S. every day by drunk drivers. Some of the dead are the drunks but many, including children, are not. Emotion is fine, but without reason it is infantile. Context and perspective are vital. People of all ages, including little children, have been senselessly slaughtered throughout recorded history. These tragedies are awful, but they happened long before firearms were invented and they will happen so long as humanity exists. They happen all around the globe, not just in the U.S. The rate of death by mass murder is one-fifty-fifth of ONE death per 100,000 people across the entire world population. The age-adjusted death rate from all causes in the U.S. alone is 758.3:100,000.
http://prairieadventure.blogspot.com/2012/12/context.html

W.E. (not verified)
on Dec 30, 2012

386 school shootings have taken place between 1992 and 2012 in this country. Can you not see the awful difference between being killed in an accident by a drunk driver and being intentionally murdered by a child? What makes school shootings particularly perplexing tragedies is that children or very young immature adults have chosen to kill other children. In the case of Newtown, it was a 20 year old boy with autism killing first graders. In our community, fifteen years ago, it was a fourteen-year-old boy killing other high school students. These events are the equivalent of battles that rip the victimized communities to their core, leaving scars and memories that never go away. Witnesses and the injured often suffer PTSD for years, or alter their life choices because of these events. News media swarm to the scene, examine the pain and suffering, and look every time only at the surface, not at the complex issues underlying the breakdowns that lead to the violence. Until America starts taking some of the blame for nurturing its children in a way that bends them toward murder, these tragedies will continue. We need to be looking at all of the things we have done to our children in recent generations. Yes, the easy availability of guns and ammunition play a part. But so do the prevalence of prescription drugs and the drastic alterations in foods and nutrition during recent generations. Certainly growing up in a culture that celebrates violence and uses it as entertainment has a deep influence on our young, as do broken homes, bullying, and a host of other dysfunctions. We need to look at everything we might be doing wrong for them and do our best to make things right. We cannot legislate or regulate these tragedies away.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Dec 31, 2012

I appreciate the fact that you took time to comment and I respect your opinions.

I completely agree with you regarding the enormity of these tragedies.

I do not, however, "...see the awful difference between being killed in an accident by a drunk driver and being intentionally murdered." To do so would be a de facto admission that I place more value on some human lives, and less value on other human lives.

"That all men are created equal" is more than a catchy phrase.

I have to respectfully disagree with your comment regarding "...complex issues underlying the breakdowns that lead to the violence." No one has a comprehensive understanding of human sociology.

With respect, the idea of "blaming America" is a simplistic platitude.

As to "...all of the things we have done to our children in recent generations" and "growing up in a culture that celebrates violence and uses it as entertainment," I am not aware of any human culture, present or past, of which the same cannot be said. The mass murder of children has occurred not only around the globe, but throughout history.

Again with respect, I'm always skeptical when someone tells me that "we" need to do this, and "we" need to do that. They usually mean "other people" need to do these things. In this nation, every citizen is the sovereign. My enumerated constitutional rights serve little purpose if I fail to rigorously apply the accompanying unenumerated responsibilities in my daily life.

W.E. (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

As an American, you are indeed free to do whatever you like, so long as you do not break the law. The law favors the freedom to commit violence. In our state, for example, the law allows me to buy automatic weapons but our peace-loving Amish neighbor could be arrested for selling raw milk and was put in jail for not displaying an orange triangle on the back of his buggy. I do not presume to tell you how to live your life, but for my part, having seen what I have seen, I intend to do whatever I can to seek the truth. Americans may maintain our status quo but not with impunity. Every action has a consequence. We must admit our failures if we are to remedy them. If I am honest with myself, I must admit that, as a member of the American Baby Boomer generation, I am a part of the most powerful, selfish, destructive, wasteful and greedy generation of human beings in the history of the world. My generation could change that before we die, if we had the collective foresight and vision to do so. And yes, I am doing everything in my own very limited power to seek out alternatives that will allow my generation to leave a better legacy for our children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, the divisive nature of our present society encourages only division, so we cancel each other out and the destruction continues. United we stand because we support one another in our unity; divided, we will not remain standing for long.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

As a human being, you are free to do whatever you like, regardless of the law. This is free will. Societies form a set of rules so that they can live together peacefully, then formally punish, fine or otherwise chastise rule-breakers. The rules in American society favor liberty period, not liberty to commit violence.

The laws in your state do NOT allow you to purchase automatic weapons. State health regulations are signed off on by the elected representatives of the citizens of the state. Good red herring, though!

You have guilt about your generation and your own choices. I'm a "boomer" too, and I don't. Do you ever consider the enormous good done by our generation, or that you have the capacity to redeem your mistakes by charting a better personal course?

Before any society can stand together as anything but a muddled mob, the individuals have to figure out what they stand FOR. In this nation you can push the easy button and opt out of responsibility, reason, growing and maturation. Or you can suit up and show up every day, live and learn, open your mind and grow in wisdom and effectiveness, and do the best you can do to live a principled life.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

Choosing to drive drunk is no accident!

W.E. (not verified)
on Jan 4, 2013

Choosing to drive drunk is no accident, but tragic accidents result from choosing to drive drunk. Although every tragedy that happens when a drunk gets behind the wheel of a car is horrendous, I don't know of anyone who has ever gotten drunk with the intent of getting in a car to kill someone. When multiple children die from a gunshots at the hand of another child, an ominously skewed intent comes into play. Unless we all search for the complex combinations of social factors that have come into play since 1992 to produce 386 school shootings, we will not find the reasons, nor will we be able to stop these extremely unnatural disasters.

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

I don't give two hoots about who has/has not a gun, as long as I'm not ordered to possess a gun.

A shout for freedom demands a pact for responsibility, in my estimation. Whether guns are flashed in CT or a mall in Omaha, NE and other places, citizens walking around minding their own business don't deserve to be gunned down. Why U.S. citizens would even desire to have such lethal weaponry is completely beyond my level of comprehension.

shaun evertson (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

Great comment and an opportunity pose a pair of Socratic questions. 1. If your freedom is threatened, do you have a personal responsibility to arm yourself and defend family and nation? 2. As one who "shouts" for freedom and "demands" a pact of responsibility, is it more important to gain a comprehensive understanding of the issue or to pick a side and feel strongly about it?

You have an opinion and took the time to share it, which is great. Now the fun begins. Are you willing to rigorously and objectively examine the merits of your opinion? Best regards and good luck!

Mark Mulhall (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

My freedom was taken from me at rifle point when an armed robber entered Sanwa Bank, Fullerton CA, one Halloween. He took my life when he hit me in the chest with his gun barrel and demanded me to get on the floor. The bandit then gave my life back to me when he decided not to shoot me. Much went through my mind but I did not think of self defense and certainly not of attempting to overtake the intruder. Others and I could have been dead but the robber spared our lives and left with the money. I've been threatened before and it's not fun. However, I refuse to let others make a decision which makes me arm myself. I freely choose to, and am not afraid to live unarmed. I also firmly believe you and I can live together peacefully, and probably like each other, because I have great respect for you.

Keith Evans (not verified)
on Jan 3, 2013

We know how to prevent mass killings with firearms as well as other gun homicides. It is being done by nearly every other free democratic nation in the world thanks to enforcement of effective gun laws.

In the United States there are 3.5 homicide gun deaths per 100,000 population. In the United Kingdom, there are .25 firearms homicides per 100,000 people, and in Australia the figure is .2. There are virtually no gun homicides, NONE, in Japan, South Korea and Iceland.

But, many people argue that the Second Amendment makes gun control in the United States is illegal. Not so, there have always been gun control laws in this country. A Supreme Court decision in 1939 ruled that the Second Amendment didn't apply to private individuals, but only when the arms are borne in the militia or other military organizations provided for by law for the protection of the state. Even today, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling, it is illegal to own machine guns and other destructive military arms. There are whole categories of people who are forbidden to own a firearm.

Sure, we need to improve mental health care. Our mental health programs are a disgrace. So are our gun laws.

The question is, are we willing to make the needed changes and pay for them? The answer is, probably not. The United States will probably continue to shoot and kill more people than most every other civilized country in the world.

on Jan 4, 2013

If gun control works in reducing homicides, what does the 2012 experience in Chicago (500 murders), in a state where conceal carry is banned, tell you? How about the D.C. record where guns are banned and 2/3rds of the 2012 murders were with guns? It’s not the law-abiding citizens causing the problems, folks.

Yes there are more homicides in the U.S. than in other developed countries, but that has traditionally been the case. For some reason, the U.S. has a higher murder rate than other nations; maybe it’s the way we developed as our own nation, or it’s the way our kids are buried with violence in entertainment. Leftists will tell you that’s not a factor but they sure don’t mind promoting advertising bans on cigarettes and alcohol because it might lead astray the young impressionable minds.

When gun control was enacted in all these other so-called “civilized” countries everybody likes to tak about, the data show that it didn’t change the murder rate; folks just killed with something else. And they are at more risk of violent crime, to boot.

England, which has very strict gun control, has 10 times the number of home invasions than the U.S. I wonder if it has anything to do with robbers/burglars/thieves feeling assured that the populace is unarmed? And England’s violent crime rate is much higher than that of the U.S. (80% higher).

Mass killings garner a lot of attention, and the resulting media coverage gives these shooter-losers the status in death that these little weenies couldn’t get in their pathetic cowardly lives on earth. Every one of the mass shootings of the past 60 years (with the exception of the Rep. Giffords shooting in Arizona) reportedly was committed in a gun-free zone. The Aurora, CO, shooter reportedly had a half-dozen theatres within 20 minutes of him, and some of them were much closer to him than the one he chose. The difference between all these theatres is that the one he shot up was the only one posted as a gun-free zone. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Jerome Behm (not verified)
on Mar 9, 2013

I stand solidly on the premise that the best deterrent against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Let these "wanna be" killers know that when they want to shoot something up or kill innocent people in a gun free zone that there may well be someone who is armed and who won't hesitate to take them out simply and effectively.

Guns in the hands of responsible persons are an effective deterrent against crime of any sort. I was at a County Commission Meeting in my county sometime ago. Our county sheriff was there and had a gun strapped on his person. I was consoled by that fact and by the appearance of it. Guns are meant to save lives, and they are very effective in this manner. I am reminded too of my time spent in the US Army. On payday, the payroll officer sat at a table with the cash to pay the soldiers. Laying prominently on the same table was a sidearm and it was within easy reach of the payroll officer. It's appearance alone was enough to dissuade any effort by anyone to do anything that wasn't lawful. It was a peace keeper in its own right, and just by its appearance and presence. I always felt very comfortable with all of that.

The old adage has it that "Those who pound their guns into plowshares will plow for those who don't". It makes perfect sense to me. It should make perfect sense for all who read it too.

Jerome Behm

on Apr 5, 2013

Recently in Newtown CT was a complete tragedy. In this massacre many children and people were killed. It was a complete set of horrifying events. These events directly linked to our personal injuries which we could not forget till we are alive. So it is a very clear statement that Tragedies cause personal reflection.
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Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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