Sunday, December 16, 2012

Murder is Here

In the aftermath of the unthinkable violence in Newtown. Connecticut, I'm deeply ashamed to say that some Americans immediately reacted to the news as a threat to their right to bear arms.

Six adults and twenty irreplaceable children, including Emilie Alice Parker, pictured above, are no longer alive.  We've had one mass killing on an average of every four months since the slaughter of thirty-two people at Virginia Polytechnic in 2007.  In fact, we had an attempted mass killing the very day after the Newtown murders--three people were shot, but not fatally, by a lone gunman at a hospital in Alabama.

One mass killing every four months.  It's been less than six months since twelve people were shot down in that theater in Ohio.

America had more than eleven thousand deaths by gunshot last year. That's roughly thirty a day.  These people were not killed with salad forks or hunting knives or poisoned darts.  The common denominator is guns.

But in the hours immediately following the tragedy at Sandy Hook School, our own president's press secretary said, "This isn't the day to talk about gun control."

He was right.  We should have been talking about gun control for decades.  We should have enacted gun control laws decades ago.  But we haven't because this country is (a) more corrupt than we like to think it is and (b) crazier than we like to think it is.

Corruption, the green grease, has kept the National Rifle Association at the top of the list of America's most powerful lobbies for decades.  They were working the halls of power within minutes of the news breaking in Newtown.  They have a lot of money and they swing a lot of votes, and the hand puppets in Washington, beginning with Obama's press secretary, leapt to their scripts.  Money talks, often through our elected representatives.

And then, we're nuts.  Look at Facebook or Twitter or any other social media platform, and there they are: the Warm Gun Society."We don't have a gun problem," one person wrote.  "We have a violent culture problem."  No, the problem is a violent culture that's full of guns.  Isn't a violent culture the very culture you'd most want to keep guns away from?

Another popular argument is that guns allow us to defend ourselves against (I suppose) other people with guns.  If you answer that the basic purpose of gun control is to keep guns away from the people most likely to use them, the Warm Gun Society members respond with the rote formula that gun control will actually take guns away only from the law-abiding, leaving the rest of us in a "Mad Max" world, cowering helplessly from an underclass of heavily armed sociopaths.  Problem with that argument is that most of the countries that have stringently-enforced gun control have much. much lower rates of gunshot-related deaths. America's death by-gunshot-rate is 450 times greater than Japan's, 45 times greater than England's.

I have to say that it amazes me that anyone could look at the face of Emilie Alice Parker and take refuge in the kind of dry, baseless inanities that the gun defenders recite.  One of them, also on Facebook, pointed to China, and said, in essence, Lookie, lookie -- a guy there terrorized a school with a knife, stabbing 22 students.

But that person failed to note that none of the children in that Chinese school died.  All of the children who were shot at at Sandy Hook died.

I've been sending up a prayer whenever I thought of it today for the first responders who had to go into that classroom.  I saw a picture of five weeping policemen, and it broke my heart all over again.  When I read the things the Gun Society is posting, I wonder whether it would change their minds if they'd had to go into that room, if they'd seen those children and the unspeakable obscenity that was committed there.

With guns.

Tim -- Sundays


  1. Somehow, Tim, this seems different. Newtown took senseless violence to a whole different level. Let us hope that even the callous and bought realize it's time for common sense action to obtain before more children die at the hands of their indifference.

  2. I too prayed for the first responders. Thanks for this column.

  3. Well put, Tim. When the Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791, 221 years ago, the "arms" were muskets. While the Second Amendment continues to protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms, it does not give people the right to keep ammunition. Bullets kill. Perhaps the sale of bullets should be banned, or at the least, severely restricted. Welcome home Tim.

  4. You expressed this so well. You know how I feel. Silence, on my part, simply was not an option. BTW, the whitehouse web site has put up a petition looking for signatures for gun control. Sorry, I don't have the link. Still have tears.

  5. Well said. I do not have any love for anyone whose first response to this was to jump online and argue 2nd Amendment rights. I have even less for those who think we need to put God "back" in the schools (as long as there's tests and report cards, prayer will happen in school).

    My other thoughts are my own, and will be kept until I can talk sensibly without wanting to weep.

  6. I was holding it together (somewhat) until I just saw the photographs on the news of two beautiful smiling young boys who lost their lives in this senseless shooting. One had a smile that would melt anyone's heart and showed an enormous zest for living.

    Just yesterday a man in Indiana was arrested for threatening to shoot up a school/ 47 guns were found in his house. Another guy shot 50 rounds in a California maul, luckily not at anyone.

    You're right. In China, no one was killed because no guns were used.

    Why does anyone need a semi-automatic weapon? Why guns anyway?

    Someone made a good point at Salon's website. He's a parent. He said that angry young men find it much easier to get guns than mental health treatment. Most of these shooters have a history of mental illness.

    Not only gun issues, but the mental health system is broken. Mental health professionals are told now -- to save funds -- to avoid hospitalizing anyone, no matter how much the person needs it.

    Priorities are totally messed up. Children should be the priorities in everything.

  7. Thanks to all of you. I'd like to suggest that we all send an email to our senators and representatives telling we're tired of waiting for legislative sanity, and the time is now. All those who say you could never round up all the weapons already out there miss the point that we'd have a drastically different America today if we'd enacted gun control following the assassination of JFK. And if we don't enact it now, there will be millions of NEXT-generation weapons out there, even more dangerous than the current ones.

  8. Half the firearms in the entire world are in the US, and the rate of murders by gunfire in the US is almost 20 times higher than the average rate in 22 other populous, high-income countries.

    The American rate for murders of all kinds - shooting, strangling, stabbing, poisoning, pushing people under buses, etc - is seven times higher than it is in those other 22 rich countries. It's not just guns.

    A recent book by Steven Pinker, "The Better Angels of Our Nature", makes some interesting points.

    The level of violence has been falling rapidly in almost every country and region on Earth - except the US. For example, in 14th century Oxford it was 110 people per 100,000; by the mid-20th century, the murder rate in England had fallen more than one-hundredfold, to less than one person per 100,000 per year in London. In most western European countries it was about the same. But in the US the murder rate is still around seven people per 100,000 per year.

    Pinker suggests (or rather, he quotes another scholar) that this is because democracy came about a century too early in America: in Europe, people gradually came to accept that the State would guarantee their safety and they didn't need to be armed, but this never happened in the US; also, Western Europe dropped the honour-based society seen today in the Balkans and, interestingly, in the US south and west (the murder rate in New England, which does not have an honour-based society, is 3 per 100,000, but in Louisiana it's 14 per 100,000).

    Only one in 300 murders in the US is a massacre. Most are simply due to quarrels between individuals, often members of the same family. Private acts of violence to obtain ''justice'', (i.e., honour killings), with or without guns, are deeply entrenched in American culture and the murder rate would stay extraordinarily high even if there were no guns.

    Read more:

  9. I’ve been haunted by the events in Newtown but decided not to post about it on MIE. After all, Tim said it about as well as it could be said. So, I chose another venue for sharing my thoughts on what must be done for America to change. It’s the subject of my post today on the blog site of my U.S. publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, and titled, “NEWTOWN. Everything is Different Now.”