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Monday, 17 December 2012

The Unspeakable Tragedy at Sandy Hook

By now you undoubtedly have seen and read the accounts of the horrific shootings Friday in Connecticut where 27 were killed including 20 children. It is those children - babies really, kindergartners – who make this latest gun tragedy unbearable.

But also, we should not fail to remember that such atrocities are commonplace nowadays – hardly unexpected in the United States. In fact, it is the second mass killing in less than a week; there was one right here in Portland, Oregon, last Tuesday where, luckily, “only” two died in addition to the shooter.

In 2012 (so far), there have been eight mass shootings in the U.S. That, to me, is a crucial point - “in the U.S.” Of the 20 worst mass shootings in the past 50 years, 11 were in the United States. The second-place country with two mass shootings is Finland.

(The Washington Post has a good story on some historical facts about mass shootings.)

I'm not going to pontificate on this uniquely American kind of crime but to the extent that this one, for having killed tiny children, is possibly a wake up call, we must think carefully about why it is most common (by magnitudes) in the U.S.

No matter the gazillion words that have and will continue to pour forth, the bottom line is that this is a gun crime. Got that? A person who was barely an adult himself shot 27 people with a lot of guns.

The president, some state and federal legislators and all the pundits are saying "this time" we must do something.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. They say that after every horrible killing spree but there is no reason to believe it. When the immediacy of the tragedy fades, the NRA, its lobbyists and Congress members who readily accept that organization's campaign contributions will continue to make it easier to buy and own guns.

Just watch in the coming weeks: I'm pretty sure there will be a lot of calls for more armed guards in schools and no useful changes to gun laws. It would be good if I am wrong.

UPDATE 5:40AM: In my early morning reading, I ran across this story, I Am Adam Lanza's Mother, at Alternet. Certainly as a nation we must address the gun issue but this mother's story illuminates another important part of the problem.

IN OTHER NEWS: You wouldn't know it from the major media, but events other than the Connecticut shootings do continue to take place. One may be devastating for elders.

Following a lengthy telephone conversation on Friday with President Obama, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has proposed raising the tax rate on top wage earners beginning 1 January. All well and good until you read what he wants in return. According to Politico, Boehner would agree to the tax rise only:

"...if President Barack Obama agrees to major entitlement cuts, according to several sources close to the talks...

"Boehner also wants to use a new method of calculating benefits for entitlement programs known as 'chained CPI,' which would slow the growth of Medicare and other federal health programs and save hundreds of billions over the next decade."

Please note that it is not just Boehner and Republicans in general who want to screw old Americans. Politico, by using the "slow Medicare growth" argument instead of the "will dramatically cut elder's healthcare" explanation are promoting the Republican agenda to their readers.

And although it is not mentioned in the Politico story, we all know how waffly the president is on Social Security and Medicare cuts.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: The Christmas Tree


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Ronni, you take no prisoners, and neither should anyone standing up to liars, cheaters, gougers, and self-interested money- and power-grabbers. Your calling things as they are (or are not) inspires confidence and following suit, each in our own way.

It's not only a gun control issue, it's a mental health issue. Each person who has done the shooting has had mental health issues.

Mage and others...
Yes, mental health problems are addressed powerfully in the story that I've linked to in the update above.

Is it time for American elders to step up yet again?

A NYT article last Wednesday about a senior group demonstrating against war, war games, and violent games, two days before the Newtown massacre contained this:

"...Mary Raymond, 53, a high school teacher from Connecticut, was leading a school field trip when she stopped to watch the demonstrators.

“I don’t agree with them,” Ms. Raymond said. “I think toys are toys. Children — they’re just playing.”

A teacher from Connecticut...

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/antiwar-grannies-briefly-make-toys-r-us-store-their-battlefield/

Hope you all got to see "The View" this am.

Dr Welner has said it all! You must hear what he says and follow through.

"This violence will continue . . " he says.

We must face the issue that it isn't just one thing that causes these tragedies. Violence in so pervasive in our society (and always has been) that we must tackle so many root causes. The fact that mental health is not covered by insurance should be one place to start. More resources are needed for the woman who wrote "I am Adam Lanza's Mother" and for the Adam's of this nation.

The NRA needs to be curbed. They do not care one fig about your personal safety. They are the handmaidens of the gun manufacturers. In a free society the only way that can be done is by educating those gun nuts and encouraging them to cancel their membership 'en mass'.

The second amendment needs to have a serious debate and perhaps overturned. If the gun lovers want to take it literally (as they claim) every person who owns a gun should automatically be an unpaid member of the National Guard (our equivalent to the militia).

We should be able to tax bullets so high that only the wealthy can buy them. It will take generations to get all the weapons out of the hands of the people, but we can make it harder to use them in other ways.

The Brady Act should be renewed. No one needs a weapon whose only purpose is to kill humans. The military is the only entity that should have automatic weapons. The police only need handguns.

And we need to see what can be done about the exposure of violence that our children are subjected to. Violent video games should be forbidden. Better yet, they should be taken off the market. Children are not supposed to be allowed in violent movies, but what happens when their irresponsible parents rent them and the children sneak a viewing?

And finally, we come to parenting. What can be done about bad parents who don't care what their children are doing? Worse yet, some children learn violence early from brutal punishment by the ones who are supposed to protect them - their mothers and fathers.

This very sad scenario in Connecticut will be repeated over and over again until we come to grips with our national problem and the first step is to renew the Brady Gun Law.


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Thanks to Susan G. who linked to NYC Granny Peace Brigade and their latest effort to raise consciousness about the connection between endless war in America and the promotion of a culture of war-making in everyday life. They did the same last year in another part of Manhattan. You go, old friends, we need you here in gun-loving Oregon!

Scott Erb over at his World In Motion blog has a good piece related to the Newtown shootings and its connection to violence towards kids in 3rd world nations. Check it out here

Dear Ronni, I value your comments on modern life in the USA. I am attaching a link to an Australian perspective on gun control which might be of interest. http://goo.gl/hWOJ2

The mental health situation (I am Adam Lanza's mother) is surely dire, but I haven't so far seen any comment linking Lanza's mother to the problem--what on earth was she doing with all those loaded guns in the house--along with a mentally ill son?

Mark Shields on PBS news, the other night, observed, that what he'd learned as a marine was that guns are designed for killing. No less. Maybe target practice is fun for some, but does it justify an arsenal in the closet? Or does hunting? My father hunted. He kept one unloaded rifle in the closet, which I was commanded not to touch.

Darlene has laid out an excellent catalog of plausible remedies. Although I skeptical that we'll get any movement on any of them, I do think it is great having Senator Diane Feinstein as a visible proponent of gun legislation. She's quite a conservative figure, but she knows about guns: she came to political prominence because of the assassination of a Mayor and city Supervisor. She was in the building during the carnage. She gets it.

I think Anne raises an excellent question! I think there is such a thing as responsible gun ownership. In my view a responsible gun owner will make sure that whenever anyone under 30 is in their home, any guns will be (1) out of sight AND (2) secured in a locked gun safe. If an adult has any clue that someone who lives in their home is mentally unstable, a responsible gun owner would seriously question the wisdom of having firearms in the house at all.

That said, I think that one reason our society has not done more about guns is that no one is quite sure what to do! In my view a good start would be to strictly enforce the gun laws we already have, reimpose the ban on military-style or "assault" weapons and close the "gun show loophole" (which allows almost anyone who has the money to buy a gun without a background check).

NO ONE should be able to buy, or be in possession of, a firearm if they have a criminal background (including domestic violence) or a history of mental illness or unresolved alcohol/drug abuse. Closing obvious loopholes could be done almost immediately. The NRA does not own public opinion, and President Obama should act quickly while the public is firmly on his side.

Mental health issues are involved, too. I think our society has gone too far in the direction of protecting the "rights" of mentally ill individuals who, by the nature of their illness, cannot make rational decisions. A better balance must somehow be achieved. Whether mental illness is the result of toxins in the environment, a toxic family situation or a toxic society(or some combination of all three) we need to work towards protecting the larger society as well as the individual.

Bottom line - you can't legislate crazy or stupidity.

I am afraid what little is left of our civil liberties will be on the chopping block. People I know are already suggesting we hire armed militia or at the very least armed security guards and body scanners and concrete style bunkers for school kids.

Life is dangerous. Some of us are here a long time, some not. I have kids, I totally understand any parents desire to keep their babies safe. But if keeping them safe also means living a locked down, 24-hour surveillance filmed, controlled, spied upon lifestyle, how is that experiencing life?

I am sad on many levels.

One thing I keep hearing is if the principal or other school staff member had a gun the shooter could have been stopped and the casualties less. As a teacher of kids the same age as the ones gunned down I WILL NEVER carry a gun. If for some unconscionable reason that ever does become reality I will quit teaching. I refuse to carry a gun so that gun toting NRA folks can continue with the illusion that their freedom is not threatened by gun regulation.
This whole topic makes me sick to my stomach.

Another heart-breaking traumatic tragedy which we once thought could never occur in this nation.

Our Calif. Sen. Feinstein says she'll reintroduce her bill to ban assault weapons which was in effect for many years until Congress allowed it to expire ten years ago. She's hoping to receive a response from the President offering his support and has left a message at the White House requesting same.

As others have noted banning assault weapons is only a partial solution. Also, clearly what some might consider common sense judgement about having a gun(s) in the home, what kind, how accessible it is, who should be trained or allowed to use it, apparently varies with individuals as we see in this most recent tragedy.

I hardly think encouraging individuals to acquire more hand guns and arms remotely addresses the nation's violent culture. Yet, we see whole States adopting such an approach as though they'd read far too many Old West tales or seen too many phony Wild West movies. Obviously, the gun manufacturers, much like those who promoted cigarette smoking, are the ones who benefit for $$$.

Care for and the attitude toward the mentally ill is tragically lacking in this nation. A person with a "broken brain" -- one with a chemical imbalance due to a malfunctioning system -- is often described as behaving "evilly" and condemned. Often the real fault lies with our society that fails to provide the health care these people need.

You've certainly pinpointed the issues that need to be addressed.

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