Newtown, CT: What do we do with this?
A young man kills his mother and then walks into an elementary school and opens fire on a group of very young children which were his mother’s students. What do we do with this? What I’ve seen happen in less than twenty-four hours is disheartening. Our national news media, in their perpetual race to be first, initially named the shooter’s older brother as the perpetrator. The mayors of two major cities have started the calls for tougher gun laws before the body count was even official. Our President has appeared on television visibly moved by this unfortunate incident, and the conversation on social media is dominated by prayers for the families, memorial e-cards, and second amendment arguments.
The twenty-four hour news cycle has produced a competitive environment that encourages something akin to journalistic malpractice. Several news outlets, early in the day, released the name of the older brother of the shooter as the perpetrator. The gunman had taken his own life in the ordeal yet the man that the media had named was updating his Facebook status after the events. Not only had Ryan Lanza lost his mother at the hands of his younger brother, Adam, but he was being portrayed in front of the world as a murderer of innocent children by an all too eager, sensational, ratings driven, inept group of alleged professionals. Perhaps being the second news outlet to identify a mass murderer and being correct will carry a little more clout should some other tragic event like this occur in the future.
Certainly, after an event like this, a discussion regarding the role of weapons in our society is expected and necessary, but let’s have it with civility, reason, and in due time. When I see Mayor Bloomberg of New York City and Mayor Menino of Boston calling for our President to “take immediate action against guns” and to establish a “national policy” on guns before all of the parents of the victims have been notified of their loss I see nothing more than a couple of politicians grand standing and politicizing a tragedy for their own gain. Maybe we can look at enforcing the laws that are already on the books or better yet consider what issues may have caused this young man to reach a point in his life where he felt his best choice was to grab a few guns, go to the local elementary school, kill his mother and destroy the lives of countless children and their friends and families. He had two handguns and a small caliber semi-automatic hunting rifle which were allegedly legally purchased by his mother. Perhaps if there were no guns available to him this tragedy might have been avoided, or maybe he was so distraught that he would have stolen weapons to accomplish this massacre, or maybe he would have driven a car into playground. We will never know what might have been but let’s not make hasty judgments before we know all of the facts.
President Obama did the exact right thing by going before the nation and expressing his grief and sorrow over the situation, and I believe that being a father of young girls he meant what he said. He mentioned that it is time to “take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this” I hope he means that, and also considers taking meaningful action to stop the indiscriminate attacks on children in foreign lands by drone strikes.
Facebook was atwitter and twitter was a mess with reactionary comments to the shooting, pictures of candles, flags at half staff, and clueless people posting pictures of crab cakes from Carraba’s as if nothing were going on. The good, the bad, and the ugly of social media is seen after events like this and a mob mentality takes hold as emotions run high and words on a page can’t always express the tone or true sentiment of a person’s feelings. My liberal friends are going crazy wanting to round up all of the guns and pound them into plowshares. My NRA member friends are out of their heads explaining that a maniac used guns in a horrific and evil way. I was lambasted for reminding people of all of the other ways that thousands of people died in America on this same day and pointing out that a man in China had gone into a school and stabbed twenty-two children in March. Perhaps my timing was poor but, as always, my intention is to pull back and take a thirty thousand foot view when I feel myself and the crowd being sucked into a vortex of myopia.
I feel that a reasonable discussion of the role of weapons in our society is needed and must be handled cautiously with careful consideration of our Constitution. We also need to look at ourselves collectively and ask what in our culture is creating young men like this Adam Lanza, or Jared Loughner, or Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The problem I see is that we have been having these discussions for quite a long time now and we as a society may not be willing to do the hard work necessary to bring about change that will be truly effective.