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After Newtown: Where Does Society Go From Here?

In the wake of the Connecticut Elementary School shooting, how does a civilized, responsible, and caring society respond?

 

I can't begin to imagine the level of pain and anguish of a parent who loses a child. It must be the most wicked and penetrating type of hurt. To have that hurt concentrated in the way it is now in Newtown, Conn. further tests understanding and comprehension. 

A gunman kills 27 people – 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in the town, with this rampage following him shooting his mother at the home where he lived with her. 

Maybe this loss of life and suffering is beyond an ability to understand and comprehend. 

Predictably, there has been angry denunciation of our gun laws and gun culture. Staunch and unyielding Second Amendment supporters have made their own angry statements. But, thankfully, blessedly, there has been at the highest levels of public dialogue reasoned discourse and discussion – and calls for more reasoned discourse and discussion. 

I agree that sometimes you have to yell to get attention. Yet, continued yelling does not result in consensus of opinion that leads to actions that make society better. 

And we have to listen and be honest with ourselves – and not grab a hold of political expediency, and use a vile and soul-destroying tragedy as fuel and permission for unhelpful vitriol. 

I call for changes in our gun laws. I am an ardent Second Amendment supporter, and I believe our country needs to have stricter gun legislation. I also believe that in the interest of making society safer, we need to look at a lot more than gun laws. 

By way of explanation I present the following: 

Let's say that we were able to limit public ownership of guns to – and here I offer a broad and vague description of what I believe most American citizens would agree was allowable – handguns for home protection, rifles and shotguns and other non-automatic or semiautomatic long barrel guns for hunting, and a handgun (concealed or otherwise) for personal protection outside the home. 

Let's say we had laws that prevented anyone who was ever convicted of violent crime from having a gun. Let's say we required more lengthy and thorough background checks, which included more thorough psychological assessments. We eliminated the gun show sales loophole. We allowed for law enforcement to rescind the gun permit/license of any person exhibiting undue anger or symptoms of mental illness – and in these situations the law would be required to take away any guns that person possesses. 

So, if society implements these changes, I believe we have in place the solution to preventing many mass shootings in our country, I also know that it is a partial solution – and it surely won't stop sick and angry people from getting their hands on guns and killing people. 

It will do nothing to prevent sick and angry people from killing, including mass killing, in other ways; and it will not totally prevent gun massacres. 

The deadliest school massacre in U.S. history happened in 1927 at Bath Township Elementary in Bath, MI. Forty-four people were killed – 38 students, and six adults (two of the adults were teachers). Not a shot was fired. A crazed Bath school board member, upset with the passage of a tax hike to pay for school construction, used bombs to commit the murders (one of the bombs was suicide a bomb in the form of his shrapnel packed car). 

Norway has some of the strictest gun legislation in the world. Last year, a right-wing extremist, who may have been schizophrenic, or simply a madman narcissist, bombed a building in Oslo that resulted in eight deaths; then, on the same day, he shot 69 people to death, most of them teenagers, at a summer camp on an island off the Norwegian coast. 

Twenty-seven people are dead in Newtown, CT because a seriously and critically mentally ill man who was awash in hate – and maybe evil (and I am not sure of what I believe about the nature of evil) – wanted them dead. That so many were murdered almost certainly is also because the killer had easy access to powerful guns. 

Let us not kid ourselves. The Second Amendment is not going away – nor should it. People on all sides of the gun issue must dare to believe we can reach a workable agreement on gun laws, and then get about to making the changes. 

And, also, to make society safer, for our children and everyone, we need to take the issue of mental illness and personality disorders seriously. We need to understand that something mild, just like a physical illness or injury, can become serious if not treated early. One of my Facebook friends posted yesterday a statement, with which I agree, the essence of which was that in America it is easier to get a gun than access needed mental health services. 

Does the news media play a role in inciting mass killing? I think so. These killers want to go out literally in a blaze of glory. The killers ignite the blaze, and the media – albeit responding to a public hungry for information – provides not the glory, but what the twisted psyche of a killer equates with glory. 

Does the entertainment industry play role in setting the table for violence and killing? Movies, television, and video games are packed with killing and mayhem of the worst variety. I can envision that maybe this killing and mayhem could partially warp a mind and inure one to murder and inspire dark impulses – and then deadly action. 

Families in Newtown, Conn. are enduring anguish and a sense of loss that grips and shakes the very core of their body and soul. Will they ever be healed – totally? Probably not. They can though get a lot better. 

If our public leaders, if law enforcement, if teachers and education administrators, if parents, if molders of public opinion want to make society safer – especially for children – then, yes, we need to change gun laws and regulations in this country. 

But changing gun laws and regulations, while not touching and making changes to other societal areas that foster and allow for violence, will still leave our schools and our children vulnerable.

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