Can we learn something from the tragedy at Sandy Hook?


MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., December 14, 2012 – Earlier today we heard that a young man, informally identified as Adam Lanza in his early twenties, shot and killed 26 in an elementary school in Connecticut and at least one other person at a location outside the school. Most of the dead are children. As I write this article with CNN on, we are all learning details of the horrendous crime. If you are keeping count, this is the second such episode this week. A gunman in Oregon killed two persons on Tuesday December 11, 2012.

While we are still sorting through the news, there appears to be some facts that contributed to these mass killings. Regardless of the evidence that will be unearthed in the days and months ahead, there are some facts that are irrefutable.

We are a violent society (sorry for stating the obvious)

Other countries in the world have similar gun laws as we do. Northern European countries depend on a reserve force in case of national emergencies. For that purpose, every able male has to serve in this force, learn how to use fire arms and keep fire arms at home in case he is called. Violent crime and specifically murder by fire arms is a very small portion of what it is in the U. S.

However, there is no other country in the industrialized world that has the rate of crime that we have. We also have very strict laws as proven by us (U. S.) having the highest rate of incarceration (1% of the population) of all these countries. We also are the leading country with regard to people being executed for their crimes. There appears to be no direct correlation between punishment and its deterrence of crime. The perpetrators of mass crimes are obviously not influenced by punishment as they usually take their lives after their massacre.

Some would point out that violence in video games, movies and television may be one of the reasons; however, the same elements exist all over the world except for very poor countries. Others have speculated that our individualistic culture may provide a reason for discrete actions of this type.

Even others have pointed out that the disregard of traditional values has led us into a lawless society in which there are no limits to antisocial behavior. Other countries have also taken actions that disregard traditional values, including religion, without the same results.

Mental and emotional reasons have in the past proven to be the trigger that started some of these episodes. Ironically, our health insurance system is geared to treat mental health as a much lower priority.

Fire arm availability

We are the most armed country in the world. We own over one hundred million fire arms in this country. It is easier to get a gun in some places than to buy a car. While most states have limits on who can buy a gun, the ready availability in the black market defeats these restrictions. Many gun owners keep their guns locked up, but this is not a deterrent to a thief or even a child.

I knew a man that owned many guns. He was a hunter, but overall he was just fascinated with guns. One day he came home and realized he had been robed. He immediately looked at his gun locker and found it still locked. Several weeks later when he was going hunting he opened the locker and found it empty. The thieves had removed the back panel of the locker and had removed all the guns.

So what do you expect? — Hundreds of millions of guns that may be ready for the taking.

What has created this availability of guns?

That question has a very easy answer. The culprits are irrational gun proponents and their champion the National Rifle Association. They oppose even the mildest proposal for gun control.

Being from a different culture, I can’t understand the American adult fascination with fire arms. We all were fascinated with guns when we were children and even young adults, but most of us got past it, like playing with model trains. To me the second amendment should be deleted, like prohibition.

Every time I start thinking about buying a gun, I revert back to what the purpose (and the only purpose) of a gun is, to kill or maim.

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, civil engineer, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker, and, not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles – ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket – in 21st Century Pacifist <> at The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.



About 21stcenturypacifist

Mario Salazar, the 21st Century Pacifist, is a bleeding heart liberal, agnostic, exercise fanatic, Redskin fan, technophile, civil engineer, combat infantry veteran, jewelry maker, amateur computer programmer, Environmental engineer, Colombian-born, free thinker, and, not surprisingly, pacifist. You can find his articles - ranging from politics to cooking a mean brisket - in 21st Century Pacifist at The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.
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17 Responses to Can we learn something from the tragedy at Sandy Hook?

  1. lasesana says:

    Great piece. I agree that guns are too easy to get a hold of. I read somewhere that 40% of firearms in the US are Purchased at gun shows where there is no background check required. It scares me that because people like this boy’s mother were too preoccupied defending their second amendment rights, they did not think that keeping 6 guns jn a home with a “troubled” boy was a dangerous and irresponsible abuse of that right… Sorry – I feel like ranting….

  2. Pingback: Can we learn something from the tragedy at Sandy Hook? | 21stcenturypacifist

  3. Joy Colclasure says:

    Not sure what the answer is…my father was a hunter and had guns…we knew NOT to touch the guns unless he was there…a rule. Due to the economy and the need for some to keep up w/th the Jone’s….most families have a mom and dad both working and children being raised by a facility or a baby sitter someplace. Parents are not setting rules, they are not explaining the harmful things guns can do. Too much violent, TV, movies and video games…these young people think that is the norm. Parents need to pay closer attention to their young people and look for problems and do what they can to help them solve the problems. Don’t know what to do to change things…making it very difficult to acquire a gun would help. Here in AZ anyone can go to a gun show and buy whatever gun they want….big mistake in my opinion.

  4. lilliestone says:

    Poignant. Thanks for saying what many feel.

  5. lilliestone says:

    Poignant piece. Guns for hunting? Ok. But many weapons serve only to kill people. Those should not really be in civilian hands. Thhe right to bear arms, to me, does not say it is necessarily an unregulated right. I still find this unimaginably horrific.

  6. Damien says:

    I think the spirit of the second amendment is valid; however, I abhor guns. They are primitive, lethal-only projectile weapons. If we really put our minds to it, we could have Star Trek-type phasers in short order and be able to harmlessly incapacitate wrongdoers. Tasers? Seriously? What a joke.

    I see the spirit of the second amendment as stating that the common man has the right to be vigilant in his own defense, including against an encroaching state that interferes in the lives of peaceful people wishing no harm to others. It doesn’t have to be with guns.

    Mental health care in this country is despicable. This woman wrote a very thoughtful article on the subject:

    And yes, we live in a violent society. So violent, in fact, that we manufacture drones to go to other countries and kill thousands of innocent civilians, for which there is no justification. I feel bad for the victims of the recent Connecticut shooting, but what about Pakistani kids bombed by impersonal robots controlled by unfeeling and unthinking technicians in the U.S.?

    This pacifist wants none of it. I don’t want guns. I don’t want drones. I don’t want hyper-armed and super-vigilant police. I don’t want legislators telling me I can smoke and drink myself to death if I want, but I can’t have a medicinally beneficial plant that does less damage than aspirin (and I’ve never even taken the stuff!) I don’t want war-mongering presidents, and that includes Obama. This is all an insult to the potential of our species. When I see a human being, I see potential. When that human being drives rudely, destroys his health, and cheers when the “president” announces that a recent strike that killed innocent civilians was “successful”, it really bothers me. We are all better than that.

  7. J_Mo says:

    The problem, IMO, is that we in the US are really, really bad at dealing with mental illness. Crimes like this stem, not from the availability of guns (alone), not from gun control or lack of it, but from underlying mental health issues that go unaddressed. We suck at mental health here.

    We are also apparently one of the most stressed societies in the West. We work a lot more than our bretheren across the pond. Longer hours. Less time off. Wages in the toilet.

    While it is true that Sandy Hook never would have happened if this man had not gotten his hands on a gun, you can be sure he STILL probably would have done something awful to someone (or someones) eventually.

    Gun control is certainly a piece of it. It really should be harder to get one’s hands on a gun. MUCH harder!

    • Damien says:

      I agree with the statement “guns don’t kill people – people kill people”. Unfortunately, gun proponents don’t mean it the way I mean it.

  8. MoniqueDC says:

    WIth all respect, we know that there are some easy answers to the gun issue in the US. We can put in place practices that other countries routinely have (Japan, for example, requires prospective gun owners to take a week long training class, pass a rigorious exam and prove they can safely store the equipment.).
    We can eliminate the gun show loophole.
    We can ban all assault weapons and weapsons (and accessories) with high volume clips (you don’t need this to hunt in the wild).
    We could go even further (I think it unlikely) and quit “worshipping violence” in the daily news and in our unrestrained global violence (aka, illegal wars).
    We could even start teaching children (and adults) the value of peace, the benefits of collaboration over competition and how to negotiate your wants instead of using violence.
    We could easily do all this.

    And, we could even insist on restrictive movie/tv show ratings whenever extreme violence is a part of the piece.

    We could do all this. Realtively easily. It does force us to alter our John Wayne culture…but I think that would be a good thing.

    • Damien says:

      I agree! And I agree that teaching children from a young age the wisdom of peace is a good idea. In fact, I think it’s the single most effective way to achieve actual wisdom and peace. Children should also be taught to think independently and to question authority in the Socratic sense. I was raised by parents that both worked, but always made time for me and my sisters. I was taught the value of respect and was always immediately made to feel bad whenever I laughed at a violent statement. So now, as an adult (and a geek!) I love video games as a hobby, but I simply can’t even tolerate the idea of realistic shooter games involving the killing of other human beings (Mass Effect being the closest I can get to it while enjoying the game. I play Deus Ex and other stealth games in non-lethal mode – and it’s more challenging and fun that way, anyway). The idea of killing even computer-generated images of human beings in realistic, contemporary combat settings is abhorrent. I sometimes wonder what I would do if I were not deaf and I got drafted. Would I end up in jail because I refused to accept the gun that was thrust at me? Would I be able to even kill someone in self-defense, knowing that the only alternative was to die at my attacker’s hands? I tell myself “yes” for various reasons, but I hope to holy stars I never have to test that.

      Anyway, starting young is the key!

      • Damien,
        You would be surprised at the number of combat infantrymen that never fire in combat. I know of a few, I also talked to as sargeant that told me that in Iraq and Afghanistan that is a big problem. I only fired when I believed to be in danger of death. Since I was in mortars, I don’t know if I ever killed anyone using indirect fire.

      • Damien says:

        That’s encouraging. Thanks for sharing that, Mario. I do know that there are enlisted people and veterans who walk away from it all because they aren’t doing what they signed up to do – and that does not including killing people.

  9. John T. says:

    Your comments are right on the money. There is way too much glorification of violence in current American culture along with an obsession over guns. It’s time that people started seriously discussing whether the 2nd Amendment makes any sense in the modern world. Maybe it should be repealed now rather than blindly treating it as a sacred cow.

    • I am with you 100%. Keeping something in the Constitution that applied to a time when the country was not sure of it viability and in which we had to defend the land we took from Native Americans is insane (NPI). Why do we have to do some important things 50 or more years after the rest of the civilized world?

  10. Arlene Montemarano says:

    I believe something changed with this last atrocity. People are sober now. People really felt this one. If ever we could hope for change in our worship of violence, perhaps now is the most hopeful time yet. We do change as a society. Smoking has become very uncool. Perhaps violence will be regarded with the same disdain. Maybe this is the beginning. Maybe.

  11. Diane Walsh says:

    December 14th, and not today (Mayan Calendar prediction of December 21st), was the end of the world as we knew it. A brutal, heart-wrenching act will forever be in the memories of each of us old enough remember that day.
    Please take this moment and seriously consider who NEEDS semiautomatic assault weapons? For what; to what end? Please be rational, logical and thoughtful. No matter which side of the gun- rights law you sit, critically think about the purchase of semiautomatic weapons. Is a semiautomatic assault weapon a freedom? Or is the right to bear arms the freedom we protect? Two different concepts.
    Yes, I agree we need help with those who have mental illness; yes we need support for those parents and families who are alone in their struggles with their children; yes we need psychiatric community and educational programs; and in this moment, today-we have to get the legal means of fatally destroying communities stopped- immediately. Let us also look to supporting schools, health facilities, churches, communities with programs for the mentally ill, and not support cutting budgets, or deny paying taxes or contributing to these programs.
    There are more knowledgeable people than I who will, and can initiate a stoppage of the sale and distribution of semiautomatic assault weapons. It may be slow, but can be steady. I am calling on you, those who know. Please help us help this country, help us help you. Make your voices loud and clear. Do not allow others to attach the request for stoppage of sales and distribution of semiautomatic weapons and ammunition to any other bill for a vote. Keep the message simple for all to understand. Please hear our call.
    We did not only lose twenty innocents and eight adults, we each lost a piece of our hearts that day. No matter what your faith, or belief, remember the innocents this season, and help us give peace back to a nation who is grieving.

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