Today, December 14, 2012 is is a day that should live in infamy:
A gunman killed 26 people, 20 of them children between ages 5 and 10, in a shooting on Friday morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., about 65 miles northeast of New York City, the authorities said. The gunman, who was believed to be in his 20s, walked into a classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where his mother was a teacher. He shot and killed her and then fatally shot 20 students, most in the same classroom. He also fatally shot five other adults, and then killed himself inside the school. One person was also injured in the shooting.Twenty dead children, aged between 5 and ten years old. Today should be a day that will live in infamy. But it almost certainly won't. Because we would need to change, if we keep it alive in our memories. We would need to change our laws, our political and moral cultures. The memory hole is much easier. And others pay the cost, too.
Another body related to the case was at another scene in Connecticut, the authorities said, declining to be more specific.
According to NBC News, "he weapons used in the attack were legally purchased and were registered to the gunman's mother, two law enforcement officials said."
As the data rounded up by Ezra Klein shows, that's the norm. In the 61 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982 analyzed by Mother Jones, in about 50 of the cases, at least some of the guns used were legally purchased' in other words, "Of the 139 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns.... Just as Jeffrey Weise used a .40-caliber Glock to massacre students in Red Lake, Minnesota, in 2005, so too did James Holmes (along with an AR-15 assault rifle) when blasting away at his victims in a darkened movie theater."
The killers are disproportionately white males: "Just under half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (11 and 19, respectively); the other 31 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, government buildings, and military bases. Forty three of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman. (See Goleta, Calif., in 2006.)"
As the links gathered by Klein show, more guns correlates with more murders, and stricter gun control correlates with fewer murders. (See here and here.)
Meanwhile, the Republican-dominated legislature of Michigan passed a statute yesterday that liberalized the gun permit process, and opened up previously "gun free zones" to concealed carry permits, including:
• Schools and school property
• Child-care centers
• Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, or other places of worship
• Entertainment facilities that seat 2,500 people or more
• Dormitories and classrooms of a community college, college, or university.
There, now, don't you feel better?
The gun-fantasist response to all this mayhem, of course, is to claim that more guns are the answer--that if only the teachers had guns, they could have acted to protect the students, or perhaps even the older students were packing heat, the gunman would have been taken down. Gary Trudeau's spectacle of Uncle Duke calling for a "return of gunplay to our once-proud schools" has come true.
Former Governor Mike Huchabee claims that we dirty liberals brought it on ourselves, that "We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools; Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"
This is, of course, madness. To answer Huckabee succinctly, I can find no better retort than that of John Milton to Calvinist theories of predestination: "Though I may be sent to Hell for it, such a God will never command my respect."
But it is equally madness to say that this situation isn't worsening--Klein shows that of the 11 deadliest shooting sin the US, 6 have happened from 2007to the present. This is a political matter, too, because the NRA has wielded outsize influx over both parties for four decades. And in election 2012, the NRA spent over 1.5 million dollars seeking to portray President Obama as scheming to take away citizens' rights to own guns, because he wanted to reinstate the Clinton Era assault rifle ban. And the Supreme Court, after correctly (if regrettably) finding that the Second Amendment to the Constitution limited the ability of Congress to restrict an individual's right to own guns, foolishly and rashly extended that ruling to the states, despite the very language of the Second Amendment, which provides the reason for the right: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
So what's to be done?
First, and hardest, the Supreme Court's ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago, which effectively abrogated the State's right to regulate gun ownership needs to be overruled, which would require a constitutional amendment. A very difficult thing to do, but necessary. I know that doesn't address the Michigan problem--the problem of states being governed by idiots. But it does allow for federalism and local control to play a role, and, rather than abrogating the Second Amendment in its entirety--something that cannot be envisioned in American political culture--and is limited to overriding a single bad decision by a split Court.
But that is not enough. We need a cultural shift, and this is not something the law can do, and that politics can only help a little bit. We need to stop glamorizing guns, and gun culture. We have to not accept that guns are cool, and that killing is manly, or strong, or sexy, or whatever the hell it is that explains our long-term love affair with guns.
We have to cut it right out.
Let me tell you something; I don't hate guns, per se. I played with toy guns as a child; my Uncle Bill taught me to shoot a pistol one summer up in Rhinebeck. It was fun; I enjoyed it. I understand that implements of death can be domesticated.
I fence. Fencing is an athletic discipline that takes what used to be a perversely beautiful, skill-intensive way to kill somebody, and reimagines it as a fun competition. It has not brought back the sword as a major weapon of mayhem. Gun owners, you want to sever that link between your hobby and death. Step up. Draw lines of what is and isn't acceptable behavior. Don't be afraid of bucking the NRA, and keep guns out of places where they don't belong--schools, churches, etc. Shame people who think it's ok to bring guns where they don't belong, and those among you who feel that the omnipresence of guns is the only way to be sure your rights won't be taken away.
As to those who say guns don't kill people, people kill people? Cut it out. Do you have any idea how inane that is? Guns make the difference between working hard to kill one person, or two, and being able to, without discernible skill, talent, or physical or mental stamina, indiscriminately slaughter. It's the difference between retail and wholesale murder, and if you don't know the difference--why, I just don't want to know you.
And remember the murdered.
Earth, cover not their blood!