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Sandy Hook massacre pivot point in wretched gun debate

The massacre of young children in Newtown was so nihilistic and meaningless that it has exposed the empty rhetoric and false illusions of the US gun lobby. From Connecticut, our writer-at-large braces for a long fight.

With the first funerals from the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre being held today, the gun control debate has started swinging around for the first time in decades. After two days of mourning, small but active protests have begun, with an Occupy-organised crowd marching on the NRA headquarters in DC, Senate majority leader being joined by “Blue Dogs” such as nominal Democrat Joe Manchin from West Virginia in calling for legislative action based on assault weapons.

Former Mitt Romney advisors, GOP congressman-turned-broadcaster Joe Scarborough, and other have crossed the line to say that a real debate is required on what action to take. The pilot wave of this new movement was provided by the President, addressing the bereaved community of Newtown, telling the nation that “we’re not doing enough … and we will have to change”.

But change is far from certain to come. As Nate Silver detailed in a piece on his blog, the gun control debate has shifted sharply towards “second amendment rights” in the past decade, with a proposed ban on assault weapons dropping in op-ed and commentary mentions by more than 90% in the past decade, while “rights” has risen remorselessly.

Intensive lobbying by the NRA and others has all but nobbled any attempt to have a debate on guns, and ramrodded the fatalism by which massacres and gun frequency remain uncorrelated. The NRA has gone silent in the wake of Newtown — there’s been no tweeting since 14 December (“Florida nears one million permits for concealed weapons!”) and has taken its Facebook page down. None of the pro-gun lobby would appear on the Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, leaving the field clear to opponents.

That would suggest a movement about to cash in its chips, but of course it has one ace-in-the-hole — the second amendment, and a Supreme Court determined to take the broadest possible interpretation of the “right to bear arms”. Several years ago it struck down a handgun ban in DC, and it has dealt the same way with a range of similar laws in several states.

Even a law passed with thunderous acclaim in both houses could be thrown out by the court. That would leave things as they are — there are currently 10 gun control bills held up in the Senate — and waiting for the next massacre. That would put the country into a cultural-political crisis that might begin to suggest the most audacious possible move yet — a campaign to modify the second amendment (repeal is beyond the realm even of political stunts).

There is no doubt that something has changed with this massacre, for obvious, if irrational reasons. This was the first large-scale primary school massacre in the US by a young person (rather than a disgruntled teacher), and the pull of guilt at a society’s failure to protect its own children has become a powerful force against the homilies of the gun lobby. There was a similar sort of feeling at the time of the Columbine massacre, but less strong, even though the prospect of a teenager facing a violent and immediate death — with the full knowledge of imminent extinction and a life missed out on — seems equally horrific.

To continue the old “guns don’t kill people, people do” shtick in the wake of all this, now seems not clever or persuasive, but obscene and obtuse. Subsequent events seemed to confirm that society was, in this respect, spinning out of control; on Sunday, a morning church service in Newtown’s St Rose of Lima church had to be abandoned when bomb and gun threats were phoned in. The Huffington Post is now running a whole series of reports on individual murders here and there, to show the absolute carnage in a country, where nowadays you have to hit double figures to make an impact.

The funerals will continue at Sandy Hook into — well, into Christmas. The new fight against a gun culture of symbolism and psychopathy has begun.”

It was inevitable that someone would come out in favour of guns in the wake of the tragedy, and in the US that was Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, who suggested that the massacre would have been stopped in its tracks if the head teacher had had an M4 with which she could have “taken the shooter’s head off”.

In Australia, commentator Tim Blair echoed the call: ”The first thing people do when some maniac begins firing a gun is to call for help from other people who carry guns. Just a thought, but it might be more efficient if those closer to the scene carried guns in the first place.”

The logic that the number of gun deaths in the US is going down, as the number of guns rises, has become part of the argument for “concealed carry” laws, which allow people to carry concealed weapons. In some limited circumstances these reduce crime. But gun murder has also fallen in areas where no such laws exist, as part of a general fall in overall crime.

Indeed a lot of the arguments that “there is nothing to see here” are spurious. It’s argued that the number of massacres hasn’t gone up since the ’20s. But in the ’20s many of these massacres were “rational crime” — they were either large family or clan feuds, gangsterism or the like. Much of this stuff now goes unreported. What passed for a massacre in the 20s, is Saturday night in Philadelphia now.

What has come out of the blue are stranger and semi-stranger massacres, which were almost unknown before World War II. Since Charles Starkweather, the killing of whole classes of people simply because they are co-workers, McDonald’s patrons or school students has gone through the roof. In their rush to defend guns, the gun lobby ignore this important shift.

The public doesn’t. They know that it is not merely the death but the meaning of it that matters, and the terror that goes with it. Newtown is so dominating, so unarguable because not the slightest rationality or purpose attaches to the crime, and hence to the deaths. It is a rip in the fabric of the universe, and most people — Americans included — don’t want to live in a world where that is as expectable as a car crash. The reality of Newtown is that the primary school has ceased to be a safe place in the everyday imagination. One massacre impacts tens of millions. The answer that more people should be armed simply takes society further in the direction of atomised war of all against all, that people are coming to stand up against. The Right don’t get it, because guns are a fantasy object for them. They render everyone less safe and less free, but they give the illusion of a pre-modern free society.

The funerals will continue at Sandy Hook into — well, into Christmas. The new fight against a gun culture of symbolism and psychopathy has begun. It will go well beyond the last interment, but it will be won.

There was never any doubt that it would take something special to create a pivot point for the US gun debate. I always thought it would be, say, three massacres in one week, double-figures jobs tripping off one on top of each other, the next one starting before the last had cleared. A change in the quality of the debate would come about from a change in quantity, the sheer number of dead. But in the end it was the reverse. It took a killing so atrocious, so nihilistic in character to open the floodgates of protest.

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  • 1
    Saugoof
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Guns don’t kill people, people do”, guns just make it so much easier….

  • 2
    Notmyname
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    The answer could lie in the NRA’s name alone, National “Rifle” Association. Rifles, not assault weapons.

  • 3
    paddy
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Well done Guy. A fine piece of sanity and realism amidst the chaos.
    The idea that traditional American “gun culture” might have actually reached its high water mark, is a stunning thought.
    But what an appalling horror was required to get there.
    Fingers crossed that the tide has truly turned.

  • 4
    Phil L
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Guy, always loved your work, and the articles over the last two days make me respect it more.

    The sheer lunacy over the guns laws in America defies definition.

    The fact that so many of its citizens are terrified and paranoid about either the government or the neighbours is alien to me. Can anyone cite any research about why so many in the US feel the need to own assault rifles?

  • 5
    Notmyname
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Phil L - I think you answered your own question, “Paranoid”. Get “him” before “he” gets me. Whoever Him and He may be.

  • 6
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    If I wanted to be really cruel, I could say that this tragedy is the fault of all Americans, including those whose children have been so horrifically murdered. When will they wake up? Get rid of these weapons. True, people pull the trigger, but if these weapons were not so readily available, without checks and balances at least, then this would NOT happen. Both Britain and Australia got these weapons out of the community AFTER such a horror - and there hasn’t been one since! (Sadly, I believe that Australia now has as many guns as were present when Port Arthur happened - need to tidy this up and soon!)

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve shed many tears since this horror unfolded! I should also add, that a similar number of children were killed in Afghanistan in recent days - without any sorrow from the West! I didn’t even know until a few hours ago! Hypocrisy rears its ugly head again!

    Anyone in the US can walk in and buy a gun. Laws have been lessened to the extent that in some States you can even take your gun to school, and have the right to shoot anyone you THINK may be a threat! Total and absolute madness! This has been borne out by the death in February of a young black teenager by a white ‘neighbourhood watch’ male? He’ll probably get let off scot free!

    A couple of sentences written down 200 years ago? The NRA have had the power - they’re the political arm of this prolific money spinner! Recent events appear to be removing some of their power - not one of their candidates was elected in the recent elections. Now’s the time for Obama to JUST DO IT! Get weapons of war off the streets, and make sure all applicants are scrutinised, and a law like ours, where weapons and ammunition have to be locked up in different places - and make sure police enforce these Laws! Only then will change be in evidence. Until then, we’ll all just wait until the next horrific tragedy!

    What price do they put on their kids? This god loving, god fearing country - the world’s biggest democracy, blah blah!

  • 7
    tinman_au
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    “Guns don’t kill people, people do”, guns just make it so much easier….”

    Especially if that gun can fire 50+ rounds per minute…

  • 8
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    People can make changes and constitutions are being rewritten all over the world. If this freedom (bearing arms) kills people, lets have less of it.
    In this global village it is not just America that ‘owns’ that kind of freedom and those that keep promoting guns are the ones on the trigger. The NRF and the supporting senators are the ones with the finger on the trigger. Bring those to account instead of the bodies of children now being burried.
    http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/international-court-of-justice-at-the-hague-bring-the-us-pro-gun-senators-to-justice

  • 9
    Bartlett Geoff
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    From the distance of a casual observer, I don’t see a lot changing in the U.S. as a result of this (I would like to be shown wrong on this).
    Give it a few weeks, a month or two, and the gun lobby will be back in full voice.
    #5 on the Tea Party’s list of non-negotiable core principles: Gun Ownership is Sacred. No less than sacred.
    The Tea Party cold fade away as did Pauline Hanson; but many of her views were co-opted by the mainstream parties, so not much hope there.
    Meaningful gun control would require strong bi-partisan support and a willingness to commit electoral suicide for a principle. Any takers?

  • 10
    Charles Richardson
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t worry much about the supreme court if I were you Guy. Sure, something like a blanket ban on handguns would probably be thrown out, but that’d have zero chance of getting thru congress in the first place. Anything that could conceivably get past congress would pretty clearly be constitutional.

  • 11
    mikeb
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Too many people love their guns for anything to change. The NRA are banking on the fuss dying down and it will be back to usual.

  • 12
    malcolm.grant1
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Phil L,

    I honestly believe that the answer to your question lies in the common belief in the ‘Manifest Destiny’ of the USA by its citizens.

    Americans are continually told that they are blessed by god (sic), that they are special, that they are the Leaders of the ‘Free World’ etc.

    I have spoken to a number of Americans over the years and i would class most of them as rational, intelligent thoughtful people. But even then most of these people honestly believe (nay they KNOW) that their country is special and the BEST IN THE WORLD.

    As a Psychologist I think that this is very likely to create in them a sense of a) entitlement (to power, an audience, acceptance etc.) & b) fear that everyone else in the world wants what they have and is willing to take it by force.

    Throw those together with an almost religious belief that they must spread thier system and beliefs everywhere (typified by statements by people like George Bush Jr. on what he believed would be the response to the invasion of Iraq) and you create a fearful and uncomprehending populace.

    A perfect breeding ground for the culture exemplified by the reactions of people claiming that guns aren’t the problem, that they need them (and more) to protect themselves.

    I apologise for the brevity of my comment, but I have a small child and I don’t really want to think about the events in Newtown too much.

  • 13
    Dion Giles
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    The Second Amendment clause was introduced not as a bulwark against tyranny but to appease planters fearing slave revolts and land grabbers fearing Native American resistance.

    75% of Americans don’t own guns. The remaining 25% get their way because of the corruption of politicians and because the gun freaks are a voting bloc big enough decide election results. The way to defeat the gunnies is to present the clash of values - the right of five-years-olds to stay alive all day vs the right to compensate for personal inadequacy by gun ownership - bluntly to the 75%, brushing aside the weasel excuses of the 25%, until being soft on gunnies is electoral poison.

  • 14
    Bretty
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    When arming primary school teachers is put forward as a solution by political leaders, you have a dysfunctional society. Gun culture has nothing to do with self-defence - that’s the acceptable public face - it’s a culture rooted in a strange brew of survivalist fantasies, warped patriotism, and military fetishism.

  • 15
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Guy,

    The US is a seriously sick society…in context this sad event is an infinitessimal blip on an horizon littered with millions of brutalised bodies at home and abroad over the past 50 years…..how many innocent kids will be mordered by Obama’s next drone strike?

    Will he shed tears for them?

  • 16
    Spica
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    It would be good to see the US tackle the NRA, but it might not make much difference to their murder rate.
    I just looked up a list of countries by intentional homicide, and number of guns per capita, both on wikipedia, and there is simply no correlation.
    The US is way out in front for gun ownership at 88 per 100 souls, but the murder rate is only 4.2 per 100,000.
    This is 3 or 4 times the rate for western europe or Australia or Japan, but the US is quite unlike these places in its social fabric, or lack of it.
    A lack of social cohesion seems to be the best predictor for murder rates, not freedom or repression, not poverty or inequality (look at Africa versus India and China), and evidently not gun ownership.

  • 17
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    If the President can use his powers to authorise the death of people via Drones, why can’t he do it with an issue like this? Funny how the GOP’s are quiet. Perhaps none of their kids/family members have been slain? After all, blacks and kids aren’t really people are they? Disgusted! They’re so puerile in so many areas, except mass murder of their own people! Defies imagining!

  • 18
    michael r james
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    but it will be won”

    Bold words but rather surprising since I understood your earlier reiteration of the Supreme Court is the major roadblock to most reform. Perhaps some reform like Clinton’s now-lapsed ban on fully-automatic assault weapons — which, in the overall context of 300 million weapons in private hands, is essentially trivial — may pass, though it would need 18 HoR Republicans and probably more given not all Dems are in favour of clamping down on guns.

    No, the most significant thing that Obama could and might manage, is to help win the 2014 elections to give a Dem majority in the House (and super-majority, if still needed, in the Senate). And to get the chance to appoint at least one if not more sensible justices to the SCOTUS. Oh, and dare I say it, another conveniently timed massacre to remind the American public of the issue (no real need to mention this because they come along at regular intervals).

  • 19
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    @ Kevin Herbert you’re spot on. I don’t see the media hyperventilating over drone strike victims or the miserable outcomes of the nuclear strike on Japan, the wars of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and many mini-wars in between.

  • 20
    Mark M
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Why wasn’t a poor deluded child like this recognised earlier and given help? Because he was home schooled by a paranoid survivalist mother with loads of assault weapons in a society that believes that it’s every man for himself. What a fantastic combination.

  • 21
    Tom Jones
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    It also is hard to argue when the weapons are being used by people who have bought into the guns for safety argument. That the alleged killers’ mother had many guns and taught her sons to use them - no doubt because she feared that violence would be visited on her outsider son - shows that the argument for self defence is idiotic if someone doesn’t play by the rules.

  • 22
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    The only way out is to provide all gun owners in the US amnesty and allow them to hand in weapons in exchange for weapons with the reversible bullet technology. No one loses face except those that will be foolish enough to try it out. A ‘win-win’ for everybody. The constitution won’t need changing and people will still be able to proudly show of their gun cabinets and meet at gun ranges etc.
    Later on the technology could be used in larger weapons, drones, cannons etc.

  • 23
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    @Mark M - ” Because he was home schooled by a paranoid survivalist mother with loads of assault weapons in a society that believes that it’s every man for himself”

    Mothers/women get the blame again. He did have a father you know? HE may have instilled the gun culture? He may have insisted on guns being available? They may have even been purchased by him? Why is the mother always to blame, when kids have two parents? Some men only take the kudos for good grades and high achievement! Hell, too many fathers choose to walk away when there’s a child born with or develops some ‘challenging behaviour’? Don’t believe me? Take a look at the discussions/forums/interviews re children with disabilities, and all too often the women are left to do all the heavy lifting plus! Too many men can’t cope!

    IF the young man in question had mental issues, and with the US’s attitude to health care (if you can’t pay up you can die) no wonder he ‘lost it’? 18,000 Americans die each year due to inadequate health care or none at all. The health funds can reject anything they like, regardless! It’s not like Australia - with all its problems, it’s way ahead! We don’t let people die just because they’re not rich!

    Unless you know the truth, stop blaming the mother. Gives me the shits big time! I know a family where they home schooled 3 kids - all OK people!

  • 24
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t they do criminal/health checks on all who apply for a licence? Do they have to have a licence? What questions are asked? What is the age limit? Is there one? Can a 15 yr old own a gun legally?

    There are lots of things that could be tightened up!

    They could also clean up their health care? Including mental health? What is the attitude to mental health? As prejudicial as Australia still is? Racism and fear of the ‘savages’ attitude is rife, particularly in the South! I’d bet that their gun laws are more lax than other states.

    There’s an awful lot of racial prejudice in the US - just like here! Espanics, blacks etc are hated in many communities. The population of that town is about 95% white!

    I believe, that the main problem is too many guns including machine type weapons, inadequate Laws and then mix in all the other human ‘conditions’ and you have a lethal mix! The first step is to change what goes on between the ears! That is the hardest part. Then you need a strong leader. I think Obama could be that person!

  • 25
    Mark M
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    @Liz45. Of all the things I said you have decided to focus on the words “mother” and “home schooled”… Hmmmm

    Firstly, the fact that it was his mother has nothing to do with this, it was the fact that she/he/whatever was paranoid, survivalist and had a love of assault weapons

    Secondly, the fact that he was home schooled would surely mean that he was isolated from people who may of been able to help him, as his mother was, from my reading of the news, underqualified to deal with this kind of mental illness. I have nothing against home schooling, but I think that isolation from institutions in cases like this that might help is foolish and negligent. This child needed help and he didn’t get it, I suspect, because his condition was not recognised for what it may become.

    Finally, the US seems to allow too many of these people to slip through the cracks. As I said “every man for himself”.

  • 26
    Mark M
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    @Liz45

    too often the women are left to do all the heavy lifting plus! Too many men can’t cope!

    . Really??? Hard to interpret that as anything but a blatantly sexist comment. Hard to believe that a forum on an article like this one leads us into this crap.

  • 27
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    @Mark M - It’s not a sexist comment - not in my experience? I did NOT say that all men leave, but I do believe that the women are all too frequently left to care for the child alone! How many men do you know who are caring for kids alone? Even kids without any health issues? Maybe I’ve watched more documentaries and listened to more people who have children with a disability than you? I am involved with a women’s health centre after all, which means I have my ‘finger on the pulse’ so to speak than perhaps you have. I watch and read a lot about children with special needs, and who are their main carers? I also have an interest in this area, and the plight of the carers of children with disabilities. Sometimes it’s the challenges of the child’s illness that breaks up the parent’s relationship!

    Any, How do you know the information you’ve alluded to? Unless you lived there or know the family etc, you’re only guessing out of the bits and pieces that traumatized people have said in small grabs in the media. I haven’t heard anyone in authority make those summations - that’s my point! Thankfully, our system of justice doesn’t operate via media information via people who are traumatized and looking for something that might explain their horrific loss! The people in that town are still in shock! Those who performed the post mortems would be too. so would many members of the police force etc. They’re human beings. The awful and brutal death of children is horrific and affects everyone, even the most professional person. That’s why they employ Counsellors/Psychiatrists in those fields.

    Adults deal with facts - not assumptions from an unreliable source! This was the same attitude that had Peter Slipper ‘done and dusted’ and calling for his head! A Judge, close to the issue had an opposite and damning view of the accuser! A good lesson I’d suggest! He didn’t have any ulterior motive or interest, only the evidence and what was put before him!

    Let’s just wait until those close to the issue can put all evidence etc together and come up with an adult assessment, not a Fox News running commentary!

    I’m waiting for that. In the meantime I just shudder to think of their pain and anguish at this time. They don’t need assumptions by people on the other side of the world!

    The young man was obviously troubled by something. Whether he was always thus is not known. For some to say now, that they’re not surprised doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Just because you’re reclusive or a home body or home schooled or even have a mental illness, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a psychopath? There are people who live full lives but have a mental illness - of many ages. There are young disturbed people, but they don’t go on a killing rampage! It’s too easy to compartmentalise and then make assumptions. That’s why I’d rather focus on the attitude to guns than anything else. That’s what has to change, keeping in mind that there MAY be people who could do such things IF they have easy access to guns.

    I’m sure, that if Ms Lanza had any idea of what her son would do, she’d have removed those weapons - she’d still be alive. It’s ludicrous to make a character judgement about her? It’s too easy and is unfair! Perhaps his father suffered from a mental illness? Perhaps he inherited that gene etc? It can happen! Let’s wait for more information from those conducting the investigation - that’s all I’m saying!

    Of course, unlike me, you may be a highly qualified person in the area of mental illness and the consequences of same. But, you’re here, not there! You’re only guessing, and your guesses are possibly/probably totally wrong!

  • 28
    Liz45
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes, I’m not the one who made the judgements about the mother. You did! I’d have thought that nobody would even make assumptions on the information before us. Not very mature!

    I responded to YOUR assumptions? I didn’t say anything first! You did! I thought that was crap - that’s why I responded in the manner I did!

  • 29
    Tom Jones
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Whatever her faults or pluses the mother was the first to die and so all the guns in the cupboard couldn’t save her when it was needed - and what mother would shoot her child even if being threatened with a gun?
    The people in the USA focus on the outsider whereas many murders are by those nearest and dearest. The biggest danger is to have access to such a weapon when reason leaves home.

  • 30
    Hugh (Charlie) McColl
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I believe that the guns that were used belonged to the mother and were ‘registered’ in her name.

  • 31
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Of the tens of thousands of gun deaths in the USA per year, only a tiny fraction are of the high powered automatic rifle variety, (some 300 odd each year, if my memory serves me). But in terms of horror, mass shootings of random innocents sure gets world headlines, and here is the logistical problem: the AR15 is the most popular automatic rifle in the US, and just because a couple of deranged people use them for mass murder (I loathe the euphemism ‘tragedy’), the 99.9999% of owners are a very large swathe of Americans.

    Guy’s been following the other bit of kabuki, the sudden pilgrims to Damascus (Republicans even!), but I’m not convinced this is more than kabuki. As one Newtown resident said, who could see the school from his house: “Guns don’t kill people”

    I kid you not, he said it, to camera, dead straight, as he looked down the road to a place of unspeakable carnage. He said it to the corpses of 20 little children, still warm on the ground.

    There are no words that can ever make me comprehend that, but that’s in their DNA.

    Oh, how I wish Obama well, but not with much hope.

  • 32
    floorer
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Yesterday everything was calm and collected now it’s a pivot point? Yes I’m confused (at least by these articles). Sometimes the striving for “colour” seems to overwhelm whatever else is actually happening.

  • 33
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    I should correct the above: the AR15 is not technically ‘high powered’ but it is fully automatic.

    Small point.

    The bigger one is that the 10 year ban, the AWB (assault weapon ban) from 1994 to 2004 did not show a reduction in mass gun homicides according to the Dept of Justice.

    It’s complex, and ugly, and heart breaking.

  • 34
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the result: more sales of the AR15.

    Get your mind around it:

    (http) :/ /edition.cnn.com/video/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=cnni#/video/us/2012/12/18/lawrence-ar-15-gun-sales-profile.cnn?eref=edition

  • 35
    Andybob
    Posted Tuesday, 18 December 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    The AR15 sold to civilians is semi-automatic and has a different bolt carrier and receiver to the fully automatic M16 supplied to the military. The AR15 can be converted to fully automatic by replacing those parts, but it is illegal to do so unless you use pre May 1986 parts registered with BATF and you hold a federal license for a fully automatic weapon. The weapons at Sandy Hook were semi-automatic. It is important to keep the distinction in mind as regulating automatic weapons would not affect semi-automatic assault rifles.

    I once heard someone describe a survivalist gun nut in the US as worried that the government was trying to take over the country. I laughed, but this is literally true. One of the claims for maintaining the right to bear arms is that it prevents government tyranny. Which rather begs the question, exactly how do you protect yourself from government tyranny by using a gun ?

  • 36
    Graham R
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Nothing will change. Just sayin.’

  • 37
    CHRISTOPHER DUNNE
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    Ok, ‘semi’-automatic. But can be (illegally) modified easily to be fully automatic ie a machine gun.

    But it can fire fast enough to pump bullets into kids pretty rapidly.

    There are many millions of them in US homes.

    Go figure.

  • 38
    Mark M
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    @Liz. Actually… What is being reported is that the man lived at home with his single mother. All the stuff I stated is what has been reported. Check out here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/18/newtown-gunman-adam-lanza-what-we-know

    Why would I say it otherwise? You seem very sensitive on these issues.

  • 39
    Kaye Uiterwyk
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    I’m a little annoyed by this debate being deflected from the issues of gun ownership into one about mental illness. I suffer from an illness and one of the symptoms is acute psychosis. The first problem is the assumption that people like me are more dangerous than the general population. This isn’t supported statistically. Mental illness is demonised in popular culture. Stopping people who have mental illnesses buying guns could be seen as discrimination. I can’t see why I should be prevented buying a gun, if I wanted one. This assumption that mentally ill people are a silent minority who can’t stand up for their rights and are, indeed, incapable of standing up for their rights, or too embarrassed to stand up for their rights is wrong. But I don’t want a gun. I’m far too sane to be interested in owning a gun. Keeping guns away from the likes of me, is going to do diddly squat to prevent this type of thing from happening. Also there’s the well, to do this, it follows he must have been insane… why didn’t anybody see this was going to happen? Anybody can “crack”. Even “normal” people. Ultimately, you can’t predict human behaviour. The glorification of violence, the “copy cat” factor, the promise of eternal notoriety, the attention of the world-wide media, the temptation to commit an act so anti-social, so beyond-the-pale before you violently self-destruct. I suspect these kinds of things are the factors and nobody can foresee this kind of act. They might be able to predict what kind of personality is going to commit these acts. This kid most likely wasn’t mad, or insane, in the medical or the legal definitions. He most likely just fucked-up. The guns weren’t his they were his mother’s. I would say that if you really want these types of weapons, you’re probably fucked-up. And changing attitudes about guns, and gun control, is keeping this shit out of the hands of the fucked-ups, and more importantly, the kids of the fucked-ups. And, as a woman, and most of these crimes are perpetrated by men, it makes more sense to stop men from buying guns. I have a diagnosed mental illness, and would therefore be prevented from owning a gun. But some fucked-up, kill-crazy can buy as many as they want? Let’s apply a Catch-22. If you want guns, as in semi-automatics, pistols, high-powered assault weapons, you probably shouldn’t have one. Stop deflecting the debate to mental illness. Mental illness has its own issues. Removing the stigma and stopping the demonisation are two and this debate is not helping here. It’s about guns.

  • 40
    Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    @Mark M - This is your comment - heavy with judgement and insinuations NOT based on fact. ” Because he was home schooled by a paranoid survivalist mother with loads of assault weapons in a society that believes that it’s every man for himself”

    You are amazing! You raised the issue of this young man’s mother with a very judgmental comment. Nobody else has blamed anyone except the lax gun laws and past history of mass shootings etc. Only YOU have hinted at blame. I responded! Now you’re accusing ME of being “very sensitive on these issues”? You mean, your jumping in too quickly to blame mothers when kids ‘go wrong’ etc? Amazing! I strongly suggest, that if this young man ‘lived at home with his single father’ you wouldn’t have made such a comment. Do you have the honesty to ask yourself that question.

    The fact is - the gunman was a lone male of approximately 20 years. Nobody, including the police, forensic pathologists etc have found anything that could point to motive or any other factor - at this stage! The gunman is dead, his mother is dead and most of those concerned are also dead. The two miraculous survivors haven’t been interviewed as yet. Police announced that they would not be ‘giving a running commentary’ while they continue their investigations. These are the facts. Let’s stick to them, plus the ridiculous availability of dangerous weapons - in anyone’s hands. The thought of these little people being shot several times by one of these weapons makes me want to be ill! Those conducting the post mortems deserve gratitude and understanding - they must’ve been gut wrenching to say the least.

    What “has been reported” is not fact but assumptions, opinions - just because they live in the area doesn’t mean they KNOW why this young man acted in such a horrific and violent manner. That is the only real fact we know about him - that evidence and the two survivors know that he did it then killed himself. I’m saying, let’s wait until the police finish their investigations which will include interviews with those traumatized survivors - who will need lots of counselling and privacy in the days, months ahead. Watch the media hound them though! The same media reporting comments that you allude to confirming your sexist assumption - it didn’t! It clearly stated that nobody knows of any motive. I’d add, and they may never know. Rumours? Certainly. Facts? Probably not!

    This is paragraph 6 of the link above which only reinforces my assertions;

    With the main building blocks of any substantial understanding so far lacking, investigators will have to fill in as best they can. To that effect, detectives have already begun a systematic round of interviews with relatives, friends and neighbours of the Lanza family.

    There’s nothing in the article you recommended as your source that uses judgmental language against the mother of this young man. None!

    The men I feel sorry for in that family are his father and brother. Apparently his brother Ryan was informed while at work about this horrific act of violence. His mother and brother are dead, and sadly, he and his father will probably receive some ugly mail and behaviours - I hope not, but past situations point to this being a strong possibility. Apart from their shock, trauma and grief, their road ahead will probably be a sad one at least!I saw his Aunt interviewed and so far the community is not blaming her or her family. She is not responsible for this horror - nor is his mother - being related is not viewed by the justice system as guilt by association. Also, it’s easy to be judgmental against someone who’s not able to defend themselves. Sadly on too many occasions, it’s open season on mothers!

    What is more relevant than you’re quick to lay blame at the feet of his now dead mother, a real question of relevance is, why are males the main perpetrators of all violence and particularly mass murders? Name one tragedy of this nature, anywhere in the world where the murderer was a woman!

    very sensitive”? you bet! It would be interesting for males to engage in a meaningful conversation as to why their sex uses violence as their ‘solution’ to issues, discord etc? Unlike your sexist comments, this question has more legitimacy and sadly enough history to add weight to it!

    I don’t know how old you are, but I’m nearly 68 and it worries me greatly. I’ve lived long enough to have witnessed the same horror as is now being felt around the world countless times - when will it cease, and more importantly why does it happen? And why don’t women with mental illnesses or who appear to be ‘strange and silent -withdrawn - reclusive - loners - unemployed - employed but unhappy - got the sack - broke off a relationship - a war veteran etc. don’t engage in this manifestation of anger, rage etc. This IS relevant!

  • 41
    Mark M
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    @Liz45 Good grief.. If I had said “father” would that have made a difference? Would we be having this conversation? You also might want to ask yourself why it matters how old I am or what gender I am. Is that going to help fit me into some male demographic group you have devised, full of angry violent men who hate women?

    That said, you are completely correct. I have made a comment about one of his parents from what I have read which will almost certainly not the full story.

    Whilst I can understand why you might think I am blaming the mother, actually… I am not at all. I find it hard to believe that this home situation might be considered normal in the US. End of story really.

    Get of your high horse and stop pretending that women are somehow better than men. You clearly have an issue with males in general.

  • 42
    Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    @mARK m - Why can’t you just admit to what I said and apologize? NO, you’d rather continue by turning the tables on me? Typical behaviour! SOME men just have a real problem with women, and then blame us for raising these assertions? You’ve admitted that you were just repeating what some journalist had written, or some off hand comment by someone searching for answers - someone who’s in a state of shock!

    I’m not saying that women are “better”? I’m saying that around the world the main perpetrators of ALL crimes of violence are MALE! Don’t turn that into some nonsense about being a ‘man hater’ and other rubbish! Be an adult who likes to think he’s intelligent! These are the FACTS - in Australia, the US and everywhere else on the planet!

    Isn’t it amazing how people like you raise the gender card against women responding to unjust off hand comments, clearly exhibiting a total lack of forethought or intelligence! Amazingly, how you STILL rebuke me!

    I know of a family in Australia whose kids were home schooled. They’re achievers, musical, intelligent (males and a female) and all productive young adults! I’ve known their father since he attended school with my three sons - a man I’ve had great affection for for decades! His wife is a lovely person too!

    As far as I know it’s not a criminal offence to home school in this country - I’ve never heard of any action taken against the parents I’ve alluded to!

    These crimes are a gender issue. You can’t deny the facts? IF you or anyone can point me to any whole scale slaughter of unknown innocents, then I’ll amend my comments. MEN are the ones who commit these crimes? They are also responsible for killing people they purport to love - one every 7-10 days in Australia. Don’t believe me, do some research! This awful slaughter was the 3rd (at least) this year alone in the US. There’s the bloke in Norway who murdered how many, 67 or so, Martin Bryant 35 or so and another 20 or more injured! That’s just off the top of my head without doing further research!

    Other crimes of violence - sexual assaults, pedophilia? Do the research. Perhaps when men accept the reality then they may have the dialogue! Imagine if the stats showed women as the overwhelming perpetrators? My goodness! There’d be all sorts of ‘Laws’ introduced to stop this.

    Why are we having a Royal Commission into the sexual assault of children? Who are the perpetrators in this instance? Why does it happen, and how can we stop it! I just want the conversation to commence, instead, all I get from people like you is a ‘shoot the messenger’ mentality - pardon that inappropriate pun! I should’ve said, ‘vilify the one who dares mention its name’? MALE VIOLENCE!

    These are the facts Mark - not just some feminist’s assertions - FACTS! I have to live with the knowledge that the chances of me being assaulted is much higher than yours. The chance of sexual assault is also higher than yours - and age has nothing to do with it. A few weeks ago a woman in her mid 80’s was such a victim. I think, on the FACTS I have every right to raise this aspect in this instance - I’m at more risk than you are! The realistic FACTS bear this out! I haven’t said one thing on the basis of some ‘reporter’ in a newspaper somewhere, who may or may not be taking advantage of this horrible tragedy.

  • 43
    Liz45
    Posted Wednesday, 19 December 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    @KAYE - Couldn’t agree more. We are changing our attitudes to mental illness, but it’s slow and often tedious, and people such as yourself have had to put up with discrimination and heaps of crap!

    I agree also about the reference to males and the fact that all these types of crimes in my living memory are perpetrated by men. I have a comment awaiting moderation(42) that reinforces our views.

    Only last night in Sydney a young man was shot dead outside his home. There was another one last week! Perpetrators are most likely male!

    It’s time for men to start discussing this reality instead of being overly defensive and trying to turn the tables on women who have the temerity to voice this fact. The discussion hasn’t started yet, and I’m not holding my breath! They prefer to live in denial.

    Every time something awful like this happens, I yell at the TV or radio? ‘When will you blokes stop this’? I’m really sick to death of it. I’ve not long welcomed my first great grand child who I dearly love, and I despair that this sort of thing will still be happening when she’s a young woman! Really frazzled about this!

    Take care of you Kaye!

  • 44
    Ron King
    Posted Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    It is hard to understand why Obama is so timid on this. What has he got to lose? Not an election - or is he worried about the next mid-term?

    There is only one solution - the John Howard kind…

    Take all semi-automatic and automatic weapons off the population of the USA. Give them $100 each in an amnesty of the same kind as Howard ran after Port Arthur.

    And for all those check shirted baseball capped Daniel Boones - let them all have a black powder muzzle loader in keeping with their beloved 1789 constitutional right to arm bears.

  • 45
    Lynne Schultz
    Posted Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    I am an American, but I do not own a gun (except for the antique my husband inherited that is in a locked safe because we don’t know what else to do with it. There is no ammo & is probably too old to be operational.) Gun ownership here has gone down in the past 40 years even as the number of guns have gone up. That is because a small number of gun owners have large stockpiles of multiple weapons. Yes, we have a small number of gun crazy survivalists here, but they are not representative of the average American.

    The majority of Americans, while not in favor of blanket bans on all guns, are in favor of common sense measures such as a ban on military style assault weapons and extended magazines, mental health check requirements, and an end to the gun show loophole. This latest tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary is different from the previous in a number of ways: it’s close in time to several previous ones, and it involved multiple deaths of very young children (6 and 7 years old). Yes there are those who have said “now is not the time to talk about gun control” but a lot of others of us are sick to death of hearing that and are pushing back.

    The major obstacle to change is the NRA (now beholden to the gun manufacturers rather than their members) and their lobbyists and money being thrown at our politicians. However, if you look closely at our elections you’ll see that money alone doesn’t always win out. In the 2012 election in particular, billions of dollars were wasted on candidates who lost! And many candidates who won were outspent by the losers. Some NRA members have openly revoked their memberships and the NRA is feeling enough pressure that they’ve announced they will make some sort of announcement on Dec. 21st. (Some say it’s an olive branch but I fear it’ll just be weasel words. Still, they must be feeling some pressure to make any statement.)

    And yes, we have the Second Amendment but even our First Amendment has some limits (no yelling fire in crowded theater, no defamation, no obscenity, time & place restrictions) so I don’t think we need to get rid of the Second Amendment in order to put common sense restrictions in place. The Supreme Court only said we can’t ban all handguns (as Washington DC once tried to do.) It didn’t rule out all forms of gun control or say anything about assault rifles.

    For all these reasons, I am hopeful that change is coming soon, regarding our gun laws. I’m a little less optimistic about expansion of mental health services, but I really hope we take care of that side of the problem as well.

  • 46
    Mark M
    Posted Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    @Liz. Oh for the love of… Seriously???
    ok. Interesting (ironically) you seem to be the aggressor here, screaming at me for some kind of apology.

    You seem to have missed my point, even though I have admitted that my “offhand” comment is a result of news reports. I also stated that there is more to this story and have tried to elaborate on what I said to provide more detail about why I wrote what I did.

    I am actually interested in which part you really disagree with

    * Assuming that he was home schooled, would that be the right choice for a child like this, when he needs professional help? I have said that I have nothing against home schooling. Only in this instance… not a good idea.
    * Survivalist = paranoid. A bad influence on person that is “f**cked up” wouldn’t you think? (how is f**cked up not mentally ill Kaye?)
    * loads of assault weapons. Hmmm. I have noticed you have avoided that part of my offhand comment. Who’s guns were they I wonder?

    That said. I had to have a laugh at your profound insight:

    Do the research. Perhaps when men accept the reality then they may have the dialogue! Imagine if the stats showed women as the overwhelming perpetrators? My goodness! There’d be all sorts of ‘Laws’ introduced to stop this.

    I have not idea what on earth you are talking about. Society in general abhors violence Liz. We have laws to prevent it and the last time I checked, they were not gender specific. Who would disagree that men are the major perpetrators of violent crime. However, I get the impression that you seem to think that this horrific act of violence occurred because he was male, which is laughable really. Who’s guns were they Liz?

    You still haven’t answered my question about why my age matters here.

  • 47
    Liz45
    Posted Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Mark, for goodness sake. The point is that your comments were not based on fact - only heresay evidence at best. My main urging was to wait for this to happen. It’s not rocket science - glad you’re not a police officer or a judge! God forbid! If you want to be acknowledged as an adult, act like one and wait for the facts. Obviously, sane rational people who have respect for human life don’t engage in mass murder? Who knows what his motivation was? Perhaps we’ll never know. The fact is, that if guns, all guns weren’t so easy to acquire people wouldn’t die from gunshot wounds! Simple! Unless you live in someone elses’ skin, you just don’t know? How many times have crimes of violence been committed and the neighbours are surprised if not shocked by the perpetrator’s actions? Many times!

    As far as women are concerned, there’s still people in the community who think it’s OK to give your wife/partner a ‘biff’ to bring them into line. It’s changing, but there’s still a long way to go. There’s also men who think that ‘no’ really means ‘yes’? They’re slowly being educated too! There’s an ingrained culture that women are the property of? and therefore their ‘masters’ can act accordingly! This culture is usually one way, and often results in violence? The Provocation defence has allowed the pride of men or their outrage at being rejected by their partner as understandable,the Juries are asked if they could react in the same manner, and so killing a wife or partner is not deemed as serious as killing a neighbour or a stranger. In 2012, there are still too many people who agree with this, hence the campaign to get rid of this unjust defence. Yes, there are Laws about violence, but the question still is in the 21st century, are all victims equal?

    If you have to ask the questions, or make the comments that you have, then it’s very clear to me that you are ignorant of the facts, and so far haven’t shown any willingness to correct this.

    Mark, have you ever done any research into crimes of violence in this country? Any at all! Why it was only in the 70’s in some states and 80’s in others that made it a crime for men to rape their wives. The horrific stats re DV clearly show, that the greatest threat to the health and safety of women 15-44 is via their husbands/partners?

    NSW still has the defence of Provocation, mostly used by men when they murder their wives/partners? Even when they stab them in the neck 8 times and have body cuts totally 40 - or when they stab their partner in the back? Recent cases Mark. Please do some research!

    These slack attitudes re Laws protecting women from violence were made several hundred years ago for crimes of pay back by men about men, and during times when capital punishment was still part of the justice system.

    The facts re violence are there to be researched if you’re not too lazy to spend the time. In the meantime, your stupid suppositions are just that - stupid! There’s a real ingrained culture amongst men that results in horrific crimes of violence. Acknowledge it and let’s have the conversation. While men keep on being in denial, it will continue!

    As for the young man’s mental state? There’s been nothing so far that has shed any light on him having a mental illness or not! Being introvert and secretive is, as far as I know, not a mental illness. But you’re the ‘expert psychiatrist’ you tell me! How can you diagnose a dead person over the other side of the world? Oh the Journalist for the Guardian said so? No, he did not! And that’s made very clear in that paragraph I put in a previous post.

    I don’t really think it’s relevant who purchased the guns. I could be surrounded by 100 of these weapons and wouldn’t even pick them up let alone use them. Perhaps he killed his mother because she wouldn’t open up the cupboard where they were stored? With the slack Laws, he could’ve purchased them himself? We already know that the lack of checks etc is a major issue in the US?

    And, I’m NOT screaming, I’m just frustrated by your rushing to conclusions without any concrete information, skills or qualifications. We may never know why he did this? Maybe it’s as simple as wanting a place in history? Who knows?

    @Lynne - Heard on the ABC news/7.30 last night that there are several hundred thousand of gun shootings each year resulting in 30,000 deaths? I’d say this clearly shows that there are too many guns in the community, and the culture has been that they can be used - in fact, in one State at least you can virtually shoot first and ask questions after. This slack Law does NOT exist in Australia or the UK or???

    30,000 people have acquired a lethal weapons and successfully killed another person or persons!

  • 48
    Kaye Uiterwyk
    Posted Thursday, 20 December 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    How is fucked-up not mentally ill? I am mad. Being mad, I don’t have to agree with classification system of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental illness. In my book you’re either mad or you’re normal. Did this young man know exactly what he was doing? Then he was normal. A fucked-up normal. You lot are always trying to duck-shove these people on to us. He’s one of yours, not one of ours.

  • 49
    Mark M
    Posted Friday, 21 December 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    @Liz. Once again the ad hominem attack. Once again the aggressor.

    The facts re violence are there to be researched if you’re not too lazy to spend the time. In the meantime, your stupid suppositions are just that - stupid! There’s a real ingrained culture amongst men that results in horrific crimes of violence. Acknowledge it and let’s have the conversation. While men keep on being in denial, it will continue!

    I was really hoping you wouldn’t say that you believe that this horrific act can be reduced to just another demonstration of male violence, but apparently you do.

    There’s been nothing so far that has shed any light on him having a mental illness or not

    No, there is Liz…. I suggest you look up the definition of a mental illness (disorder). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_disorder) Liz, a person that can put between 3-11 bullets into a 20 little children is NOT sane or well, he has a severe mental illness and that illness is not his gender. He did not kill because he was introverted and secretive or male (FFS???), He killed because he had a severe personality disorder that was not given the appropriate treatment. You keep bringing this back somehow to acts of violence against women, rape, etc, but that, whilst terrible, is not relevant here.

    I’m just frustrated by your rushing to conclusions without any concrete information, skills or qualifications.

    You have NO idea what my skills or qualifications are Liz, so don’t accuse me of jumping to conclusions without the facts. I actually have formal training in psychology, but I think you would prefer me to be ignorant here. Fits better with your world view I suspect, particularly of men.

    And that is where this discussion ends for me. What a waste of time. Damn you internet.

  • 50
    Kaye Uiterwyk
    Posted Friday, 21 December 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    @Liz45

    Liz, the fact that this young man, was young, white, middle-class and male is considered unremarkable by many. Of the 61 mass-murder suicides in recent years in the US, 60 have been young, white, middle-class and male. If they were black, or black and poor, oh dear, wouldn’t the story be different? Of course, the mother’s to blame! We’ll just class him as mentally ill and totally screwed up by his mum. Out come all the theories and the amateur psychology. We’ll just hang on to every bit of unsubstantiated media gossip we can get our hands on that proves that he’s not one us. It’s not our problem. Come on guys, you’ve got problems. One of them is the reluctance to admit you’ve got problems. Couple of days after this event, there were reports of a murder suicide here in Australia where a man shot his wife and her new boyfriend. It’s reported as unremarkable. Hey, Average Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand…

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