Seeing the Newtown headline come across my web feed was at once heart-wrenching and rage inducing. My first thoughts went to my son, an 11-year-old at a local middle school. I was selfishly relieved that it did not happen here in Florida while also knowing that it could have on any given day.
I was disturbed but not surprised. Using weapons designed for soldierly combat to murder defenseless—and increasingly younger–school children has now, somehow, become a fringe aspect of America’s gun culture. Even as overall gun violence decreases, the brutish act of mass slaughter seems to grow beyond control.
Nothing can bring back the precious lives of those lost in Newtown, but our minds immediately begin to wonder how future tragedies can be prevented. As usual, the corporate media has done a pretty good job of showing the polar-oposite views without really offering a rational discussion of solutions. That is if anything about this is based in rationality.
In the discussions I’ve seen to date, it somehow seems forgotten that there are two aspects to solving this problem: the causes and the effects. Each has to be dealt with as a separate, yet related entity. Knowing the cause – the reason why someone could fathom doing this may be unattainable, but it is clear that there are some serious cultural and mental health issues to be addressed in the wake of these tragedies. Effects, of course, cannot be changed after the fact, but steps can be taken to limit them if someone does decide to commit such a horrifying act. And then some solutions may help to fix both things.
I am not a gun owner and yet I’ve trained extensively using the military version of the AR-15, the M-16. During my stint in the Marines, I qualified as an expert shooter numerous times and had the weapon on my person for six months straight while deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. Make no mistake about it, these weapons are designed to efficiently kill humans and they do it well.
As with any firearm, use against unarmed children and adults in a closed building makes it absolutely lethal, compounded by the fact that assault weapons are more efficient—they can shoot a lot more bullets before having to reload. For a practiced individual, switching 20-round clips is as easy and quick as the click of a seat belt.
Luckily, I have only ever had to fire my weapon at a target, not a person. My training gave me a deep respect for what the weapon is: a combat tool designed to exterminate humans. One should always treat it as such. A “proud” owner of an assault rifle should almost certainly not be trusted with the weapon, as they should dread the day—if ever—that it must be used.
I stand on the fence for much of the secondary debate, however it seems clear that there is absolutely no reason that a mentally unstable person should have had access to any weapon for any reason. Nancy Lanza has already paid the ultimate price for her wretched stupidity, and I am only sorry that she did not have the chance to directly face the parents of each of those children who she enabled her son to murder.
For all their want of the freedom to bear arms, conservatives and the NRA have got to do a better job of policing their ranks before their very own culture, which promotes casual access to guns, enables events that will result in their own worst-case scenario.
Placing armed guards in schools may be a deterrent, limiting the effects but in the end this is nowhere near a solution to the cause of the problem.
Two weekends after the Newtown tragedy my son shot a 12-guage shotgun for the first time (my step father had planned a “guys” clay shoot at a local range while my mother hosted my sister’s wedding shower). I stood over my son during each stage of the shoot, watching him like a hawk to prevent any missteps.
A stranger in the stand next to us looked over as my son broke the clays, exclaiming, “That’s awesome!” but I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.