Why the same old gun-control answers aren’t comforting

As the father of two small boys, I’m as haunted by last week’s massacre in Newtown, Conn., as anyone who didn’t know personally the victims or their killer.

I have the same fears as all parents anticipating the long, potentially treacherous path ahead of their children in this broken world of ours. My fears are only multiplied by my doubts there are many real options for thwarting future slayings in other unsuspecting towns.

The two primary questions we ask after mass killings are: Why do some people act so heinously? And how can we keep others from doing so?

The first question invariably draws answers like: madness, isolation, social awkwardness or marginalization, familial dysfunction, a craving for fame (or infamy), the prevalence of violence in our popular culture, and evil pure and simple.

The second question typically brings suggestions for treating these mental illnesses and social failures. That, and gun control.

Guns typically don’t make the list of answers to “why,” only to “how.” They are but one means for mass killings — albeit the most common one — not a motivation. Yet, guns become our central focus in times like these.

I understand the impulse. How do we begin to treat the mad, and especially people, such as the Newtown killer, with only mild disorders? As important as it is for us to attempt to rebuild the American family, can we wait the years or perhaps generations such an endeavor might consume, when another mass killing could happen today? How, within the bounds of constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, does one dial back the violence found in our movies, TV shows, video games and even music?

Whatever a killer’s motivation, guns seem to be his means of choice. Better to address that, right?

As keenly interested as I am in preventing the next mass public shooting, I see little reason to find comfort in gun control.

Consider the high school rampage in Columbine, Colo. The year was 1999, amid a decade-long ban on “assault weapons,” those firearms defined by nothing more than the minds of legislators who drafted the ban on them. (Indeed, the main characteristic common to the weapons banned then seems to be the likelihood one might have seen a similar weapon in a shoot-em-up, kill-em-up movie — an implicit nod to the overriding impact of our entertainment culture.)

One of the Columbine killers was armed with a pump-action shotgun (not exactly a semiautomatic weapon) he fired 25 times. He also fired 96 rounds from a 9-mm carbine while using 10-round magazines — the limit of choice for those who say 30-round magazines are the problem.

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced his ban on sugary soft drinks larger than 16 oz., most observers recognized the folly of limiting the size of one drink when a person could simply buy two or more of them. Does no one else find it similarly illogical to think a person bent on mass murder won’t just carry multiple weapons with smaller mags, or that lives will be saved in the few seconds it would take an experienced gun handler to change magazines?

I raise these objections not to defend specific weapons or magazines with any number of bullets. Neither I nor anyone I know owns an “assault weapon” (as far as I know), and I have no particular affinity for bullets that come in sets of 20 or 30 or 40 rather than 10. While I generally support gun-ownership rights, I’m open to practical suggestions that can reasonably square with the Second Amendment.

Nor do I think the situation is hopeless, or as good as it gets. I do think we can make our communities safer. But I think the most effective solutions will be less comfortable — such as asking when it’s OK to invade the privacy of those who are dangerously mentally ill — and more expensive — such as ensuring there are armed guards or designated weapons-carrying citizens even at schools and other “gun-free zones” — than merely banning particular weapons and ammunition.

The lives of innocents deserve the fullness of our thought and attention, not old ideas that have been sitting on the shelf, waiting for a crisis.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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457 comments Add your comment

amx

December 20th, 2012
5:32 am

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but here’s something to think about. I bet there are a thousand students going to school today who are upset with a teacher, their grades, a perceived slight from classmates, a rough breakup with a girlfriend (yes, these are usually male shooters), who, IF they could get their hands on effective weapons, would shoot up their school. Now, these kids will probably be OK tomorrow and it will be a different group of kids who are upset about something. It happens all the time. The difference between these kids who think about it but don’t act, and those in Connecticut and Colombine are that they just don’t have access to effective firepower. Maybe the NRA can do something.

Dude

December 20th, 2012
5:58 am

By far the most rational article I’ve read yet on the subject. A+++++

Adrian

December 20th, 2012
5:59 am

I’m from the Netherlands and I’ve been to Japan. Japan has very strict gun control, the result of which is about 11 gun related deaths a year, for a population about half the size of the US. The USA has 30 times more deaths from accidental gun firings, not even counting homicides.
The Netherlands is less strict than Japan, for example riffles for hunting are relatively easy to obtain. We have about 60 deaths involving guns a year, but on a population only 1/20th of the USA. Still, I feel totally safe anywhere in my country at any time of the day.

I think the entire country needs to be a “gun-free-zone” with a few exceptions like shooting and hunting ranges. I think the US second amendment called for militia, not individual gun ownership.
I think individual gun ownership creates cautious, paranoid and distrustful citizens. Carrying a gun, especially if it’s not concealed, creates an implicit threat of lethal violence, even if the person carrying it is currently very polite and friendly. It discourages free speech and democratic discussion.

The military, the police and militia should have guns, not individuals.

Hal

December 20th, 2012
6:05 am

Thanks for pointing out the inadequacy of the superficial debate swirling around gun ownership versus gun control. Your article is very well written in terms of both its style and content. Thanks for thinking beneath the surface. I wish legislators would read it. If you’re interested, one of the best essays I’ve read on the Second Amendment is from a card-carrying member of the ACLU, a liberal law professor from the U. of Texas, Sanford Levinson, entitled, “The Embarrassing Second Amendment.” You can find it here. http://constitution.org/mil/embar2nd.htm

A Simple Man

December 20th, 2012
6:05 am

Good one Kyle. As the saying goes, if there can only be one gun in the room I want to be the one holding it. I don’t see any of the people screaming for a ban on guns putting a sign in their yard proclaiming their home a gun free zone. They are, therefore, depending on the threat of a weapon to keep their house safe.

It’s a complicated issue that can’t be solved by a quick fix ban on anything. I don’t own an assault rifle and don’t plan on getting one. I also don’t see violence ending due to a new law that limits them.

Karl Marx

December 20th, 2012
6:07 am

As long as politicians focus on “How” rather than “Why” no progress will be made to protect our children. It was easy to blame it on the gun because the simpleton fix is to ban guns and claim victory. A victory that is really only false security.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 20th, 2012
6:23 am

Gun control is the lazy person’s answer to these random mass shootings. It allows them to be seen as “doing something” without doing the hard work of finding and solving the root cause of the problem.

R. Wieland

December 20th, 2012
6:27 am

Well reasoned, Kyle. I’d like to add that the Bushmaster rifle purportedly used in Newtown would have been legal to manufacture, sell, transfer or possess during the last “assault weapon” ban. Also, the worst mass murder at a U.S. school remains the 1927 Bath School Disaster in Bath Township, Michigan. Three dynamite and pyrotol explosions killed 38 elementary school children. Whether a killer is evil or mentally ill can’t be known in advance until medical records are unsealed and searchable. Until then, a federal background check must rely on a gun buyer’s self-identification.

Old timer

December 20th, 2012
6:29 am

Good article…

Attack Dog

December 20th, 2012
6:30 am

Common sense is never an old idea.

Thomas Heyward Jr

December 20th, 2012
6:44 am

“So another mass-murder conducted by a product of government schools, in a government school, under the government-recommended/mandated care of a government-employed/licensed shrink, on government-approved and government-promoted mind-altering drugs, in a government-mandated weapon-free zone, protected by a government agency the government claims ’serves and protects’ (though it is incapable of doing so). Clearly the problem is guns.”
.
lol
.
The proper time to influence the character of a child is about 100 years before he is born.
There’s a long row to ho playing catch-up.
.
In the interim…..don’t send your child to a school that refuses any sort of defense.
don’t drug your child. If some school bureaucrat insists…take them out of the school immediantly.
Live by example.
Stay away from the Fed food pyrimid.(make them eat plenty of greens).
And at the earliest possible stage…expose your child to the writings of Rothbard, Mises, Tocqueville, Ron Paul, Thoreau, and maybe some Twain………..before the state outlaws them.
.
Good luck.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

December 20th, 2012
6:49 am

Cops or armed guards at every school.

Georgia

December 20th, 2012
7:11 am

Perhaps Kyle should have let more time pass before writing about this…….

They BOTH suck

December 20th, 2012
7:12 am

Kyle

Pretty good article. Will be interesting to see if all sides end up playing lip service or seek out sensible solutions that might help negate or even prevent these type tragedies.

Not Blind

December 20th, 2012
7:12 am

Making it [ even more ] against the law for mental defectives and criminals to have guns will definitely make the world a safer place. [rolleyes]
Oh wait a minute – the libs only want to make it illegal for the law abiding citizens to have inanimate objects. Hmmm,, how does that prevent crime ??

Not Blind

December 20th, 2012
7:15 am

How about equipping teachers and administrators with super strong pepper spray [ aka bear spray ]? A non-lethal weapon is appropriate in a school setting.

Rightwing troll

December 20th, 2012
7:27 am

I don’ think much can done in the way of gun control, but we should do something about violent video games… It’s really not even the violence so much as it is the isolation of networked violent video games. A whole generation of boys are growing up sitting in a dark basement talking on headsets to each other as they shoot it out. They end up devoid of social skills and lacking empathy. Throw in the fact that the games desensitize them and you’ve got a potential problem…

Make It Happen

December 20th, 2012
7:38 am

Why defend guns? In Japan in 2008 11 people were killed by firearms. In US in 2008 12,000 people were killed by firearms. Murder rate in Japan per 100,000 is 0.3 in the US 4.2. The time has come to leave the wild wild west behind. What is this religious dogma to defend guns? You know the US would be better off without guns. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Mr. Saturday Night Special “Ain’t no good for nothin’, But put a man six feet in a hole”. This applies to all guns except hunting rifles and shotguns. All other guns need to go. Shut down the US gun manufacturers.

@@

December 20th, 2012
7:39 am

I’m waiting on Lanza’s toxicology report.

ramblingbuzz

December 20th, 2012
7:48 am

For once I agree with you. The (attempted) solution to this problem will be multi-faceted, since the problem itself has so many contributing factors. Guns cannot be the only factor which is examined. But neither can guns be ignored as a contibuting factor. Those who continuously cry that the goverment is coming to take our guns away at the first mention of stricter regulation must realize that. I am a gun owner, but I don’t think the Constitution necessarily guarantees me the right to be able to purchase an AR-15 or an AK-47 with no restrictions.

Del

December 20th, 2012
8:00 am

The horrific murder of innocent children and their teachers is what has triggered this call for strict gun control that includes banning certain firearms, ammunition and accessories like high capacity magazines. Protecting our children is our most important priority and that can be achieved through establishing best practice building security measures as standard for every school system. The technology to secure buildings and the grounds surrounding buildings is available and that’s where it should begin. Unfortunately, this is a political issue that will be decided by politicians who will only focus firearms with feel good legislation which won’t protect our children much less the general public from mentally ill people who’ve crossed the line and act out their killing fantasies. There are millions and millions of guns of various form and caliber along with a like number of accessories. Anyone who honestly believes that effective enforceable laws can be crafted and implemented to prevent guns from getting into the hands of criminals or the criminally insane is either hopelessly naive or a politician pandering to the hopelessly naive.

SBinF

December 20th, 2012
8:11 am

“The first question invariably draws answers like: madness, isolation, social awkwardness or marginalization, familial dysfunction, a craving for fame (or infamy), the prevalence of violence in our popular culture, and evil pure and simple.”

Just wondering, why we look for such reasons when the shooter is a middle class white guy. Crime in the city is simply, you know, because “they” are all thugs. Does mental illness not permeate these neighborhoods too?

Makes you think….

George P. Burdell

December 20th, 2012
8:12 am

Nice to see a reasoned response after all the nonstop media coverage this week. I have a son the same age as many of the victims in this latest tragedy and I want to do whatever it takes to keep him safe. However, I agree with you that it is not as simple as focusing only on gun control and not looking at the other reasons for the “why”. It seems to me that some are using the gun control debate as a political tool and others are naively thinking it will be a fix-all to cure all of our collective wrongs. It is never that simple and it will take a multi-faceted approach to solve this crisis. Unfortunately, despite all of our best efforts, there will be future tragedies and our only hope is to lessen both the number and severity.

Joel Edge

December 20th, 2012
8:12 am

Good article, Kyle. You’re a beacon of reason as usual. More reasonable than I am. I only take exception with one part.
“with only mild disorders?” Associating the Newtown killer with a mild disorder? Obviously this guy had more than a mild disorder. Maybe I read that wrong, but the juxtaposition is weird.

Stephenson Billings

December 20th, 2012
8:17 am

First?

Don’t worry, Joe “Barack is not coming after your shotguns” Biden and Harry “I carry a gun with me everywhere” Ried will all make us safer by drafting more gun control legislation. After all, it’s working so well in Chicago and DC.

UIC

December 20th, 2012
8:18 am

“The two primary questions we ask after mass killings are: Why do some people act so heinously? And how can we keep others from doing so?” And that is the problem. The first question should be, “Why are automatic and semi-automatic guns sold in this country?” In 2008, there were 2 people killed with a hand gun in Japan. TWO!! But hats off to America, we had over 12,000 killed. We’re Number 1!! Our murder rate is almost 40 times that of England and 10 times that of England.

Keep your head in the sand, Kyle. But I guarantee that if gun violence ever effects you personally, your name will quickly be put beside Scott DesJarlais and Dick Cheney. It is easy to ignore problems until they hit your front porch.

John N.

December 20th, 2012
8:18 am

I usually disagree with 90% of the things you write, but this right here was spot on…. Good job…

carlosgvv

December 20th, 2012
8:18 am

Guns are here to stay.

More gun control laws won’t prevent these kinds of violence.

Schools must have at least two police officers present every school day.

Nothing else will work.

Marty

December 20th, 2012
8:18 am

The only purpose for a 30 round clip is to kill a lot of people quickly. Why is it acceptable in a civilized society?

Glenn

December 20th, 2012
8:20 am

Yeah the innocent deserve our thought and attention . Your analogy with sugary drinks is lame but yes its a stupid law .

Your open to practical suggestions that can reasonably square with the Second Amendment meaning the practicality of a state Militia ? No one is suggesting one can’t bear arms just what arms one can buy . That’s just sense .

Peadawg

December 20th, 2012
8:20 am

The one thing that, to me atleast, is common sense is to require some kind of training class in order to purchase a gun in Georgia. Other states do this…it should be nationwide.

But other than that, idk. We can make all the laws and regulations we want but the fact is if someone wants to get a gun to commit a crime, they’ll get a gun.

bluecoat

December 20th, 2012
8:21 am

License all guns sold,renew license every four years,make the license non transferable,If gun sold new owner must apply for new license this way record is kept of gun and capable/qualified ownership.Make owner liable for use of gun.Monitor all entrances at schools with trained/armed people.

jabster

December 20th, 2012
8:32 am

One thing we could do is get rid of the “gun show loophole” where private sales between nondealer individuals don’t require an instant background check (the term “gun show loophole” is somewhat of a misnomer since registered firearm dealers still have to do background checks at gun shows, and the loophole also includes private sales in want ads, Craigslist, and the like).

The reason the loophole exists is simply technological. 20 years ago, one could not expect individuals to buy the equipment and computer terminals needed to dial into the federal computers to do the check. Nowadays, everyone’s on the Internet and someone could probably write the proverbial “app for that”.

Something else we could do is make it easier for health pros to put people on the “no gun” list.

Lastly, if you have someone who is mentally unstable at home, at the very least lock up your guns. If the Newtown shooter’s mom had not been shot dead, she would probably be facing a couple dozen wrongful-death suits for letting her son have access to her guns. And I guarantee someone is going to be going after her estate.

BW

December 20th, 2012
8:32 am

Kyle

You cannot prevent mass murder but there’s no reason to have assault weapons or high capcity magazines. Let’s take a sensible first step here instead of endless debates about slippery slopes. I understand the ammo he used exploded twice, once at impact and again after entering the body…why is this ammo legal at all? In regards to invasion of privacy, there’s alot of tendency to say go for it but I think that would be a bridge too far. I do support your position of having an armed guard in the area but I will say that this is not a guarantee of prevention against a well-prepared guy in body armor firing semi-auto rifle rounds that explode on impact . No easy choices on prevention but there are sensible first steps.

commoncents

December 20th, 2012
8:39 am

Why bother using logic when overreacting will work?

BuckeyeInGa

December 20th, 2012
8:39 am

I’m fine with some guns but there should be a round limit on the magazines. Of course the round limit won’t completely stop these incidents that’s impossible but the rules would definitely help.

1961_Xer

December 20th, 2012
8:46 am

As keenly interested as I am in preventing the next mass public shooting, I see little reason to find comfort in gun control.

This. Let’s take a look at what the President stated yesterday: He wants an AWB (Assault weapons ban) and a law to force all gun sales through an FFL background check. Enacting either today (if weapons are grandfathered in like they have been in new legislation of the last 100 years) would not prevent another massacre.

Getting troubled young people better mental health would make more of a difference than any amount of gun control.

Lt Dan

December 20th, 2012
8:48 am

Good article Kyle.

While I am a gun owner (I do keep my firearms locked in a safe w\exception of whatever I happen to be carrying that day in my waist holster), I do believe no gun should be sold without a background check, especially at gunshows.

I also think there needs to be a conversation on the status of mental health services in this country as well as all schools (and maybe business centers) should take an honest look at their security (or lack thereof?) and take reasonable steps to promote physical security of their locations.

A school should have a single entrance for visitors where they would come in (into a visitor receiving area that does not allow further access to the school building), show ID and sign in on a log, receive a visitor’s pass, and then can pass through another secured doorway into the main building itself. It is assumed all other doorways are metal doors (reinfored if necessary) that are for emergency exit purposes only.

This would require some re-modeling, but you would not have to build a brand new building to accomplish this.

The person who receives visitors should be a uniformed security officer (properly trained for their position) and equipped at a minimum with a taser and mace (as well as a ‘panic’ button that would alert the school and place it in a lock-down).

Just my suggestions and thoughts.

Lil' Barry Bailout - OBAMAPHONE!!!

December 20th, 2012
8:52 am

“With Newtown, the American people seem to sense that it is a moment to stand down and think hard about whether something’s amiss in their society. And it’s not just the guns. We have been here before.

As the saying goes, there was a time. And indeed there really was a time in the United States when life seemed more settled, when emotions, both private and public, didn’t seem to run so continuously at breakneck speed, splattering one ungodly tragedy after another across the evening news. How did this happen to the United States? How, in T.S. Eliot’s phrase, did so many become undone?

We think it is possible to identify the date when the U.S., or more precisely when many people within it, began to tip off the emotional tracks. A lot of people won’t like this date, because it makes their political culture culpable for what has happened. The date is August 1968, when the Democratic National Convention found itself sharing Chicago with the street fighters of the anti-Vietnam War movement.”

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324461604578189411325231422.html

——————-

It’s not the guns, stupid.

Whirled Peas

December 20th, 2012
8:52 am

But the point is not for the government to solve the problem. Government rarely solves the problem. The point is that politicians want to put themselves in charge of more stuff so the people are easier to control.

Junior Samples

December 20th, 2012
8:53 am

Well thought out article Kyle, not reactionary.
Could healthcare become part of the overall solution?
And without turning the conversation to “big brother”, it was thought-provoking to learn that Lanza destroyed his hard drive -making the impending investigation more difficult. “Pre-cautionary” monitoring would certainly be an intrusion to our civil liberties.

It’s certainly a rough road to navigate, but now it seems that many people are willing to have the discussion.

Lt Dan

December 20th, 2012
8:55 am

I’m gone; going to help a neighbor cut down some trees, so I’ll be toting saws not guns today.

Van Jones

December 20th, 2012
8:59 am

Most of the suggestions I’ve read/heard would not have stopped the CT shooter because:
He stole the guns from his mom who (I believe) obtained them legally.
He had more options than the AR-15.
He shot out a window to enter a school with better security than the Fulton county school my girls attend. He could have easily gone to a different window in a different part of the school.
Anyone who practices for 5 minutes can change out a magazine in less than 3 seconds (so magazine capacity is not an issue).
Armed, on-site security at the school? I just don’t know.

Buzz Belle

December 20th, 2012
9:01 am

Gun owners want to own guns so they can hunt game, shoot at a range or protection in their home. Semi automatics have no place in these scenarios. If you want to own guns, pay up. Make it the gun owners responsibility to keep the guns under lock and key and if their gun is ever used in any crime, make the owner pay the price. Force gun owners to have to have insurance on their ownership. Magazines are not needed to kill game. Ban them. If caught with a magazines, automatic 6 months in jail and a $25,000.00 fine. From that fine, court costs are paid and the remaining goes to mental health. Have the courts work with the professionals in the mental health community. 30 years ago insurance covered 30 days in a mental health hospital. You’ll be hard pressed to find one of those now. Instead, those suffering from mental health go to jail for two to three days and are released back into the public arena. Lots of things can be done. We cannot keep this from happening again, but we have to do better than what we have done. Stop giving into the NRA, they are not people friendly.

Buzz Belle

December 20th, 2012
9:04 am

This incident has hit a big nerve with me. I was taught how to shoot a pistol at the age of 13 so I’m not afraid of guns and I’m not opposed to owning the right kind of guns. But the gun industry prays on the young, the “man card” and those who are unstable. This has to stop. People must look at what the NRA has done and admit their culpability in this. OUr country is better than this, we now need to prove it!

Redneck Convert (R--and proud of it)

December 20th, 2012
9:11 am

Well, they can have my two machine guns and the anti-tank weapon when they pry my cold, dead fingers off of them. I just use them for hunting and self-defense.

Have a good Thursday everybody.

TBone

December 20th, 2012
9:16 am

What is it with awkward loner white boys lashing out at society in general? The homeys in the hood whack each other every day and there is not this much attention. Evil isn’t the opposite of God, it is the absence of God and as a country we have done a real good job vanquishing God from around us. We reap what we sow.

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

December 20th, 2012
9:18 am

Kyle, great job expressing the thoughts of those of us, who realize that the problem is very complex and is not going to be fixed with easy cookbook solutions. Mental health treatment is the key to long term success, and better security at the schools is necessary in the mean time. I don’t think we can stay ahead of evil, by simply outlawing the instruments used. Sick minds are very resourceful.

JDW

December 20th, 2012
9:21 am

Interesting questions Kyle.

“Why do some people act so heinously?”

One of the problems here is that there are so many reasons…uncontrolled rage, malfunctioning emotional system, revenge, seeking “glory” or fame. The list is endless and any answer we may find will have to be in the realm of health care and society at large. Somehow we must do a better job of identifying and responding to those broken individuals among us.

” And how can we keep others from doing so?”

It would help to stop making it so damn easy. You cite all the stats associated with the Columbine killers in a effort to make the point that the weapons ban had no effect. I think that is a false assumption, what if instead of a pump action shotgun the killer had a Bushmaster. Then instead of 25 rounds you would have been looking at say 250…what would been the result of that? Conversely what if the Sandy Hook killer had only had a pump action shotgun, would the toll have been 15 instead of 20? Would there be 5 fewer innocents to mourn?

It is one thing to admit that you can’t stop them all and yet another to continue to make it so damn easy for them. This will require that some among us accept a simple fact….

More Guns = More Deaths

This has been borne out in statistic after statistic and yet some people just don’t get it.

Rafe Hollister preparing for an Obamanist America

December 20th, 2012
9:24 am

I saw where FLETC in Brunswick is now training Special Agent trainees in dealing with IED’s, which thankfully have not been implemented, by the crazies, in the US yet. They know it is coming, as IED’s are often the weapon of choice around the world. Hopefully, Crazy Uncle Joe, will ban IED’s in his package as well, already banned, well ban them again.