Why Run With The Herd?

Politics

Some thoughts on Sandy Hook (…and the Portland Mall, Aurora, Littleton to name a few…)

Feb. 2, 1996
Moses Lake, Wash.
Two students and one teacher killed, one other wounded when 14-year-old Barry Loukaitis opened fire on his algebra class.

That’s the first entry from the Time Line of Worldwide School and Mass Shootings at Infoplease.com. I am not entirely sure why it starts at 1996, but the list contains 79 entries. I didn’t count the number killed, but its safe to say it’s quite a few hundred.

March 13, 1996
Dunblane, Scotland
16 children and one teacher killed at Dunblane Primary School by Thomas Hamilton, who then killed himself. 10 others wounded in attack.

I bring this up because, as I read through the list, I realized that I barely recognized most of the shootings. Colorado, Norway – a few others. In general though, I didn’t remember many. I have a good memory – and I didn’t remember them. Why is that?

In case you haven’t noticed – the coverage of Sandy Hook has significantly declined recently (and that’s probably good) and what is being discussed is what our politicians are saying and doing. (Maybe not so good.) Vice President Biden has a task force and is developing recommendations. Anyone know how many Republicans are on the task force? I don’t – they haven’t published the members yet.

May 21, 1998
Springfield, Ore.
Two students killed, 22 others wounded in the cafeteria at Thurston High School by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel. Kinkel had been arrested and released a day earlier for bringing a gun to school. His parents were later found dead at home.

I’m serious about my question – “Why is that?” Why don’t I remember all those killings?. I’m not the only one who forgets – I don’t have quantitative data, but I suspect most of us who read that list don’t remember most of those killings either.

I think the reason has to do with the fact that its not personal – unless you personally knew someone who was killed during one of these events, you don’t internalize it. In some sense, the lack of memory is similar to what happens during war. During war, we all support the troops, but unless its your Dad, Mom, Brother, whatever – you don’t FEEL it. If you don’t feel it, you won’t remember it.

Dec. 6, 1999
Fort Gibson, Okla.
Four students wounded as Seth Trickey, 13, opened fire with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun at Fort Gibson Middle School.

So now what?

Let me start off with a few factual statements:
1. I don’t own a gun.
2. I’m not a member of the NRA.
3. I don’t hunt.
4. I don’t shoot for sport.
5. The only time I have been armed was during my tours overseas with the Air Force.

Now some thoughts…..
– I think the focus on gun control is wrong – it feeds the partisan monster (and it’s colleagues in the media) while adding little to no value to the solution. Can anyone really say that having another gun law is beneficial? The Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank, published a research brief in 2002 entitled “Twenty Thousand Gun-Control Laws”. The main thrust of the brief was that, in fact, the 20,000 number was inflated and “…an important feature of the rhetoric against passage of further gun-control laws.” Their conclusion was that there was about 300 major state and federal laws (not 20,000 as had been suggested) and that we should study the effect of gun laws and not the number. I agree we should study the effect of gun laws, but 300 gun laws is still a lot of gun control laws – and that was 2002!. Go back to the Timeline – over half of the shootings occurred after 2002.
– I said the “focus” should not be on gun control – I didn’t say we shouldn’t make gun control part of the solution. Guns clearly played a role in these killings – you can’t gloss over that.
– However, the real problem, in my opinion, is our ever expanding view and exaltation of “our rights”. We have the right to publish songs calling for the death of policemen or the rape of women. We have the right to sell computer games that literally train our kids to kill people. Why is it that we discuss the tweaking of one right (the Second Amendment) but we won’t discuss at all the effects of other rights (The First Amendment) on this problem? We have defaulted to discussing the effect of guns (and we should talk about them) because the herd says so. My suggestion is that we should at least talk about our other rights and how they play a part in this problem as well.

April 7, 2011
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A 23-year-old former student returned to his public elementary school in Rio de Janeiro and began firing, killing 12 children and seriously wounding more than a dozen others, before shooting himself in the head. While Brazil has seen gang-related violence in urban areas, this was the worst school shooting the country has ever seen.

One final thought. Claude Fischer is a professor of sociology at Berkeley. In his blog dated June 16, 2010, “A crime puzzle: Violent crime declines in America“, he states that the homicide rate is the most reliable measure of violent crime, and, the historical trend in America is for a declining (albeit sinusoidal at times) homicide rate. Fischer’s conclusions are striking – we are getting less violent as a society. Why then these mass shootings? Shouldn’t they be declining as well? It can’t all be about guns.

December 14, 2012
Newtown, Conn.
Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 children and six others at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. He killed his mother, Nancy, at her home prior to the massacre at the school. Lanza committed suicide after the rampage. The shooting was the second deadliest in U.S. history, behind the 2007 shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute that claimed 32 people.

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