Underneath it all

Today is a day for family. I’m not sure what else I can say.

News of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut yesterday was hard to hear. Harder to feel. I have cried over and over again, despite having no connection at all to anyone there. But oh, the sudden, violent loss of a child is a weight I can’t imagine. The atrocity of that grief must strip you to the bone. I think of those parents, waiting overnight in a fire station, unable to collect their babies from the deserted school till the morning, and I feel half-flayed myself. Something like this makes us all remember our humanity. We are parents, and we mourn for other people’s children, and love those they leave behind. Regardless of when, or where.

I hope, I hope that the first result of yesterday is to lengthen the process for buying a gun in the States. Own guns, by all means; keep them safely; use them for recreation. But circle that weapon with enough paperwork that it puts off impulse buyers and the mentally ill, who in any case deserve better help than a firearm. As long as buying a gun is as easy as buying a doughnut, this will keep happening. And isn’t it enough, now? Much more than enough?

So we spent today together at the temple, and then went to IKEA for lunch and to buy Henry’s Christmas present. I latched on to every last thing I love about that boy and held it to me like I was seeing it for the first time. He tried to pull off IKEA Santa’s beard in return for his Christmas bear, and held top-of-voice conversations with anyone who’d look at him twice. I watched him from a distance, swinging his legs in the trolley, and then nose-to-nose, cuddly in his oversized cardigan. And was grateful. And hoped that things would get better.

I think it will. We have a great capacity for goodness and community and connection, all of us. We can love more, reach out more, pray more. We can come together and make things better. It’ll come through.

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8 thoughts on “Underneath it all

  1. Seb says:

    As it happens, the Connecticut gun legislation DID prevent Adam Lanza from buying firearms. He failed in the attempt to purchase a rifle from a local sporting goods shop two days before the massacre.

    What does it serve to further increase the paperwork, background checks and waiting periods that are already in place? Maniacs intent on murder aren’t going to have any compunction about turning to unrestricted or illegal means to acquire weapons.

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  2. Sigh, I am with Seb. The gunman stole his mother’s firearms. No one can buy a gun quickly, which has been a concern for some people in and of itself. No law will keep lawless hearts from breaking hearts. The solution is bigger than guns, bigger than laws, and bigger than America. The solution has more to do with is loosening restrictions on the public worship of a loving, just, and true God, and encouraging parents to teach their children right from wrong and how to pray. As wise men have told us, there will never be enough police officers or jails if the home is broken. If we all work together to heal homes and refuse to distract from the issue by imagining more laws will solve our problems, positive change will begin.

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    • Seb says:

      I’m not sure I follow:
      Are you suggesting that restrictions on religious worship result in higher incidence of multiple homicide?

      I think you’d be hard-pressed to find data showing that the murder rate is higher to any significant extent in secular nations than in religious ones.

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      • No, not that. It’s true that our culture is growing actively hostile toward any open religion, and that this affects families negatively. However, my main point is that it is people’s hearts that need to change, and that making it harder for law-abiding citizens to acquire firearms will not decrease the incidence of these tragedies. As a side, I would be interested to see homicide statistics paralleled with the history of gun control laws in the U.S., or facts about what percentage of murders were committed using guns legally registered to the person using the gun in comparison to those acquired illegally.
        I also wanted to edit my previous comment. No one can buy a gun quickly IF they do it legally and go through the regulation process first. I know people who buy and sell guns under the table. Some are careful to do so legally, others are not. I’m with Rachel in that arena all the way: if we could some how crack down on the already-existing illegal gun trade, I think that is a dialogue worth having and an issue worth looking at seriously.

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  3. Well, clearly this is a divisive issue, and there are lots of conversations still to be had. And a disclaimer for the below is that I’m not an expert, and it’s my (researched) opinion.

    If it were up to me – which, thankfully, it’s not – I’d do something about gun laws because there are more guns owned in the States per person than any other country in the world except one (the Yemen, weirdly). And not just guns – assault weapons that are capable of killing many people, that don’t really need to be in private hands at all. There will always be determined maniacs who are able to get hold of guns and other weapons illegally. I don’t know what form tighter gun controls should take – that’s something that needs working out after consultation with the right people. But if there are fewer semi-automatics and assault weapons in circulation, privately-owned guns generally are monitored and registered, and there’s a serious crackdown on under-the-table casual purchases, then it seems to follow that there will be less devastating gun violence.

    Gun controls aren’t the only answer – this is obviously a many-stranded problem, and mental health care is the other major elephant in the room. But there is simply no sense in saying that gun control won’t solve it, so why do anything. Since when does a problem have to be solved completely and forever in order for us to try? The alternative is doing nothing and waiting a few months for the next mass shooting – the strategy so far – and after Friday, to me that’s unacceptable.

    I’m afraid I’m unable to understand why more inconvenience when it comes to gun purchase isn’t worth even the possibility of preventing another slaughter of six-year-olds. Such a position seems to me to be morally indefensible. If you’re a gun enthusiast using them for hunting/shooting, and want to buy another, I can’t think of a situation where you’d be up against a time limit and wouldn’t be prepared to plan ahead accordingly.

    Since 1999, the year of Columbine, there have been at least 31 mass shootings in the States (http://www.newsmax.com/US/mass-shootings-us-colorado/2012/07/20/id/445971). In the UK, there’s been one. Even if you disagree with everything above, that fact alone needs to start raising serious questions.

    /end of essay

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    • Seb says:

      If you could wave a magic wand and remove all guns from the hands of everybody in the US besides law enforcement, military and professional sportsmen (not forgetting farmers and farmers’ mums!) then you’d probably see the frequency of mass shootings decline to somewhere near the level we experience in the UK.

      As it stands, even the UK’s world class gun control couldn’t stop Derrick Bird and Raoul Moat claiming over a dozen lives in 2010. In a country that already has as many guns as ‘Murica, the most stringent legislation is only going to have a small effect on the total number of weapons extant, and you couldn’t suddenly impose an Orwellian level of reduction in civil liberties, because gun owners would resist laws against their guns using their guns – you’d have a bad time.

      So, in the absence of a panacea, one option that doesn’t seem to be discussed enough is that of putting guns back into the hands of the good guys, in tandem with positive education and training, rather than taking them out of the hands of the good guys, as everyone seems to be demanding. Bear with me, because this is at the very least an interesting thought experiment, and I would support it with two points.

      Firstly, the statistics pertaining to mass shootings do not, by definition, include all of the mass shootings that are stopped before they occur, by legal gun owners. It would be difficult to ever find out what these numbers are (though we could quantify to a limited extent how many shootings are ended before they become mass shootings). However, lists like these stand in stark contrast to the massacres which dominate the world press.

      Secondly, it is interesting to note the policy implemented in Israel in response to a school shooting in the ‘70s – discretely arming volunteer school personnel. “Since that time, there has been no successful mass murder at an Israeli school, and every attempt at such has been quickly shortstopped by the good guys’ gunfire, with minimal casualties among the innocent. Similar programs are in place in Peru and the Phillippines, with similarly successful results.”

      Deterring violence with the threat of violence is a far from perfect solution. However, if an approach is demonstrably efficacious under the circumstances, it should be considered with equal or greater weight than solutions that offer only the ambiguous possibility preventing the slaughter of six-year-olds.

      Should gun control be improved/increased rather than reduced? I’m not closed to the idea, but I’d like to see legislation driven by a cool, rational, and evidence-based assessment of which approaches are most likely to reduce deaths, not by emotional reactions that invoke potentially flawed premises. BAN ALL THE GUNS!

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  4. Seb says:

    As an addendum, it is interesting to note that with the rise of cheap 3D printers and open-source CAD models, an increasing number of people are successfully printing functional lower receivers (the legally registered part of a rifle in the US), magazines and accessories out of high-impact polymers, and even out of sintered metals. This technology has come so far in the last decade, I can only imagine what the next generation will be able to download and print when they reach adulthood. Open-source distributed desktop manufacture is considerably harder to legislate against. This technology is going to feature more and more in the debate in coming years.

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