Another dark day in America, one of 62 similar days in the past 30 years according to statistics compiled by Mother Jones. Despite shootings in a state with some of America’s most restrictive gun laws, the actions of a single deranged white man brought the nation to its knees in pain, along with new calls for checks more stringent weapons.
Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old introvert, woke up on the morning of December 14, 2012, killed his mother and went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. About 15 minutes after entering the closed building, Lanza committed suicide with a single bullet to the head. In less than a quarter of an hour, Lanza slaughtered 20 grade one boys and girls and six of the school’s teachers and staff. The day after the shooting, Lanza’s distraught father issued a statement which included: “We are in a state of disbelief and we are trying to find all the answers we can. We also ask why. ”
One of the worst massacres, however, did not involve weapons, but explosives. In 1927, Andrew Kehoe, a disgruntled former school board member, murdered his wife and detonated a dynamite and pyrotol bomb in the basements of the Bath Consolidated School District in Tecumseh, Michigan. After the school explosion, Kehoe drove his dynamite-laden Ford pickup full of “burs, bolts, scrap metal, feed dogs and rifle shells” to the scene, fired his gun at the dynamite and set off a second explosion to kill. rescuers and citizens who had gathered at the scene. The 45 killed and 58 injured were mostly boys in grades two to six. Kehoe’s apparent motive was to take revenge for not being elected clerk of the Township of Bath.
On August 1, 1966, a 25-year-old former Marine climbed the steps of the famous University of Texas Tower at Austin, Texas, and began firing. In an hour and a half, Charles Joseph Whitman killed 13 people, including a fetus, and injured 38. He had already stabbed his wife and mother the same day. An autopsy on Whitman revealed a large and aggressive brain tumor that was undiagnosed.
Over the past 40 years, the names Harris and Klebold in Columbine and Patrick Purdy at Cleveland Elementary School, now with Adam Peter Lanza in Newtown, have become familiar to American parents concerned that their children will find themselves in a difficult situation. similar fatal situation.
Sadly, new restrictions might not deter crime, as more than three-quarters of the guns used in the killings were obtained legally. In the Newtown incident, the firearms were the legal property of the shooter’s mother, who was also a victim.
Possession of weapons in the United States
The latest real estate statistics show Americans have more guns than any other country in the world, one for every man, woman and child. According to the 2013 National Rifle Association Legislative Action Institute fact sheet, there are nearly 300 million private firearms in the country, including 100 million handguns.
While personal gun ownership has declined over the past 30 years, more than 4 in 10 U.S. households continue to own a firearm, and those who own firearms typically own two or more. . It is a fact that the vast majority of these weapons are used only for hunting, they are kept in gun chests or hidden in drawers and on the upper shelves of cabinets, where they are accessible in the event of a burglary ( rare event). The number of weapons already present in the population effectively eliminates any chance of an America without weapons despite the hopes of the anti-gun lobbies.
Laws that allow a person to conceal or openly carry a gun have not led to public shootings or reduced crime or gun deaths. Few licensed homeowners commit crimes and few are in a situation where they have to defend themselves. The most visible impact of less restrictive gun laws is an escalation in political and public positions among gun advocates.
Why mass shooting can continue or increase
Mass killings are often carried out by a “pseudo-command” which kills in public during the day, plans its crime well in advance, and prepares itself with a powerful arsenal of weapons. He has no plans to escape and hopes to die during the incident. Many criminologists and psychiatrists believe that mass killings are likely to continue, or even increase, in the future for the following reasons:
1. Access to weapons with enormous killing capacity
Concretely, Americans can buy and own almost any type of firearm, depending on their state of residence, their profession (the purchase of certain weapons such as machine guns, cannons and rifles and short barrel shotguns is limited. firearms license holders), age and personal status (such as mental health and criminal history). At the same time, instructions and kits for converting semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons, as well as large capacity ammo stores, are readily available for a persistent buyer. And virtually anyone can buy a firearm from a private seller.
2. Ineffective poorly funded mental health programs
Common characteristics of a mass murderer profile (depression, resentment, social isolation, tendency to blame others for their woes, fascination with violence, and interest in guns) are quite common in the total population, which suggests the need for further study. to better identify potential mass murderers. Unfortunately, since 2009, the economic recession has cut state public spending on mental health by more than $ 4 billion, a trend that is expected to continue for years to come, although the number of people receiving treatment has increased. increased by almost 10% over the same period.
3. Stress of a declining economy
Some believe that economic stress – working longer hours for lower pay as the cost of living continues to rise – leads to more depression, isolation, feelings of persecution and anger, especially for women. young white men, a group that had historically enjoyed a privileged right.
4. Possible link to violence in the media
According to a 2003 University of California study funded by major television networks, more than two-thirds of cable and network television programs feature one or more violent events, with an average of six acts per hour. A 2010 study from the University of California at Riverside found that by the age of 18, the average child witnessed 200,000 acts of violence, including 16,000 murders. According to a study published in the Psychological Bulletin, “Evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affects, as well as decreased empathy and prosocial behavior “. Isolation and attention to video games or television can be an enhanced defense mechanism, masking or obscuring the need for intervention and treatment.
There is no doubt that easy access to weapons contributes to the death toll, but it is not correct to suggest that random killings would be eliminated if there were no weapons. Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people in Oklahoma City with a fertilizer bomb on April 19, 1995; The weapon chosen by Andrew Kehoe was also explosives, not pistols.
Practical remedies to reduce mass murder
Realizing that there is no perfect solution, several legal and policy changes could be instituted and would be approved by the majority of Americans. More than half of Americans believe in background checks, banning guns for criminals or the mentally ill, gun registration and banning, according to a CNN / ORC poll in August 2012 large capacity semi-automatic clips.
Therefore, these changes need to be implemented:
- Standardize and enforce firearms possession laws across the country. Some states require a license to purchase a firearm, while others do not. Some restrict sales of assault weapons (with different definitions) while others do not. The law must be the same in every state to facilitate its enforcement while protecting the rights of citizens who legally have firearms to move without restriction across state borders.
- Fund the federal government’s program for background checks 100%. No criminal, known drug user, person deemed “mentally disabled”, illegal immigrant, or person convicted of domestic violence should be allowed to purchase or carry a weapon.
- Require private sellers to perform background checks on potential buyers. Federally licensed gun dealers now do it; unlicensed dealers, the guy you met at the local gun fair, have nothing to do with it. The penalty for selling without a background check should be extremely criminal.
- Prohibit the sale of weapons and semi-automatic magazines containing more than 10 bullets (excluding licensed law enforcement officers). If we can identify a potential killer, we should at least make it difficult for them to get a weapon. As Daniel Nagin, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “It is technologically impossible to kill a lot of people very quickly without having access to these assault weapons.” No additional “firepower” is required in a hunting situation and it is unlikely that a qualified gun owner would be involved in an ongoing shootout.
- Reinforce potential scenes of mass murder with restricted access and better security measures. This includes schools, shopping malls, large employers, and office buildings. School doors, for example, should be made of steel and should only be opened from the inside. Panic buttons should be located throughout the facility. Children are our future and our most precious asset; we must protect them at all costs.
- Balance the country’s physical and mental health programs. We treat people when they are physically ill or injured, but neglect those with mental health issues. It is especially important to have strong programs in schools so that children most at risk of becoming mass murderers – alone, bullied, bullies and excluded – receive early help. Teachers and school administrators should receive special training to help identify isolated and disgruntled people who need help.
- Tax television, film and video game producers for portraying violent content. The larger generation did not fail to see guts and blood when they were young. To have no standard other than income is foolish.
While the likelihood of an individual being involved in a firearm incident is extremely low, a single event, be it the scale of a Newtown or the story of a neighbor’s cousin, triggers our palpable fear of becoming a victim. . Moreover, the United States will never be unarmed; they are in the DNA of the nation, fueled by Western myth and our belief that one weapon makes all men equal. Many consider the possession of firearms to be a constitutional right.
A public outcry follows each massacre with strong words, promises of change and reassurance for the victims. However, nothing changes. Have we become so numb that we accept events like Newtown over and over again with the belief that it can’t happen to us or someone we know? None of our children are really safe. It’s time to act.
What do you think? Are there common sense changes we can make to improve the safety of our children?