Saying "only a monster could do such things; he couldn't be human" DOES NOT HELP. It not only absolves him of responsibility (monsters can't help being monsters); it fails to offer any way for us to prevent similar events in the future. We can plan for hurricanes and tornadoes, mitigate their effects; we can't stop them. Calling mass shootings "tragedies" implies that they are something to endure, not something to stop.
Just the facts: 18 children & 9 others dead; 24-year-old shooter and his mother among them (it was her kindergarten classroom). Newtown, CT is 76 mi/123 km from New York City.
People will be using this to demand stronger gun control laws. While I agree we need those, I don't think they would've helped.
The shooter was white, middle/upper-class, in a wealthy neighborhood, with a mom with strong ties to the community. He didn't acquire the materials for this overnight--he had multiple guns and a bulletproof vest. He probably wouldn't have had any problem getting a gun--or guns--even with much stricter laws.
We need stricter laws; they would prevent a momentary attack of stupid turning into life-destroying violence. But laws won't make people treat each other decently, or make them believe actions have consequences, or make them care what happens to other people's families. A person who's come to believe the only meaningful accomplishment he could have is to have his name plastered across all major news networks at once, is not going to be dissuaded by gun laws.
Gun control prevents "mah ex is sleeping with that bitch/bastard; gonna get a gun and blow them both away;" it prevents "Better pick up firepower so I don't get screwed over while selling/buying dope tomorrow;" it doesn't prevent long-term plans for one-shot mass destruction.
For those, we need more community awareness and more social accountability. We need people to get to know their neighbors. We need to inculcate compassion and consideration from an early age; we need people to believe their lives are entwined with those around them.
We need to acknowledge there's a danger-level between "totally harmless" and "terrorist threat" so that people aren't afraid that saying "my neighbor is acting weird; can someone come check it out" will ruin their neighbor's life if neighbor was just mourning a much-beloved pet by digging up all their rosebushes. OTOH, police and other authorities (school officials, military administrators) need to be trained to spot the difference between normal stress & grief reactions, and those that lead to mass violence. At the very least, they need to acknowledge that there *is* a difference.
And everyone in *any* position of authority needs to be aware that lack of hope makes people desperate, and desperate people do stupid, often violent things, and our society needs to treat "will to live and care about other people" as values that need to be taught and nurtured.
I am in favor of much stronger gun control laws. However, I'm under no impression that stricter laws--especially in the current political climate--would prevent atrocities like this one; this was outside the scope of any reasonable preventative laws.
No society has ever been able to prevent angry, desperate people from lashing out. Some societies are better than others at keeping people from becoming angry and desperate enough to lash out with violence. Laws can't do that; laws proscribe actions, not emotions, not thoughts. We need to change our culture, not just our laws; we need to provide hope and comfort as preventative measures to ward off atrocity, not as rewards only doled out to the deserving.
Everyone deserves hope. The cost--for all of us--when it's gone, is too great to ignore.
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