Some Thoughts on the Tragedy in Connecticut...

A high school in Colorado. A college campus in Virginia. A parking lot in Arizona and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. A theater, again in Colorado. A shopping mall in Oregon. And now, an elementary school in Connecticut. All of these were heinous and despicable acts by troubled individuals. In most cases, nature eliminated the bad eggs as the perpetrators took their own miserable lives after achieving their month of fame. Those that didn’t will be rightfully spending the rest of their lives in prison or a mental facility, although a firing squad would seem more appropriate.

Just recently, not in relation to any of these acts, sportscaster and newly self-appointed gun control expert Bob Costas had been in the news. His rant about guns and the murder-suicide of a Kansas City Chiefs player had slightly reopened the gun control debate. The recent actions of a lone nut case in Connecticut will no doubt keep that issue in the news in the coming weeks.

I believe that the hearts of every sane American, whether they own a gun or not and no matter what their views on the issue, go out to the families of the victims of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty-six innocent people were slaughtered over what? Instead of preparing for the joy of seeing faces of children opening presents on Christmas morning, parents will now be preparing funerals and grave sites.

The Sunday morning talk shows were full of the debate and it is times like these that some people who consider themselves “pro-gun” start to question that philosophy. I really do not like to wade into the culture wars unless it is with a rational, not emotional argument. But, actions like Friday’s events in Connecticut appeal more to the emotional. This was not necessarily a case of someone obtaining guns and ammunition through some loopholes in existing gun laws. We do not know all the facts to make that proclamation. Nor is it, as some have suggested, a case of a mentally disturbed person falling through the cracks, or family and friends missing the warning signs. To me, this is a symptom of a society that is placing less of an emphasis on life as a whole.

Take, for example, a recent story on CNN. Wolf Blitzer interviewed a reporter for Time magazine about a recent story she wrote regarding genetic mapping. Modern genetic science has so advanced that we now have the ability to prenatally test a fetus’ genetic map to determine what, if any, diseases or afflictions that fetus may be at risk for or develop later in life. Towards the end of that story, Blitzer got to the huge moral and ethical question implicit in this story. Suppose a fetus should test genetically positive for a high risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Should the parents have the right to prevent that affliction on their offspring later in life by aborting that fetus now? The ethical continuum runs from the obvious to the obscure, from the definite to the potential future risk. This is the stuff of a Dr. Mengele and an Adolph Hitler. Now consider the number of abortions performed every year in America out of reasons of convenience. Very few abortions are performed because of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. In an odd and perverted way, one can say that an abortion performed to spare a child a disease later in life is a “better” reason than “convenience.” What is even more damning to the pro-choice crowd is the near universal availability of contraception which includes everything from the free abstinence to the sometimes costly prescriptions available and everything in between.

By the same token, the pro-life crowd needs to be more realistic. Usually, a belief against abortion slides down that slippery slope to an outright denial of contraception. This usually extends to rants against sex education and the like. Of course, that should rightfully begin in the home, but it doesn’t in many, many cases. Parents should do a whole host of things like help their kids with homework, take an interest in their school work, maybe meet a teacher now and then, know their kid’s whereabouts after 6:00 p.m., make sure they have breakfast before heading to school, etc. But, that is not the reality today. Hence, one can hardly expect today’s child to get the “birds and the bees” talk from their parents. Part of the breakdown in education today is not attributable to the teachers or their union or the administration. A certain degree of blame has to be placed squarely on the shoulders of parents. As a teacher in an elementary school, I can almost guarantee which students have concerned parents and which do not. While it is easy to point the fingers at teachers, the fact is that they should not be surrogate parents to their students but often end up doing just that for seven hours a day.

One unfortunate side effect of this general degradation of society best exemplified by the disregard for human life (from conception onwards) is the tendency to assign blame. We blame upbringing or brain chemical imbalances and the like. We blame society as a whole and significant people in a person’s life for “missing the warning signs.” In this case as with all the cases cited above, we blame guns and America’s “gun culture.” No amount of gun control laws up to and including outright bans are going to keep weapons out of the hands of nut cases and criminals. It is ironic that this mass murder of innocent children occurred in Connecticut, a state the Brady Campaign ranks as one with some of the strongest gun control laws in the country. Likewise, they rank Wisconsin and Colorado relatively high also. Yet, the theater massacre and Columbine occurred in Colorado and a lone nut case shot up a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

The fact is that no matter how strong a state’s gun control laws, they are not immune to tragedies like this which occurred in Connecticut. Washington DC once had perhaps the nation’s most stringent gun control laws in the country yet simultaneously held the title of “Homicide capital of the USA” for gun deaths. No pro-gun advocate simultaneously advocates that ex-felons and the mentally insane or unstable should have unencumbered access to firearms. In fact, if one looks at homicide rates by gun per 100,000 population, the states with the strictest gun control laws are in the top ten as well as states with the most lax gun control laws. Gun control laws make little difference in decreasing homicide rates. This fact is clearly illustrated here- in Connecticut, a state with some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, one of the most heinous mass murders with firearms nevertheless occurred. So blame not the guns this nut had in his possession; blame the person who pulled those triggers.

As stated earlier, these acts are those of sick people. They are also a symptom of a society that no longer places a premium on human life. Killers who are obviously and sometimes admittedly guilty are afforded free health care, food, and a roof for the rest of their lives at great cost to American taxpayers. We spend more money on a prisoner in a year, a person who made a conscious decision to rape or murder, yet we spend one-quarter that amount a year on a mentally challenged child’s education and care. We annually abort over 2 million babies a year, yet we pat ourselves on the back that “the rate of abortions has decreased.” Some states are adopting laws that allow euthanasia and we cloak death in the language of “compassionate care.” We ignore and become disinterested in the lives of our children then complain that the school system is failing us. A lone nut walks into an elementary school and we blame a “gun culture” in America. That “gun culture,” such that it exists, has been with us since the founding of this country yet only recently have these mass murders occurred. It is not our history, or “America’s fascination with guns,” or some suggested “gun culture.” It is attributable to a breakdown in the moral fiber of this country that first started in the 1960s and whose floodgates were opened in 1973.