In the Wake of Today’s Tragedy, It’s Time to Talk about Gun Control. Again.

At least 27 people died at the hands of a gunman who unleashed terror at an elementary school today in Newtown, Ct. This mass shooting, the second-deadliest in United States history, is made even more tragic by the fact that 20 of the victims were elementary school-aged.

“The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old,” President Obama said in a nationally televised address this afternoon. Fighting back tears, he continued: “They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

The horrors in Newtown mark the 15th U.S. mass shooting in 2012. Eighty-four people died this year at the hands of these killers, a number higher than that of any other year in recent history.

Is it just a coincidence that this upward spike in gun violence occurs as civilians in the U.S. own more firearms than ever before? According to Mother Jones, America possesses nearly 300 million handguns, a 50 percent jump from the 200 million in 1995. Gun-related massacres have become increasingly common over those same years. Now, more than ever, is the time to acknowledge that our current gun possession laws are ineffective. Indeed, they’re tragic. It’s time to break the political stranglehold of the National Rifle Association and have a national conversation about gun control.

Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of the victims in Newtown. It feels like we’re all living in Newtown today.

Photo via Flickr user pasa47 licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Comments

  1. The people who did these horrible acts of violence are all very mentally ill people. I think the better conversation is the state of our mental health system. These obviously sick people are just roaming around the streets not getting the treatment they need until they have these obvious psychotic episodes and become a danger to society. But no, maybe its just easier to talk about guns…

    • We need BOTH responsible gun control AND improved availability to effective interventions for people with emotional and personality disorders. Neither will be easy and nobody should pretend that the problem of violence in our society will be remedied quickly by these measures.

      BUT, as a matter of fact, we should examine other factors in our culture that may be contributing to or encouraging violent anti social behaviors. For example: the portrayal and glorification of violence in movies, T.V., gaming, other recreation pass times. And then, in the mainstream and social media we see over wrought, uncivil and often hostile exchanges about political issues – some of it is shockingly aggressive. Finally, our government and the governments of other nations constantly bristle, threaten and even go to war. And then our leaders turn around and glorify the nationalism, patriotism and economic interests that led up to these tragic, useless and avoidable slaughters.

      Making violent outbursts less prevalent in our culture will absolutely require some big changes. Sensible gun control is just one thing but certainly not enough.

    • While you *are* right that we desperately need to address access not only to mental health care but *specifically* that people need timely access to appropriate care at the hands of PROFESSIONALS (and the vast majority of those in far too many places, esp. when the conversation is limited to public/county mental health not only aren’t professional, but they’re also unethical, they have no compassion *and* they have a complete or near complete lack of competence to boot). In a lot of places, the default setting of doctors is “sedate patients until they drool, just in case” and these are doctors who often AVERAGE around “shouldn’t see live patients”. That the state of the system is this bad leaves many actually better off forgoing what masquerades as “mental health care”.

      On the other hand you are flat out wrong that this is about the mentally ill and guns. It’s nice to pretend that it is because then you don’t have to admit it could be *anyone* or that *normal* people do hideously evil things like murder – even serial killings. However, they do. The rate of violence among the mentally ill and those without mental illness is roughly the same – a very small percentage (about 2%) of both populations. Worth mention as a side note, while violent crimes by the mentally ill get a lot of publicity, what is far more likely to happy to the mentally ill is that they’re more likely to be VICTIMS of violence than the perpetrators of it. This is why there’s no reason to violate the civil rights of all of the mentally ill “just in case” – it’s because most are *not* violent and never will be, not even when blatantly psychotic or otherwise decompensated. This is why the only category of mentally ill patients who are subjected to loss of the right to weapons is those who have been adjudicated dangerous and mandated to involuntary commitment – it’s because it’s specifically this group that has been statistically shown dangerous. There’s a bit of increase in risk with those who self-medicate with certain substances *and* are prone to paranoia. But the other category of mentally ill responsible for most of the violence is rarely found in voluntary treatment. They often get their treatment involuntarily or via the prison system – it’s people with certain personality disorders (mostly sociopaths).

      So there’s no reason to slander a category of the disabled with your stigma just because you’d rather protect your precious guns or gun rights.

    • I’m with you there. As a woman who has suffered from severe depression for years, and having been institutionalized before, the mental health system is f**ked up. I’ve gone in feeling suicidal, and walked out worse, because I got to look in the face of rapists that got off on insanity, minors they couldn’t charge with murder, and some of the most unstable people I’ve ever seen. None of them stayed more than a week. Gun control’s easy to talk about, but look at all of the countries with no gun control laws, great mental health facilities, and very little gun violence. Canada, for example.

  2. Rachel Kassenbrock says:

    I agree–We need to take better care of the mentally ill in this country. A big improvement would be to make mental healthcare more easily accessible (more accessible than, say, guns). Still, there’s no question that the increased availability of firearms goes hand in hand with the increase in gun-related massacres. Our current system makes it too easy for those guns to end up in the wrong hands.

  3. Just last week, a man in China attacked 22 children – with a knife. As of the latest accounts, none of the kids died. If he had used a semi-automatic, the death toll would have been much higher.

    These gun massacres don’t happen without the existence of the gun lobby – the NRA, especially. As long as Wayne LaPierre or his family or any other gun lobbyist’s family are not in any danger, nothing will change in Washington.

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