Tragedy, the word derives from the Greek words tragos (goat) and aeidein (song), in drama it has come to represent the development of a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (such as destiny, circumstance, or society) and reaches a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion. In the common vernacular, it now represents the sorrowful or disastrous conclusion.
On Friday, 14 December we all became actors upon that stage with the events that unfolded in
. Now we stand in shock and revulsion discussing what
went wrong and what we can do to fix it. Newtown, Connecticut
Guns are just one aspect of the problem we seem to face today. Even though I am a libertarian, I am not opposed to the registration, background checks, or waiting periods generally associated with gun control legislation. Unless you’re willing to go to the lengths of criminalization of possession and/or ownership, gun control has little impact on me. I can wait three days or thirty for receipt of a gun purchased.
Guns aren’t even the most lethal mass murder weapon. According to data compiled by Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, guns killed an average of 4.92 victims per mass murder in the United States during the 20th century, just edging out knives, blunt objects, and bare hands, which killed 4.52 people per incident. Fire killed 6.82 people per mass murder, while explosives far outpaced the other options at 20.82. Of the 25 deadliest mass murders in the 20th Century, only 52 percent involved guns.
On February 18th, 2003 an unemployed taxi driver walked onto a subway with two milk containers full of gasoline and a cigarette lighter and killed 198 men, women, and children. This took place where I was living at the time, the Republic of South Korea, a country with exceedingly strict gun control. Gun control to the point at which if you are allowed a weapon, you are not even allowed to keep your weapons at home, you store them in the local police armory and must sign them in and out.
Guns are not the root cause of the problem. If the problem isn’t the guns, which are accessories, but the people behind them, doesn’t that raise other questions that we ought to be discussing?
How do we as a society create a person capable of mercilessly killing 20 small children?
If we didn’t create him, how did we miss him?
Even if we had identified him as a person who was at risk early, what could have been done about it?
If the assigned motive of an argument with school staff is correct, how do we produce a 20 year old member of society so lacking in conflict resolution skills that he resorts to mass murder?
Forget gun culture, are we a violent culture? Do we embrace and celebrate violence? And if so, what can or should be done about it?
Can Anything Be Done About It?
Gun control is a convenient political axe to grind, but honestly do you think it will prevent these kinds of tragedies? If laws against murder don’t prevent killings, what makes you think laws against guns will prevent shootings? It is arguable even whether or not gun control will positively impact crime rates.
At the crudest level, as Justice Breyer wrote, violent crime inhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/weekinreview/29liptak.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
has increased since the ban took effect in 1976. “Indeed,” he continued, “a comparison with 49 other major cities reveals that the district’s homicide rate is actually substantially higher relative to these other cities than it was before the handgun restriction went into place.” Washington
Gun Purchase Control Worked and Failed
The shooter in the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticutt apparently attempted to buy a rifle at a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Danbury on the 11th of December and was denied because he didn’t want to undergo a background check or the waiting period. This is either coincidental, or calls into question the current motive of his argument with school staff on the 13th.
The guns in this incident were registered to the mother, so far to all appearances a fine and upstanding member of the community with guns legally obtained and to all appearances, also legally able to obtain guns no matter how stringent we make the laws.
As a gun owner and gun advocate, I have taken friends and fellow gun owners to task for improper storage, from a gun lying on a table in front of a window, to guns outside safes in homes with children. Perhaps it is time to address not the purchase but the storage of guns. Wear it, or lock it, has always been my firm belief.
GUN STORAGE CONTROLHere is gun control legislation I can support: In order to purchase a weapon you must present proof of a place to securely store it. The container must be GSA certified and must have a GSA certified combination based locking system. Only the legal owners may have access to the combination, meaning the owers must have passed the required background checks and be legally entiteled to own the weapon. Underage children who are not legally permitted to own a firearm or who have not passed the required background checks are not allowed access to the storage container.
Massachusetts has a good law, although I would take it a step forward and preclude key based locks:
All handguns, rifles and shotguns must be stored in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device. Such weapon shall not be deemed stored or kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user. Primitive firearms are exempt from this storage requirement.Massachusetts also has a Firearm ID Card (FID) requirement. In order to purchase guns or ammunition, you must have an FID card. The requirements for the FID card are completion of a safety course and the passing of a background check. I had one when I lived in Massachusetts and have no objection to the implemenation of the requirement elsewhere.
IT IS NOT THE GUN OR GUN CONTROL THAT IS AT FAULTI wanted to end this post with the above statement. If you think stricter gun control laws, other than criminalization of ownership, would have prevented this tragedy you are naive. Even absent guns entirely, it is likely this tragedy would have simply played out another way with either a higher or lower casualty count, no one can know for sure. As a society we need to address the root cause of this problem and others like it, and the root cause is not guns. Get rid of guns and you might have six dead from knife wounds or forty dead from molotov cocktails. The problem is inherent in our society and culture, and frankly, I don't have a clue how to go about fixing it while remaining a free and open society. I know a lot of you will disagree with my perspective on firearm laws and storage, so be it.
But here we are, left with Morton's Fork and Sophie's Choice.