Saturday, December 15, 2012
No Easy Answers for Sandy Hook Tragedy
The massacre of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school Friday has left us searching for answers. Why did it happen? How could it have been stopped? Is there a way to avoid such tragedies in the future?
Predictably, the first knee jerk reaction to such a heartbreaking event, was for more gun control--or, as some have suggested, the prohibition of all guns in the United States.
That, of course, would require the elimination of the Second Amendment which says, in part: 'the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'
Let's look at some facts about gun ownership in the United States. According to the General Social Survey (GSS), there are approximately 44 million gun owners in the United States. This means that 25 percent of all adults owned at least one firearm.
The National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms (NSPOF), conducted a few years ago, reported that Americans own 192 million guns, with 36% of these consisting of rifles, 34% handguns, 26% shotguns, and 4% of other types of long guns. In the United States, 11% of households report actively being involved in hunting, with the remaining firearm owners having guns for self-protection and other reasons.
Imagine trying to confiscate 192 million guns. It simply will not happen--nor should it. After all, gun owners are not criminals. And while criminals do use guns to commit crimes, criminologists have found no correlation between overall firearm ownership and gun violence.
It is interesting to note that at the outset of World War II the Japanese scrapped plans to invade the West Coast of America because they knew there were some 80 million guns in the hands of American citizens. That was not the case in places like China, Southeast Asia and other countries occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.
That aside, what can possibly explain the massacre of innocent children, teachers and others at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and other places such as Virginia Tech University in 2007 when 32 people were killed and 17 others wounded by a deranged student who was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder.
What caused Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old killer in the Sandy Hook shootings, to first shoot his mother in the face and then drive to the elementary school and slaughter defenseless children in their classrooms?
We may never know what demons infected Lanza's mind, though I am sure in the next several days and weeks armies of psychiatrists will offer up their opinions.
No matter what motives and reasons are put forth for such a horrific crime, there is little doubt that some will argue for changes to the Second Amendment and others will blame guns as the sole cause of such terrible violence.
This is simply wrong-headed. What about Hollywood's pandering to audiences with violent movies? What about gangster rap? Or the increasing violence in sports?
And what about those graphically violent video games?
Scientists have long debated whether violent video games have an adverse effect on young people and recently the Supreme Court overturned a California ban on violent video games.
The court said that video games, even offensive ones, were protected by the First Amendment, and that there wasn't clear evidence that playing games such as Grand Theft Auto and Postal really harmed people.
However, research has shown that immediately after playing a violent video game, kids can have aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and physiological effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, studies that survey large populations of kids on their game-playing habits and measure aggressive personality traits or self-reported aggressive acts — physical fights, arguments with teachers — often find an association between games and aggression.
Other known factors more strongly linked to child aggression are a history of abuse, poverty, genetics and personality — and the risk climbs higher when several factors are present in combination.
For example, the continued destruction of the traditional family in which children are reared by two caring and responsible parents has been linked to children who are overly aggressive and angry.
In the case of Adam Lanza, for example, his parents divorced in 2008. Studies have shown that many children of divorced parents have difficulty adjusting and often blame themselves for the breakup. That in turn leads to feelings of hostility, bouts of depression and a sense of isolation.
Is that what set Adam Lanza off on his mission of murder and suicide? Once again, we may never know definitively.
But what we do know is that the Second Amendment was put in the Constitution to allow Americans to defend their lives and property from the aggression of individuals or government.
In the history of the world it has been governments, not individual gun owners, that have been the greatest origin of genocide and oppression. When governments want to control their populations, the first thing they do is eliminate the ability of individuals to defend or protect themselves.
People who want to scrap or dilute the Second Amendment should take a few moments to reflect on that.