Sandy Hook Shooting Aftermath: Society, Politics and What Happens Next

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The nation is still reeling following Friday’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  The tragic incident claimed the lives of 27 individuals (including the shooter) among which 20 were children.  Funerals began today across Newtown, an otherwise quiet community now left with families in ruin and overwhelmed with media, outrage and more questions than answers.

The bigger issues are now coming into focus and the obvious questions must be addressed; how could this happen? who would do such an unspeakable act? what aspects of society need to be examined/altered to prevent such incidents? what political ramifications will there be as a result?  These and other issues are on the table and it may take years to sort through the details to arrive at the answers.

Three points are very clear already in the wake of the latest in a string of violent mass murder-suicides…

First, this Connecticut community will never be the same again; families torn asunder, a community rocked and the memories of what occurred on Friday can and will never be forgotten.  Any loss of life is a tragedy but something stings a bit more within many of us when the innocence of children becomes violated by the corrupting force of society.

A serious examination into the mental health of our society needs to be done immediately.  Before enacting any additional legislation we, as a society, need to engage in a serious discussion with significant reform as to how we handle the mentally ill among us.  Better care for those predisposed to have mental illness or those whom exhibit signs at an early age.  As it is now our solutions are only extremes that resolve a handful of the problems; we either ignore mentally ill with the idea that if they are left alone they will leave us alone.  Of course the alternative is that the U.S. seems fixated upon pumping as many pharmaceutical psychotropic drugs down the throats of our children as possible—a disturbing trend with unknown and potentially dire consequences that we may now be realizing.   The United States leads the world in the number of children taking psychotropic medication and we have been at the forefront of this danger trend for more than 30 years.

Naturally, there are other factors which may contribute to furthering the mentally ill.  Our culture is filled with inflammatory, violent, sexual and/or otherwise potentially dangerous influences that are a playground for various personality disorders.  The rise of the narcissist from various social media outlets and the ubiquitous nature of the internet gives an open forum for anonymous, unchecked behavior among youths.  Video games, movies, images and other communications in irresponsible hands can shape individuals with existing personality disorders into dangerous animals.  A society that turns their collective backs on all of this simply furthers the development of these types of scenarios.   This isn’t to blame video games, movies, TV, the internet or any other medium that 99.99% of responsible people utilize regularly, rather it is to point out it’s risks for those that we ignore.

Finally, the calls for political action are well underway.  The conversations about gun control, assault weapon bans and even those who advocate banning all personal firearms have initiated their inevitable discourse.   Based upon the current climate in Washington and with such a tragedy looming so closely it is nearly a foregone conclusion that some type of assault weapon ban will be implemented in the weeks ahead.  Such a ban is not a matter of opinion or constitutionality it is simply what we can realistically anticipate in the near future from elected officials reacting to strong public outcry.

If we are to have a conversation about gun control it is important that we do so in the context of realism and what can be honestly expected.  Those few that would proclaim “ban all guns!” are living deep within a fantasy world unable to understand the impossibility of their statement.  Based upon figures from the Department of Justice, FBI and pollsters at least 25% of all Americans own a firearm.  In total there are 300 to 400 million privately owned guns in the United States.  Banning all guns is, by the numbers and resources needed to do so, an impossible goal.  Not to mention that a majority of Americans support the right for citizens to be able to keep some type of firearm to protect themselves.

What good does an assault weapon ban actually do?  This is a question not based on opinion either, but rather a realistic look at the situation based upon the statistics noted above.  It is unknown precisely how many so-called “assault weapons” exist in the United States but estimates from various sources range from 40 to 80 million.  This amount obviously varies depending upon the definition one uses for “assault weapon”.  If all assault weapons were banned tomorrow it would curtail to a large extent new weapons from being manufactured and/or brought into the country, however what about the existing tremendous cache of high powered weapons?  Does such a ban realistically stop people from owning them?  Will it stop a criminal from obtaining them?  These are realistic questions we should ask before passing legislation.

Perhaps congress needs to understand that merely banning something doesn’t make it go away, nor does it make it less attractive to mentally unhinged individuals and/or those that wish to carry out a criminal act.  For three decades we have fought a vigorous war on drugs in the United States and how has that turned out?  More marijuana, cocaine, LSD, PCP and other narcotics are available today than ever before.  We have strict enforcement of drug laws, but there is no means to realistically carry out such policies on a grand scale.  This is so much the case that some states have wisely backed off of these aggressive policies and people have realized the folly in such anti-drug measures.  Marijuana is now legal in two states and medically allowed in at least ten others.  Alcohol was prohibited in the United States for a brief period in the 1920′s, how did that turn out?

Simplistic solutions that ban an instrument, item or substance represent the placement of a small bandage on a massive tumor.  History has taught that sociological change, better medical care and education are much better answers than mere abolishment.  Unfortunately in an instant gratification, reactionary, polarized political and sociological climate, such long-term, big picture solutions are pushed aside from the quick fix that ultimately accomplishes minimal results.

To ban guns (or certain types of guns) in this context allows the lawless to facilitate how law abiding citizens must behave when it should be the other way around.

 

Also on This Episode

 

-  Don’t steal maple syrup from Canadians.  Next to hockey, bacon and Bryan Adams they take their maple syrup very seriously.

 

-  Mandatory Christmas stories part I:  Man gets stuck in a chimney.

 

-  Worst Song of the Week plus a bonus track!

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4 Responses to “Sandy Hook Shooting Aftermath: Society, Politics and What Happens Next”

  1. Sorry Mike but the common thread isn’t just that they suffer a mental illness, it’s that they suffer from a mental illness AND have legal and ready access to weapons that can cause horrendous damage. Sure, the state of mental health care is something that needs to be addressed seriously, but so do US gun laws. Every country has mentally ill people. Not every country has such ready access to automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and not every country has public shootings every other month.

  2. Mike,

    As much as your nation was founded on guns and violence and your right to bear arms doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go about things in this day and age.

    All nations start with a bloody beginning, some more than others, however times change. A lot of time has changed from Colonial America to current America. Based on your argument America will never give up weapons because of it’s history. What about 100, 200 or 1000 years from now? Surely you don’t expect the mentality to stay just as primitive as it was back in the founding days when life was much simpler and more dangerous?

    I don’t want to write a giant rant so I’ll put it quite simple. It is what it is until you change it. Everything becomes outdated with time, everything changes. Laws, technology, our mentality and intelligence. The fact that people in America keep citing the constitution in regards to their ‘right to bear arms’ was very much applicable in those times, as you could imagine people lived in a different way than we do today. As a result that right to bear arms, a right to your nation (upon the date which it was founded) is not as applicable today as it was back then…. even though LEGALLY it is.

    Look at the development. Giant cities, countless police, education, mobile phones, neighbourhood watch groups, public lighting, home security systems etc. Your nation has changed. It wouldn’t hurt to look over some older laws and replace them with something more applicable to modern life. I’m not saying you guys should ban all guns, but there is no need for your common man to have an assault rifle at home. As the name implies, it is for assaults. Civilians do not partake in assaults as far as I am aware. :/

    Anyways, I’m just making conversation. Just think about how applicable some very old things that people dedicate their lives to to the point that they live and die by them (ie: the bible, quran, the constitution, patriotism, race, etc) are to today’s modern world. Not just in the United States, but everywhere. Times are changing and we need to adapt to that.

    - Ollie

  3. Also, consider when your good people wrote the constitution, there were no automatic rifles or even semi automatic weapons. Do you think that the writers of the constitution and ‘the right to bear arms’ had any idea that that we would have assault rifles and machine guns? If so, do you think they really would have wanted common civilians to have them sitting in their home?

  4. Anonymous Listener Says:
    January 3, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Warning: Long post. Feel free to respond with tl;dr.

    A bit of background on me to set the stage for what I’m going to say. I’ve always been highly intelligent. I’ve never described myself as a genius because that’s not how I see myself and it smacks of arrogance. But I’m probably in the top 10%. I was selected for the gifted program at my school in second grade and in fifth grade selected for an advanced math class that taught the foundations of algebra. But in middle school, my grades started to drop, I lost interest in friends, and mostly isolated myself. I got lucky because my father is a psychiatrist and my mother works at his office, so they saw the warning signs. If they hadn’t caught it, I could easily have dropped out of high school and ended up in jail or a mental institute. Worst case, suicide. I was diagnosed bipolar type II, later bumped to type I after I suffered an episode of visual hallucinations. Thanks to modern psychiatric medicine, I’m fairly stable, indistinguishable from the rest of the population. I’m about a year and a half away from getting a bachelor’s degree in computer science, after which I plan to get some job experience and eventually get a master’s degree.

    I tentatively agree that psychiatric medicine is probably over-prescribed, but I would argue that the prevalence of mental disorders is underestimated. I would also rather have a society that is over-prescribed than under-prescribed. Many psychiatric drugs are benign in mentally sound individuals, and the ones that aren’t are regulated. Many psychiatrists no longer prescribe Ritalin because of their potential for abuse.

    What’s sadly lacking is that psychiatric medicine works best when combined with therapy. Therapy gives you the tools to recognize signs and learn how to deal with the disorder when things start going south. It also sorts out kids who just had bad parents or role models. Psychiatric drugs may be a quick fix for the symptoms of a disorder, but there can be lingering psychological problems that developed before the disorder was treated.

    As far as violence in media, I see it as a parental issue. Parents are getting lazy about keeping tabs on what their children are doing. When they hear their kids screaming into a microphone while playing Call of Duty, that’s a huge red flag that they need to sit their kid down and say “Listen, this is not acceptable behavior. If you can’t control your temper, I’m taking the headset away.”

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