The Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Conn., struck a chord with America.
We mourned for 20 children and six faculty members.
We demanded answers for the unanswerable like what motivated the killer.
Then, all too soon, several politicized the issue as if gun control is a catchall bandage for an unexplainable tragedy with multiple factors.
This particularly is the case with Adam Lanza, 20, who reportedly had Asperger’s syndrome and social anxiety. Further, the killer — whom newspapers state had a personality disorder and could not feel empathy — may have believed his mother would commit him to a psychiatric facility against his will.
Geneticists will study the shooter’s DNA to determine whether his gene mutations predisposed him to violence, The Boston Globe reports. Some experts say it’s junk science; interviewing his friends would produce clearer answers. Nevertheless, results are due by January’s end.
Junk science or not, this joins other factors — like video game exposure, blaming God or lack of faith, and gun availability — in the tapestry of a layered problem.
There is a saying in the blogosphere credited to comedian Will Ferrell, though it’s taken out of context: "If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars make people drive drunk and spoons make you fat."
Whether he’s joking or not, he’s right.
People kill people; guns are the weapon of choice.
Granted, guns can do more damage than pencil stabbings or drunk driving, but in these situations— with aggressive people in general —the seeds were sown long before semiautomatics entered the picture. If guns weren’t an option, the person would select another weapon or destruction mode.
Still, gun control is the order.
Entertainers including Jamie Foxx, Reese Witherspoon, Beyonce and Steve Carrell appear in ads for Demand a Plan, a Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign that advances so-called common sense gun laws.
The purportedly grassroots effort — which 800 mayors support — states that 74 percent of NRA members support criminal background checks for prospective gun owners; 72 percent believe people on terror watch lists should lose gun ownership privilege; and 71 percent believe domestic abusers shouldn’t have concealed carry permits.
If that’s true, this shouldn’t be a polarizing issue. This shouldn’t be “us” versus “them,” Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.
Yet there’s such incivility among those dividing lines.
Recently, CNN’s Piers Morgan called Larry Pratt, Gun Owners of America’s executive director, “an unbelievably stupid man” after Pratt suggested armed teachers stand a better chance against Newtown-style violence.
Pratt said anyone should have access to lightweight, high-performance AR-15 rifles, with 30-round capacity magazines — one of Lanza’s weapons of choice — in fairness to Morgan.
That’s extreme, but fair-minded people, regardless of their politics, want an end to mass shootings like Newtown and Columbine. They want to read the news and see no lists of victims who had their whole lives ahead of them.
They just have a strange way of showing it, with all the hate mongering and name-calling.
Before we can find the solution, we must understand the background: America, like Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock wrote, has a gun culture that ensures “more and more domestic disputes will end in ultimate tragedy.”
At least, that’s how he and NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas, who praised the column, see it.
Gun rights advocates like Ted Nugent believe guns offer personal protection and defense from tyranny. The slightest hint of gun control, to them, threatens the Second Amendment.
Though gun control, on the surface, is no left-right issue, as Demand a Plan’s polls show, political divisions and drastically different worldviews ignite passions that lower the political discourse, as the CNN interview showed.
The two sides won’t see eye to eye, ever, because one side believes government saves the day and the other believes big government’s the problem.
Amid tragedies like Newtown, it’s easy to see why a “guns for everybody” mentality could seem extreme, but let’s turn the tables for a moment.
Imagine a gruesome crime occurred in a very specific way, down to the finest detail, as seen in a movie or described in a news report.
Would actors and journalists join the campaign for First Amendment reform?
Would movie studios and newsrooms see the chant as premature, an isolated incident or a slippery slope that could seriously infringe on their freedoms and threaten their livelihood?
Journalists revere the First Amendment — and for good reason. We believe the “sun should shine” on public matters, we understand how a marketplace of ideas promotes an informed citizenry, and we appreciate that citizens can criticize leaders without fear of treason.
Any whiff of censorship ignites our ire.
Now you know how gun rights advocates feel.
They’re not thinking of Newtown when they say teachers should have AR-15s in their classrooms; they’re not thinking that Demand a Plan’s initiative is unreasonable.
Rather, they’re saying anything they can that counters the slippery slope of government encroachment. They’re saying whatever eases their minds so grandparents, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in unsafe neighborhoods or situations can defend themselves.
They regard the Constitution and Bill of Rights as sacrosanct, untouchable dominos; if one right were snatched away, others would follow.
Gun control proponents — at least, their most vocal advocates — believe the Constitution’s Preamble — which states, “… in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare…” — allows for changes.
After all, times have changed. With mass shootings, we must do something, and the Founding Fathers couldn’t have envisioned such carnage.
So nothing’s sacred; anything’s fair game.
You don’t like the Constitution? Change it. Don’t like the Bible? Amend it, too.
Morgan, in a separate interview with the Rev. Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor, said, “It’s time for an amendment to the Bible” because Scripture doesn’t consider modern moral dilemmas. In a fall interview with comedian Jeff Foxworthy he asked, “Should the Bible be an evolutionary thing, rather like the Constitution was amended a few times?”
The former worldview believes a solid foundation, if rigid or antiquated with time, should stand without compromise; a so-called progressive stance rolls with the punches and changes with the tides.
Who’s to say who’s right or wrong? There’s something to be said for tradition, but sometimes, tradition doesn’t square with a changing, more dangerous world.
However, the solution isn’t all or nothing. There have to be checks and balances.
Though arming schoolteachers with assault weapons poses numerous risks, so does disarming everybody.
Retired Marine Joshua Flashman, whose peripheral knowledge of Lanza attracted media attention, suggested a ban on civilian gun ownership.
“You want to dissuade someone from trying to get their hands on something you don’t want them to have? Tell them you’re going to take away their freedom for 25 to life, with no flexibility or leniency in sentencing and administration for corrections,” he told CNN.
Why does he think it’s a good idea?
“It saturates the public square with well-armed, well-trained certified good guys, and dramatically lowers the readily available firepower of the scumbags,” he said.
I saw a news report with a mother amazed by her child’s suggestion that only law enforcement and service members should have firearms.
“Can you believe he came up with that on his own?” she said, with pride.
Well, yes, we can, I thought. Because he’s 10, and doesn’t understand the world’s complexities and just how awful an idea that really is.
Okaloosa County and Crestview residents know, from all the news reports on corrupt elected leaders and law enforcement, there are no “certified good guys.”
Among the military and police ranks, and like any workplace, some people are better at their jobs than others are. Some are more ethical than others are.
Take West Texas Army Pvt. Steven Green, whom NPR reported was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl before shooting and killing her.
He had a history of violence, as he recalled killing a man who didn’t stop at an Iraqi checkpoint.
“Over there, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody, and it’s like, ‘All right, let’s go get some pizza,” he said in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
Oh, and add Jeffrey Dahmer and Timothy McVeigh to the ranks of veterans gone bad. Dahmer, a former Army vet, killed 16 people and practiced cannibalism.
McVeigh, a former Gulf War Army vet, was credited with the Oklahoma City bombing.
Certainly, there are hardworking, ethical public servants. We should respect these brave men and women and not let a few “bad apples” spoil the bunch.
However, in this brave new world, there are no “certified good guys.”
And there are no easy answers for this ongoing gun debate.
Contact News Bulletin Editor Thomas Boni at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbeditor.