What I Think We Should Consider To Prevent The Next Tragedy

Before I start giving opinions, I wanted to express my sorrow and prayers to the families affected by recent shootings in the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre in New Town, Connecticut, and at the Clackamas Town Center shopping mall shooting near Portland, Oregon, and other families and friends affected by recent violent shootings that are becoming too common now.  The pain you are going through is not one I’d wish on anyone, and no one should have to lose a loved one over such tragic trappings.  You are in my prayers.

However, as I’ve seen and noticed too often over the years, human tend to have two opposite reactions to tragedy, each dependent on how often and how brutal the tragic event is.  Something where we’d not had that level of brutality in tragedy, such as the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, we have an overreaction to – understandable, given how the concept of two kids walking in and shooting people at that time was beyond belief.  The other, which often leads to the next major tragedy, is under-reaction in response to more frequent, yet equally tragic, events – we had major reactions at the first few High School shootings, yet after so many of them, we had no reaction, no blame for the cause, nothing but sorrow for the victims.  Both fuel each other, especially in our modern, connected society:  to regain attention and cause debate, we have to cause more harm and further the impact of our actions.  The next shooter is probably watching this stuff and making plans on how to make his stand out from the last.

I wrote this in response to a Facebook posting asking what should be suggested to lawmakers, and I have a feeling I’ll be rewriting the same thing to others that ask for what we should do.  These are my thoughts, not backed fully by evidence but with enough insight into the past, with the hope that others who choose to examine this take history into account with opinion.

“I have to ask how many people responding have been held up at gun point, or have been part of a (mass) shooting?  How many have been in that defenseless, helpless situation where someone may not be giving you the option talk the problem out, where the gunman has no regard to your well-being, that your death does not matter to them?  I’m thankful I’ve never had that situation in my life, but having lived – and are living – in an area of heavy violence and crimes, without the resources to move out right away, I’m equally grateful for the right to bear arms and hopeful that concealed carry finally gets allowed in our state.  However, I’m also worried, as often comes with major tragedies like this, that a major change could make more difficult or impossible my ability to get a weapon as well – as has happened in the past when we looked at other things people blamed for previous tragedies.

As humans, we tend to overreact in the face of tragedy, thinking the safest solution is eliminating the source of the problem.  This isn’t without its merits – “how many people need to legitimately build bombs in a non-war state?” is an excellent example, after the 1993 World Trade Center and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.  However, we also get wrapped up in the wrong sources of the real problems, as media companies learned in 1999 with Columbine.  The focus of the problem back then became the violent media both of those boys enjoyed, not the problems they faced in their home and school lives that really led them to do it.

The issue at hand now is gun control and mental stability, with a lot of people wanting reform in both areas.  A lot of the people I see speaking up are for a balanced approach that I feel is the way we should go – who, beyond the military, police, or former soldiers and police officers who’ve done their duty, needs an assault rifle?  The right to be able to hunt, as well as the right to bear arms in the event of personal danger for themselves, their families, and their communities, don’t.  Likewise, those with mental instabilities that makes them a danger to themselves and the people around them shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun.

However, some of those getting major media coverage, such as Mayor Bloomberg of New York, have an extreme view where it’s a complete ban they want – yet he and his constituents should have more reason to be against this than anyone in the USA.  What if the tragedy of 9/11 had been a ground attack instead of an air one?  What if we were dealing with thousands of terrorists in guns on our soil?  The military may have a vast number to pull from, but they also may be traveling from across the country, which could take hours; the police, as big as they are in NYC, would be a limited resource as well, even if they pulled outlying communities for resources; and in the event that I’m describing, there’s no real way to know, even with full plans, where the terrorists will go or who they will attack.  We scoff and laugh at this possibility, yet we also scoffed and laughed at the possibility of teens going and shooting up their schools before it happened as well.

You’re not going to end evil by repealing or severely hampering the second amendment.  You’re going to be lucky to stop the dumbest and weakest of criminals by these laws, but you’re not going to deter other criminals, inside or outside of our country, from getting whatever weapon they choose.  Whoever has the idea that the repeal of the second amendment as being a good thing had better re-examine how many humans will be hurt or killed by such actions before even considering the push for it.

I do like some of what I am hearing – allowing teachers to arm themselves is a great example.  It may deter some of the students considering such actions in their future, and if it doesn’t deter it, it may limit the amount of lives lost as a result of the gun person being considerably more outnumbered.

I’d throw in the idea of either paid or voluntary police and military personnel having a bigger presence in all schools and public areas, with bonuses and incentives for those that choose to.  It would allow for the use of untapped resources at places where it’s needed, as well greater protection of the greatest resources we have to offer:  human lives.

Finally, we may need to re-evaluate the institutionalization of the most serious of threats to our society.  Some people – particularly those truly incapable of working due to mental instability – may never be able to integrate with society in a safe way.  This is not without some changes to how we treat the people in there – we can’t just “lock them up and throw the key away”, as one might say.  They would still need to be allowed the possibility to integrate with society, albeit in a controlled manner, and there would need to be limits to what is done to them in their.  (Basically, because they aren’t doing anything wrong, they should be treated better than our prisoners, but with an understanding of why they are there in the first place.)  Had the shooter at Sandy Hook been in an institution, we might have been able to prevent or delay the shooting – or possibly given him the chance to reintegrate with society in the future.

To recap:  no change to second amendment; change to who has access to semi-automatic guns; no change to non-sources such as media; allow teachers with guns in class; allow military and police, current and former, with incentives and reasons to willingly help watch over schools and public places; and finally, re-examination of institutionalizing our dangers to society, with appropriate treatment and handling for the care of these individuals.  Those are my suggestions.”

One of the things I’ve brought up in another Facebook re-posting involves something that should not, yet did briefly, enter into this tragedy, hate groups, specifically the Westboro Baptist Church, whose hatred of gay people is so severe and extreme that the actively protest outside of major and minor tragedies to protest gay rights in America.  They posted over the weekend on their blogs their intent to protest the vigil and services of the 26 victims of the elementary school shooting.  Needless to say, after a lot of public outrage over how heartless these people our, one of the major hacking groups, Anonymous, responded with a quick and heavy hand, re-posting personal information about its members, and taking out the major sites and blogs of this group.  As happy as I was to hear about their actions, I’m think that they did not go far enough.

Groups like this seem crazy, extreme and inconsequential, but they also tend to grow and become extremely dangerous.  They tend to gather those who share their ideas, as well as those who’ve been under heavy oppression, those who are afraid of being a victim of them, etc.  This kind of mentality – of dismissing these hate groups – tend to lead to the growth, spread, and eventual violence and death at the hands of these groups.  While the Nazi’s of WWII are the most famous of this, we have modern equivalents in the Middle East, infamous now for September 11th.   How easy it is to dismiss the group of extremists until they become to powerful to stop without military action!

The simplest non-violent solution I can see, that has not been taken yet by Anonymous, is the withdrawal of the funds needed to continue to help this church grow.  These people have the available funds to travel and protest as they please – where is this money coming from and how else is it used?  Besides propaganda material and basic needs for the church, where is the money going to?  As much as I’d like to force them to think in a healthier way (such as being neutral – accepting, but not being forced to like, gays as an example), forcing thought and opinion rarely works.  Eliminating the access to spread their hatred, or limiting how much they grow and spread their message of hate, is the best approach I can see, next to charging them as a hate group.  Attacking the group’s sources of income should be the next priority in eliminating their message of fear and hatred.

I would love to hear what others have to say on this, whether you agree with what I have to say, have better solutions, or can’t possibly see anything I say as being either accurate or helpful.

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