Ode to Newtown, Connecticut

> Identities of Connecticut shooting victims

> A spot-on assessment attributed to Morgan Freeman (but not necessarily made by him)…


There are two “two sides” about 20 children being murdered.  The 21st century gun debate in America smacks of obfuscation and dodgery and misplaced priorities.  What do we have to show for it?  Murder.  The lives of bright-eyed dreamers too soon snuffed out.

I’m furious.  Passionately pissed off.  The principle of “mutually assured destruction,” which held a cold war at bay so long ago (or so it seems by measure of modern memory) has given way to actual mutually assured destruction.  Guns over here and guns over there has led not to stalemate, as the Second Amendment likely intended: the guarantee that Americans could defend themselves against tyrants has not made us safer, but rather, placed us all at greater risk.  Theory does not matter here – reality trumps all.

Certain business leaders said, “You cannot argue with success.”  By similar logic, you also cannot argue with repeated mass slayings, as the President noted: “Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?  I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.”

When those who claim the right to be blind (and then some…) wake up to their tragic folly?  I’ve never agreed so strongly with my Israeli friend Kfir Catalan: he’s right.  In England, for example, where guns are illegal to everyone but a few specialized police teams, the murder rate is at a 30-year low in 2012.

But let me throw a bone to my conservative friend Greg Vaslowski, and the senator that perhaps best encapsulates his view, Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina.

  • Here is Greg’s opinion on gun control, as explicated in a Facebook post: “Guns have been here for hundreds of years with the majority of citizens having no problems with them. It’s the proliferation and acceptance of certain types of behavior or some bleeding heart need to somehow assimilate parts of society with serious illnesses or dark thoughts is the problem.”
  • Here is Senator Graham’s opinion, as told to CNN’s Piers Morgan on December 11, 2012“I enjoy shooting. I hunt. It’s something me and my dad did together. And in the South, it’s part of growing up. Now when people abuse a weapon, I think having additional penalties for a crime committed with a gun makes perfect sense.”

Let it be said, for both of these Gentlemen, that if the one’s concerns it that one will be unable to go out hunting with one’s father – as Senator Graham clearly enjoys and that, as Greg rightly points out, has been going on for a long, long time – then I believe one would be hard-pressed to find a cogent, reasonable excuse for disallowing citizens to hunt using traditional tools of the trade.  There is not a good reason that a hunting rifle or shotgun should not be used to do what humans have done for so long.

Butand this “but” was beautifully highlighted by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on December 17th, 2012, when she identified the reasonableness of allowing Americans to hunt…these firearms are typically manual-action, and single- or double-shot.  They are the gunpowder-powered equivalent of a bow-and-arrow (if we’re going to talk about hunting, let’s not forget its history).

One need not be an avid marksman or semi-professional culler of the runaway deer population to know that the traditional sort of hunting to which both Greg and Graham refer was never performed with semi- or full-automatic assault weapons like those recently used to murder 26 people in Newton, Connecticut.  (If this statement is not self-evident enough – really? – consider the corporeal damage that a high-caliber gun will do to the animal’s body, making it pointless for either sport or food hunting.)

I can even see the argument made for self-defense rather than hunting.  Some have said (though I vehemently disagree) that arming the teachers in the Connecticut school would have caused the shooter to think twice, or at least minimized the risk of collateral damage.  Here’s the thing, though: if deterrence is the goal then a revolver or pistol should do the trick just fine while also minimizing the risk of mass death.  A quick-reloading military-grade weapon is no more called for than a napalm flamethrower or a Howitzer.

Ironically, a movie quote encapsulates the problem: “We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics, we start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds” (Batman Begins, 2005).  This author grew up in Hollywood, where carnage-as-heroism is mercilessly glorified.  But here’s the catch: mass death in Hollywood is typically contextualized within packaging so fantastical – for example, the comic book movie – that by measures it also provides the key to knowing who could be trouble. Namely, those who cannot separate the fiction from reality.  As a champion and advocate of my fellow Americans with disabilities, I see no harm in stating that there may be something wrong with people who do not know that Batman, Superman, and Neo from The Matrix are not real.

Those who take such stories too seriously should be flagged for and receive (if necessary) professional help. When Hollywood tries to accurately capture the horror of today’s version of mutually assured destruction, as it did in End of Watch (2012), it proves that death by gunshot is gory, quick, and final.  It also proves that – alongside the Trail of Tears, the poison of slavery, and waiting too long to jump into World War II – the Second Amendment is one of the United States of America’s worst, most consequential and reverberating mistakes.

P.S. It is so often forgotten that the Second Amendment provides for “militias” to own guns – even militias comprised of and commanded by private citizens.  But there’s no such thing as a single-person militia. 

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