Sandy Hook: There are no easy answers

Image by Cloe Poisson, Hartford Courant
Mourners pause as they pay their respects Saturday at a makeshift memorial at the scene of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newtown. Image by Cloe Poisson, Hartford Courant

The Sandy Hook school shooting horrified me. Like many others, I was glued to my computer, unable to concentrate on work as I searched for more concrete news. Who did this? Why did it happen? Was it mostly children? Oh god, it was mostly children. The journalist in me didn’t believe half of what was published immediately, and I don’t believe most of the anecdotes that have begun floating around Facebook and Twitter (all of those teachers are heroes, but we don’t yet know exactly what slain teacher Victoria Soto did).

Let’s go over what we know for certain, and only what we know for certain.

  1. A man named Adam Lanza killed 27 people and then himself.
  2. 20 of those killed were six or seven years old.
  3. The murder weapons were legally obtained, but probably not by the killer.
  4. Adam Lanza was quiet/shy/a geek/a gamer/a loner.

Everything else is conjecture right now. We don’t know if he had a history of mental illness. We don’t know what exactly happened inside the school. We don’t know some vital parts to this story. I point this out because there is a massive rush to judgment happening, an emotional response that is understandable but is still (for the most part) a knee-jerk emotional outcry. I don’t fault anyone for their reactions; however, no one thing or action will prevent this scenario from happening again in our country.

So far, there’s been:

1. We need more gun control. We need less gun control. We need more guns! We need fewer guns!

To those in favor of stricter gun control, I ask: Where will all the existing guns go? Will they disappear? Won’t there be a black market for assault weapons if said weapons are banned? Can we control an illegal gun influx from South America? Will no one be able to get their hands on a gun if we enact more laws that people don’t follow in the first place? Don’t people in rural areas need guns to hunt? Would the shooter’s mother still have been able to legally obtain a gun with stricter regulations (Probably!).

To those in favor of fewer gun restriction laws, I ask: Should everyone be able to own a gun? What are the limits? Should people with mental illnesses be able to own a gun after a waiting period? What would we classify as a “mental illness”? Would you feel better knowing that anyone, anywhere could be carrying a concealed weapon? Would that make this country more or less dangerous? Do you remember that moron you were friends with in high school who isn’t “mentally ill” but has a pretty short temper? Do you want him/her carrying a gun everywhere?

2. Our mental health system needs to be overhauled.

Is this an accurate statement? Absolutely. Stories like this mother’s are commonplace in America. We don’t know what to do with our severely mentally ill, and the stigma of mental illness still very much exists. Once a troubled young person hits 18 and exhausts family resources, there are few places to turn. And unless a person has a history of violence or actually hurts someone, jail is not an option. What do we do with these people? Do we lock them up? Do we drug them? This is not a life they chose, but it isn’t fair or just to allow sick people to be free to hurt others on the basis of being politically correct.

However, again, this statement is an oversimplification of a massive issue. Every case is different. Every person is different. Mental illness is constantly being studied, and there’s so much we don’t yet understand. No one has these answers. And no quick overhaul can prevent another Columbine or Tucson shooting spree.

3. This happened because we’re straying from God and our country’s Christian roots.

Christianity throughout history has been insanely violent, so I’ll just skip this and pretend it didn’t happen.

4. The prevalence of violent images (video games, movies) caused this.

Pure anecdotal evidence: I play Halo, Skyrim, Fallout and other first-person shooter violent video games. I also take a low dosage of antidepressants, though not for depression (confusing, right? See above about mental illness being complex). I have never in my entire life considered taking my Elven Bow of Extreme Archery (Exquisite) and reenacting my Dark Brotherhood quests on someone I dislike. If anything, I fear one day I will snap and curse at someone.

But seriously, video games and movies are a scapegoat here. I won’t argue against the existence of a culture of violence. However, when have humans existed in a solely nonviolent way? It wasn’t too far in our past that we hanged people in public, and people brought their children to watch the festivities. How many of you watch UFC? Or even football? I cheer during hockey fights.

And how many of us don’t kill mass quantities of people with guns? 99.9999999 percent.

What caused this young person to take the lives of helpless babies? I don’t know. You don’t know. We don’t know. We may never know.

Death and violence happen every day. Beautiful, amazing acts of kindness also happen every day. Could these shootings be anomalies?

Can we acknowledge that bad things are going to happen no matter what we do to prepare for them? Is it possible that life is not just a series of beautiful events, but a harsh journey full of suffering, too?

I am not ready to assign blame, but I am ready to accept that I do not know or understand everything that happens in this world.

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