I am not a gun nut. Said the gun nut as he brought out his arsenal. No, really, I am not a gun nut. I have a couple of rifles and at some point intend on buying a couple of hand guns because I want my boy to be proficient in the handling of guns even though I hope he never has any need for them. I was in the Marines (once a jar head, always a jar head) and later in an infantry unit in the National Guard (reservist always, I am not sure I was compatible with full-time) and my specialty was small arms repair (where ‘small’ is 50 caliber machine gun or smaller), so I know my way around weapons. It is my firm belief that having a gun, _particularly_ a hand gun, without investing in the time and expense necessary to develop proficiency, is a recipe for disaster. It is very challenging to hit something with a hand gun on a range where there is no adrenaline pumping, there is plenty of light and the target is a fixed (and known) distance away. Few people are worth a damn at hitting paper targets under optimal conditions; all but those few with a hand gun during a robbery attempt are more dangerous to bystanders than the robber!
Having said that, I don’t think the appropriate response to the tragedy in Newtown is to restrict gun sales (for the record, I am fine with limited bans on assault rifles, waiting periods and limits on purchase frequency). Despite the arguable Constitutional allowance on gun ownership (the right to bear arms), I think there would likely be _less_ violent crime when the populous is allowed to carry hand guns. There is evidence that the incidence of violent crime _increases_ when gun bans are put in place and the few localities that made it easier to carry concealed weapons have evidence that violent crime actually _decreased_ when they have done so. To me that result is obvious, if criminals know that their victims might have effective means of defending themselves, they are much less likely to commit crimes.
While there are certainly a few wack jobs out there that are convinced that our government is actually made up of foreign shadow agencies (as opposed to domestic oligarchy, why the hell don’t they complain about that?) that stock pile weapons (including assault weapons) in anticipation for the long awaited (but stubbornly refusing to arrive) apocalypse, there are vastly more people who get guns for hunting, recreation or (foolishly, in my mind, unless you will put in the time and expense to develop expertise) self defense. As developers of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, killing people in large groups doesn’t require anything more sophisticated than access to a grocery store and some knowledge trivial to get off the Internet (and prior to the Internet, available in many book stores). As the Secret Service knows all to well, if someone is wiling to give their life in an attack, it is very difficult to keep that from happening. Eliminating access to guns for ordinary people won’t make the slightest dent in the ability for wackos like this guy in Newtown or the fruit at Virginia Tech to take people out. While the forethought necessary to do the same level of mayhem with IEDs is higher than that with guns, it is only trivially so and restricting access of law abiding citizens from what is very arguable is their Constitutionally protected right (but then again, so is protection against self incrimination, the right to a trial of your peers, etc. which our Great Government and its Great President have been routinely violating) to have and use guns is not the right reaction.
Why do these things happen? Well, my understanding is these are very disturbed people who have a long standing belief that their life is worthless and meaningless. Most people with that conviction might alternately drink themselves into an early grave, engage in other self destructive behavior or simply commit suicide. A very few (like a dozen individuals in a population of close to 300,000,000 over the last 20 years, think about that for a while!) decide they want to become infamous and decide to take a bunch of innocent people with them when they commit suicide. A fewer still, like that nut case in Sweden or wherever, has some political axe to grind and deliberately doesn’t commit suicide because he now wants to use that notoriety as a platform to expound on his idiocy. However, in nearly all cases, the intent is to generate a lot of wide spread press coverage, to become ‘known’, to ‘matter’ and to no longer be invisible. The typical knee-jerk reaction of the press is to give these people exactly what they want. Granted, it is posthumous, but the next wacko, sitting in his dirty underwear contemplating suicide sees all this coverage and starts thinking that that is exactly what he needs to make his life have meaning. So, in my mind, all this press coverage is _exactly_ the wrong thing to do. Not that I expect there to be any change (not that I expect many people to read this), but the simple act of the main stream coverage of the present heinous act is what helps to trigger the next.
Of course, if our Great Country were to think about such radical ideas as free access to mental health facilities, perhaps some of these wackos could get the help they need before they make that fatal decision to garner the press to ‘make their life have meaning’. In the case of the Va Tech shooter, he had actually been in a psychiatric facility and was undergoing review for treatment when the system decided it had already wasted enough money on him and threw his ass out. I suspect the shooter in Newtown also has left a trail of obvious clues that he was disturbed and is in the small class of individuals likely to need treatment to keep such a tragedy from happening. Thus the real, meaningful and useful response would be to put money into mental health clinics and make them free to everyone. Sadly, I am quite certain, is likely the exact opposite of what will happen. Instead there will be more restrictions put on guns and ammo and the next tragedy will be from IEDs because the real core of the problem has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH GUNS. Yes, I shouted, but sometimes shouting is necessary to get people’s attention.
Instead of something useful that will help mitigate future tragedies, we will have further erosion of our rights, increased intrusion into our lives, the last few bits of our privacy stripped away and more injustice served upon our most vulnerable population.
That is the _real_ tragedy that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.