I wanted to wait a bit until a lot of the knee-jerk reactionary responses had been said and done before I chimed in, and I'd like to remind some out there of some important issues that have yet to come up. I apologize if this is a little more rambling than my usual posts, but my own thoughts on the whole thing are a bit scattered.
First of all, let me say that for nearly every mass shooting that I have been witness to as an adult (from afar, natch), I have been able to understand (not justify, or defend) the motives of the shooter. In this one, however, I am lost. His mother, I understand. Family is often the first in the line of fire for people like this. Familial murder/suicide being the most common, and least expansive examples of mass killing, make my point. But elementary schoolchildren? Usually the target of the shooter is, at least in the shooter's mind, a vector for whatever pain drives them to kill. You lash out at the hand that pains you (Columbine vs bullies, Aurora vs consumerism (?), Norwegian guy vs an oppressive government (again, not justifying or defending)). What drove this kid to travel across town to slaughter children is beyond me. Except for one possibility.
The ONLY reason I can imagine that this kid did what he did in the way he did it, instead of lashing out at someone he felt wronged by, is because he wanted to be remembered. He wanted fame. He saw us dig into every nook and cranny of the lives of the Columbine kids, of the Aurora shooter, of the Norwegian shooter, of the V-Tech shooter. He saw a nation or a world held in rapt attention by the lives of these killers, and he saw the only avenue open to making his life something remarkable.
And yet how to make an impression when mass shootings have become almost passe in America? It's going to be hard to beat the numbers racked up in V-Tech and Norway in such a small town, so it has to be something where numbers aren't the only story. And what better way to horrify, to fascinate, to go down in infamy... than an attack where our most vulnerable should be at their safest?
Now before I go and say that our media culture is somehow responsible for this, or should be held accountable, and that weapon laws have nothing to do with the problem, let me nip some things in the bud. For full disclosure, I have long been an advocate for reasonable gun laws. I do not advocate banning anything outright. My stated preference has been for a licensing system similar to one you have for an automobile, with required training, psychological evaluation, licensing, and insurance, with multiple levels of licenses necessary for different types of weapons (similar to commercial licenses for trucks and taxis). The cost of these would be paid by those wanting the licenses.
A frequent argument against stricter gun laws is that if we outlaw guns only outlaws will have them. That criminals won't give a shit if they're breaking one law, when they're already breaking others. Well, in cases like these, that argument doesn't hold up. The vast majority of mass shootings have been perpetrated by completely legal firearms. Most have been also perpetrated by people with little to no criminal backgrounds. In this case, the limiting of legal firearms would, indeed, have an effect. (no, I'm not advocating the ban of all guns, hold the fuck on and read the whole post)
Another argument I have seen is that Mass shootings like this are so rare (accounting for less than 1% of firearm murders perpetrated per year) that any attempt on legislator's parts to codify a solution in law would be akin to swatting a fly with a stinger missile. There have been 16 mass shootings in the US this year alone, leaving 88 people dead.
Tied to this argument is that of the Second Amendment. Someone in this very thread put the second half of that amendment in all caps, to remind us all that it's the second most important law evar. He, of course, as is the wont of most gun apologists, ignores the first half of the sentence. I'd like to ask what well-regulated militia this kid was a part of, and how he guaranteed a free state?
I have also heard it said that gun deaths are a cost of our freedoms. Freedom isn't free, as some like to say. And I have to ask if this is an acceptable price to you. Are the lives of 20 children slaughtered at an elementary school, as well as 6 educators, the people in whose arms we place the care of those children, worth it? Look into the eyes of the parents of these kids, and tell them that their child was a necessary sacrifice. It's a price I am not willing to pay, personally. Shit like this is too expensive.
But the most insidious argument against re-thinking our gun culture, is the quoting of cherry-picked statistics. People point to places like Switzerland who has a similar gun ownership rate and gun control laws to America, with significantly lower crime rates than us. Others point to statistics that in America you're actually half as likely to be the victim of a violent crime as in, say, the UK. Some point to similar events elsewhere in the world as evidence that different laws make little to no difference in preventing shit like this. Hell, a man in China stabbed something like 22 kids in an elementary school just a day after our own attack. Obviously if crazies can do this with knives, the availability of guns would do nothing to stop crimes like this. Of course, missing in such examples are acknowledgement of the greater context of the statistics and events.
The Chinese attack resulted in exactly 0 deaths. Also, a knife cannot kill multiple people on the other side of a room. There's a reason that people whose job it is to wound/kill other people (or animals) use guns almost exclusively.
Switzerland is an almost entirely homogenous society, with mandatory military service (and training) and a host of other factors that obscure the actual correlation between gun laws and gun crime.
America, per capita, is more violent, by a staggering amount than any other OECD country. We don't just have a culture of gun ownership, we have a culture of glorifying violence. We can watch people getting shot, stabbed and blown up on prime-time television and in movies to which a person of any age can enter without a parent. We are desensitized to violence, and we in turn are a very violent people.
We glorify those who do terrible things. (note that I have not named a single perpetrator, because I refuse to give them one second more consideration than necessary)
We glorify violence in general in our entertainment.
We glorify a tool whose only function is harm.
We demonize mental health problems.
We basically require most families to have 2 incomes, making it difficult for parents to stay home to parent.
We demonize education, intellectualism, science, and fact-based inquiry.
These factors, as well as others, are the reason that we have had 62 mass murders (all done with firearms) in the last 30 years. This is nearly as many as the rest of the world combined in the same timeframe (not counting militia, government, actions).
Forgotten in all of this are the victims. Sure we weep and spout platitudes, but who here can name, without looking it up online, the names of those killed in Colorado? Who can name a single victim from V-Tech? Columbine? Connecticut?
CHARLOTTE BACON, 6
DANIEL BARDEN, 7
RACHEL DAVINO, 29
OLIVIA ENGEL, 6
JOSEPHINE GAY, 7
ANA G. MARQUEZ-GREENE, 6
DYLAN HOCKLEY, 6
DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47
MADELEINE F. HSU, 6
CATHERINE V. HUBBARD, 6
CHASE KOWALSKI, 7
JESSE LEWIS, 6
JAMES MATTIOLI, 6
GRACE MCDONNELL, 7
ANNE MARIE MURPHY, 52
EMILIE PARKER, 6
JACK PINTO, 6
NOAH POZNER, 6
CAROLINE PREVIDI, 6
JESSICA REKOS, 6
AVIELLE RICHMAN, 6
LAUREN ROUSSEAU, 30
MARY SHERLACH, 56
VICTORIA SOTO, 27
Remember those names. Not the name of the fucktard who slaughtered them. He doesn't deserve it.
And we deserve better.