Source: Dylan Stableford/Yahoo! For the community of Newtown, Connecticut, the apocalypse arrived a day too early. On December 20, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza gunned down 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary school in what became the second largest school shooting in US history. In an attempt to unravel the motivations behind the massacre, an in-depth background study on Lanza was done just hours after the shooting. To all intents, his profile seemed to fit the bill. Withdrawn by nature and an avid lover of violent video games, Lanza bore an uncanny resemblance to the other shooters; every one of them grappled with daily interactions and eventually sought violence as a means to attention. What ensues from the shooting has been an inevitable blame game between the rise of uncensored violence in the media on one side, and the legalizing of gun ownership on another. According to Mike Huckabee,
You can take away every gun in America and somebody will use a bomb. When somebody has an intent to do incredible damage, they’re going to find a way to do it… People will want to pass new laws, but unless you change people’s hearts, they’re our transition to the pastor side. This is a heart issue, it’s not something, laws don’t change this kind of thing. We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?
Huckabee represents a common sentiment amongst the pro-arms faction. For the gun advocates, the rising spate of gun violence is not so much an issue in itself, but rather a telltale sign of the crumbling morality of a society. It is the price that a society pays for freedom – including the freedom for civilians to own firearms – since freedom allows room for bad choices to be made. The absence of an omnipresent, judgement-passing surveyor of our actions becomes an implicit encouragement of unchecked behavior. However, this line of argument holds a gaping flaw. Religion has been cited far too often as a cause of violence as opposed to a solution of it. From the brutal murder of a Sikh family in Wisconsin to the war against terrorism, the peaceful coexistence between religions are sporadic and fickle. Guns are not the messenger of impending violence; they are the accomplice. Furthermore, contrary to beliefs, technology is never neutral. Guns were invented with the intent of hurting, and hurt they have. Is the sanctioning of arms not the nod of approval to harming another, be it human or not? To a frustrated individual, when religion does not solve a problem in a tangible manner, guns may represent an attractive solution when attempts to gain spiritual relief have failed. In an international survey on the correlation between the percentage of households possessing guns and the number of firearm deaths per 100,000, a linear trend emerges with USA placing notoriously at the forefront. Whilst crumbling values can be held accountable for increased crime rates, adding guns to the arsenal of the morally weak merely compounds the issue.
In a statement by NRA president Wayne Laperre, he claims
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”.
Admittedly, there have been incidents whereby the timely intervention of an armed civilian has prevented the escalation of a tragedy. In a life-or-death situation such as a school shooting, the possession of arms might have improved the survival chances of the innocent. On the other hand, who deserves the right, not to mention possess infallible judgement, to discern between the good and the bad guys? In states such as California, it is mandatory for those purchasing a handgun to first obtain a safety certificate and perform a “safe handling demonstration”. These gatekeepers, while efficient in barring imminent threats, are unable to account for the irrationality of humans and the innate potential to harm. Scientific studies by the likes of David Hemenway , author of ‘Risks and Benefits of a Gun in the Home’, dispels the mistaken perception that gun ownership raises the odds of deterrence and thwarting crimes. Suicides, homicides, accidents. The propensity for a gun related incident far outweighs any justification. A population that feels sufficiently secure only with the ownership of assault weapons does indeed have an inherent problem. A third oft-quoted defense of gun ownership is the Second Amendment:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Again, the issue of freedom resurfaces. My question to that, however, is this: Are constitutional rights a sufficient trade for another’s right to life? While the gunner is legally charged for the act, society as a whole must share the burden of knowing that they were accomplices in handing him the weapon. Freedom should not be frivolously granted, especially when the life of another is implicated. For the children of Sandy Hook Elementary who fell victim to Lanza, who never stood a chance against the bullets, who mourns for the rights that never had? In an ideal world, the prohibition of guns might be the panacea of all gunfire incidents. However reality is much more multifaceted, complex, and unpredictable. As in the case of prohibited drugs, the black market is always ready to assume the role of the arms distributor. As Supply and Demand 101 would tell you, insatiable demand for weapons coupled with immense profit derived from the limited supply will, instead of stemming the circulation, fuel it. Where the regulation of arms is already a formidable task, an absolute ban will further aggravate the conundrum. The trade would be transposed to a realm beyond the government’s control. Also compounding the problem is the matter of dealing with the current population that already possess guns. Would a penalty be meted out to them in the manner of a confiscation of all arms, or would they be able to elude the amended laws? So where does concrete action begin, if every alley winds up a dead end? Adam Lanza is but one of the many people who find the stress of everyday interactions, or lack thereof, too much to bear. With the current inertia on the matter gun ownership and the ominous lack of a functioning solution, the end of the world will just have to take a backseat.
What do you think? Is there any solution that could prevent such an incident from happening again in America?