I thought twice about writing this article today. When I've had such feelings, I've found it's a sign that the article is either going to be really good or really bad. We'll see which way this one goes.
I feel obliged to write about the Newtown, CT shootings on Friday. Unlike many people, I've been to Newtown (not often, but a couple of times). My wife has friends there from when she lived in nearby Danbury. There's a place called King's that has a fantastic breakfast about 5 miles from the elementary school.
What am I going to write about that you haven't already read or heard? My reaction on Friday was just of speechlessness. There's really nothing to say. You can't fix anything. It's a helpless feeling.
My wife waited and waited to see the list to see if she recognized any names. When the list finally came out she didn't recognize any of them. My response: "Well that's a... ummm... thing. I guess." I certainly couldn't call it a "good" thing.
I found out about the shooting in probably an unusual way. My wife and I were running around town getting errands done after our move across country. I was checking my email and I got an alert that a friend who doesn't update his Facebook very often made an update. He was at a loss on how to keep his kids, same age as those in the Newtown school, safe. What does he do when he's taken all the precautions such as move to safe town with good schools like Newtown? He asked what nearly every working parent must have asked, "How do I go to work and be productive know that this can happen?"
My only rational thought is that you can't let it impact you. Easier said than done, I know. However, airplanes crash sometimes, and people still fly. Disgrunted workers have shot up their workplaces. There have been mass shootings at at least one fast food restaurant and movie theater. People still go to those places. While the threat of danger is always going to present, we must remember that it is infitisimal. (I'm tempted to make a comparison about winning the lottery here, but let's not mix the good infitisimal chances with the bad.)
Thoughts on Gun control
There's been a lot of talk of gun control and mental illness, so I thought I'd add my two cents in.
I haven't listened to a lot of the gun control stuff. I'm not a gun person. If you are one, that's fine, good for you, I support your right to bear arms. However, I saw that Sean Hannity made some comments that I simply found puzzling. (I had no idea who this guy was until driving across the country and found his radio show with what seemed like one train wreck of a segment after another). He made a comment along the lines that since tire irons and knives can also kill people maybe we should ban those too. Rush Limbaugh made a similar remark in response to Bob Costas' talk about gun control on Sunday Night Football before Sandy Hook happened.
I've got an opinion where you draw the line, but you can't put a tool like a knife or tire iron being used for an unintended purpose in the same classification with a gun. While I can respect one's opinion that they need a gun for protection, I can't understand how that would apply to a semi-automatic gun. Maybe I don't follow the news close enough, but I'm not sure the last time someone got in a situation domestically where the right answer was a semi-automatic gun. And if someone is going to take the discussion to the tire iron level, you might as go in the direction and demand that everyone have access to bazookas and rocket launchers.
A lot of people will say "guns don't kill people, people kill people." There's some logic there, but do you really think Sandy Hook would have had the same outcome if Adam Lanza came in with a tire iron?
Thoughts on Mental Illness
I'm going to start off by saying read this: 'I Am Adam Lanza's Mother': A Mom's Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America. It's a great article. It tells of a story of a mother who has a child with mental illness. Most of the time he's great, and insanely brilliant, but a small amount of the time he's a ticking time bomb... almost like a real life River Tam.
It seems like there should be some resources for her, but it sounds like she's explored them and come up empty. With all the talk of the fiscal cliff and the idea of reducing spending, where do we come up with the money to solve this problem? Or do we just punt on it, save the money instead of helping those with mental illnesses and risk further Sandy Hook incidents?
Strangely, it seems those who are strong advocates of gun ownership are also on the side of focusing on cutting spending with the fiscal cliff. I can't imagine they think is seriously a winning combination. It almost reminds me of some friends in college who wanted to have a candlelight keg party... open flames and drunk people, what could possibly go wrong?
What Can Be Done?
In the end, I think that to some degree there's always going to be a danger of a Sandy Hook incident. You can take a lot of steps to minimize it, but as Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the Challenger explosion, we better get used to the possibilities of such disasters. (I highly encourage you to read that article.)
Sometimes I think a lot of problems can be better understood with a simple baseball analogy. Home runs happen when either the pitcher makes a bad pitch or a hitter has a great swing... but most often it's a combination of the two. If you have a great pitcher who is on his game, he probably won't give up a home run. If you have a great (power) hitter, he'll probably end the season with his fair share of home runs.
When I think of what happened in Sandy Hook, you had a combination of a great hitter and a poor pitcher... mental illness combined with access to guns with the ability to kill large amounts of people in a very short time. Just like in baseball, it may be possible to prevent home runs with a great pitcher, but nothing is perfect. Maybe you can try to eliminate the great hitters (this is where my baseball analogy breaks down a little, because there's little you can do about the other team having good hitters), but that's not a perfect solution either.
However, if you work on both, and are successful, maybe you can limit the Sandy Hook incidents.
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