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September 18, 2014

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WHERE I STAND:

Urgency for sanity in gun culture

There are 20 dead children in Connecticut. We can no longer throw our hands up in the air and do nothing.

Every parent, every grandparent, every family member and friend to anyone with a 5-year-old child in this country cannot listen to the incredibly horrific news that flooded the airwaves Friday and ignore what that news means to every one of us.

These were our children. And we let them get slaughtered at school by some madman who came to their classrooms, armed to the teeth, with the ability to destroy them in seconds. Yes, we let that happen.

As a grandparent, I have been horrified since this news broke because I know that this sickness could have spilled onto any school in this country. It was not confined to the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. It could have been where my little ones go to school, looking forward only to playing and laughing and learning. Or where your kids or your neighbors’ kids or your friends’ little children go off every morning to school.

It’s easy to say that we can’t imagine what those parents and grandparents are feeling after having been told that their children will never go home with them from school again. That really isn’t true, is it? The fact of the matter is that every one of us is imagining the worst kind of horror.

And all that does, or should do, is force us to do something about the senseless tragedies that we allow to happen over and over again.

On the cable news channels Friday, in between the reports of the unfolding tragic circumstances, the mounting death toll and the images of parents in states of shock we would never wish upon our worst enemies, came various spokesmen from one group or another who, at the end of their reactive comments, all but threw their hands up as if to say, “But what can we do about some nutcase intent on destroying innocent life?”

That’s what we have been saying to ourselves for years. We said it after Columbine. We said it after other massacres in Colorado, California, Wisconsin and, most recently, after a shopping mall in Oregon. But this time that just won’t work. Nobody, no culture, no country should just be allowed to throw up its hands when faced with the murder of 20 little children.

The irony of what happened Friday was made clear to me when I reflected on a conversation I had the day before. A good friend of mine from Arizona, Mike, who is as Republican as a fellow can get, was telling me that even though he is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, that group refused to invite him to be on its board of directors. Why? Because he believes the NRA’s position on assault rifles and multi-round ammunition clips is absurd.

Simply put, my friend lives in a real world where slippery slopes really don’t exist but that psychotically driven madmen do exist — and they buy these weapons and turn them on innocent life with no rhyme or reason. And the last place the NRA wants to hear rational thought on the subject of sensible gun control is coming from the mouths of its own board members.

I thought immediately of that conversation when the news came of the sick human being who shot so many small children and adults in such a short period of time. Those babies didn’t have a chance.

But we do. We have a chance now to make sure those deaths were not in vain. President Barack Obama, unable to hold back the tears of the father he is, told this country that we must finally do something, regardless of the political consequences.

What that means is gun control. It should also mean a cultural change in the way we treat those in our midst who don’t appear “normal.” We need the freedom to question that which doesn’t seem right and those who don’t sound or act right. Not for any bad purpose but on the chance that someone may be close to that edge where an intervention could save lives and, frankly, help the individual in question.

As the investigation into this sickening act continues, we will learn more and perhaps learn lessons about how a repeat of such an incident can be avoided. But there is one truth we do not have to learn again, and that is that guns really do kill people. And automatic weapons with extra-large clips kill a lot of people. A lot of small, very young people. And that just can’t be tolerated anymore.

This can no longer be a fight between those who believe in the Second Amendment and those who don’t. Almost every person I know believes in the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. What it should be, though, is a fight between those who irrationally believe that reasonable regulation will lead to the government confiscation of our guns and those who think that common sense will save innocent children’s lives.

We can and should have the debate about whether we want to be one of the most culturally violent countries in the world or whether we want to be the kind of country where gun violence rarely exists.

Those kids could have lived and gone to school in Nevada, a place that reveres its guns and worships the Second Amendment. Had that happened here, the likelihood is that many of those children would have come from homes where guns were present and whose owners belonged to the NRA.

Imagine that. And then imagine the price you would have just paid for an argument that can’t possibly make sense anymore.

It is well past the time when we must put sanity back into a country that loves its guns. That’s because we should love our children more.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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  1. "There are 20 dead children in Connecticut. We can no longer throw our hands up in the air and do nothing."

    Greenspun -- and there are 22 children in China knifed at their elementary school. Check that out @ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/20... Note that China bans all firearm private ownership. Logically then, the problem is those who explode into these rampages, not the tools they choose.

    Predators, zealots and others who rampage like this have always been among us. Examining why it happens and how to stop future events is one thing. Stoking fear then limiting the freedoms of those who don't become berserkers is quite another.

    "We must choose between freedom and fear -- we cannot have both. If the citizens of the United States persist in being afraid, the real rulers of this country will be fanatics fired with a zeal to save grown men from objectionable ideas by putting them under the care of official nursemaids." -- Scales v. U.S., 367 U.S. 203, 270 (1961), Justice Douglas dissenting

  2. Is it impossible for us to have Second Amendment rights without accepting needless slaughter of our citizens as a reasonable price of that right? Do we have to accept the doctrine of the most paranoid gun proponents and set aside common sense to mollify them? Is anyone besides me tired of seeing arrest reports telling of felons unlawfully in possession of a firearm and seeing little consequence for the violation?

    Answers to these and other questions define us as a country and, so far, I don't like the answers.

  3. KillerB sez "and there are 22 children in China knifed at their elementary school."

    True but none of them died. Even if some attacks continue, anything we do to reduce the lethality of those attacks is a positive. If you don't believe me, ask the parents of 20 children and the relatives of 6 adults in CT.

  4. "Is anyone besides me tired of seeing arrest reports telling of felons unlawfully in possession of a firearm and seeing little consequence for the violation?"

    "True but none of them died."

    pisces -- of course, but read the link. Some of those kids are for maimed for life. That kind of tragedy is ongoing. The rest of your post is basically herdspeak.

    To rebut your first bit, the collective knee-jerk reaction, stoked by articles like this one, is so predictable. Pass a whole bunch of impotent laws aimed at most of us who would never do anything like this -- personally I would take a bullet before allowing any child near me to be harmed -- yet none of it will stop these kinds of attacks. They ignore the trite but stark proof from countries like Mexico with severe gun restrictions -- outlaw guns and only the outlaws have guns. For proof have a look at the post-Reagan Brady Bill and its effect on such attacks.

    I used to live about a mile from the Clackamas Town Center where one of this week's mall berserkers paid a visit. None of this is lost on me.

    "The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know." -- President Harry Truman

  5. Does the average citizen realize that semi-automatic weapons have been around for over 100 years? The M1911 semi-auto pistol was introduced to our military forces in, well, 1911. The Browning Automatic Rifle - a fully automatic gun - was introduced in 1917.

    The Columbine school massacre occured in April of 1999, some 60 years later, and during a time when attitudes to guns were a lot more restrictive than they were in previous years.

    So what happened in those 60 years? Did guns become more lethal? Are they now likely to jump up and fire on their own?

    One thing we didn't have years ago were computer video games on how to conduct massacres. I'm not going to list titles here, but a quick search of them at an online retail site showed that they were the second most popular genre, having 25 listings. The most popular had 28.

    It's only a game. They're zombies, not real people. Sorry, that doesn't wash. It's objectifying targets and dispatching them with gory, blood splattered methods. And what better training than this to walk into a place where innocent lives are unprotected and see how many points you can score.

    We all want to see this senseless violence against our children, and society at large end. But no gun jumped up on its own and started shooting. Perhaps the place to start is with the things that train minds to be vicious and unfeeling toward others.

    You don't need to have Congress act. Each parent can end the massacre training games in their own home today.

  6. "You don't need to have Congress act. Each parent can end the massacre training games in their own home today."

    JudgeRoyBean -- other than acknowledging every parent's choice, your reasoning is questionable on several levels. First, in-state crimes are state matters, not federal, and the feds have little if any jurisdiction. The other is I like many grew up with the usual Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, Popeye, &c. Not once have I ever had the urge to reach into my pocket and pull out a stick of dynamite to do away with my opponent.

    The point -- most of us can tell the difference between entertainment fantasy and reality. It's those detached from the latter who are the problem. Blame them, not their freedoms.

    "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Isaac H Tiffany (1819)

  7. Israel found the solution to school shootings--the teachers were armed. Additional gun laws will do nothing to stop school shootings in the U.S. Allowing teachers and other qualified adults with a CCW permit to carry on school grounds plus armed law enforcement officers roaming school halls would. This would present a serious deterrent to anyone thinking that a "gun-free zone" school is easy pickings to create mass carnage.

    Incidentally, Brian, ""automatic weapons with extra-large clips kill a lot of people. A lot of small, very young people. And that just can't be tolerated anymore." Automatic weapons are already illegal for the general public.

  8. One in five is being treated for mental illness in the US and we have by some estimates 300 million guns. Nearly half the guns in the world. A recipe for disaster.
    Ion....most that own guns have no idea which end the bullet comes out. Gun accidents and 17000 gun suicides are a bigger issue than mas killings. With 30000 gun deaths a year Americans have killed more Americans than all enemies combined.

  9. People arming themselves is meaningless. It's training that matters. Most Gun owners have very little if any training.

  10. Gerry, most that own guns are quite familiar with which end the bullet comes out. Your statistics for gun accidents, suicides, and gun deaths are seriously overstated. It appears you may be using a strongly anti-gun group such as the Brady Campaign, who typically include numbers involving police and military actions, for your numbers. Do you have a credible source for your statistics?

  11. Ah, but it's not mental illness that's at issue. Many, many "normal" guys "snap." Everybody, MH issue or not, needs to feel s/he has options and has various opportunities to live a pleasant life--however one describes it--not necessarily affluent. It should be acceptable, AND APPROVED OF, that each of us can make our choices about marriage, family, employment without having to fit into the mold of what the all-American guy should be. I concur that NO ONE needs semi-automatic assault weapons.

  12. Irrational behavior can manifest in anyone. The propensity for it, usually is about how a person is hard-wired and acculturated. Certain personalities are more apt to act out irrational behavior, and many, many times, these persons present such behaviors and those who responsible in society don't heed the warnings nor do something proactive to prevent escalation.

    Before we respond to banning all guns, let's take a look at our current system that deals with individuals with mental health challenges. Getting help is often difficult, if not impossible. Should an individual get life-saving help, then often the aftercare is sadly lacking, putting these at-risk individuals back into an endless cycle which leads to frustration, and terrible events as the Sandy Hook ES killing spree, the Oregon Sears Mall shooting, and several others.

    People in our American society can no longer be non-caring bystanders, they must take not only an interest, but be responsible when they observe something that is NOT right going on. Immediate support when reporting should be improved, and care for such affected individuals be carefully monitored for the duration.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  13. KillerB - you're right about states rights and the limited rights of Congress to act, but in recent days our government seems to do what it wants, the Constitution be damned. Already members of Congress have reared up on their hind legs calling for action. The mayor of NY, not content with limiting the size of soft drinks, wants to limit our rights to own guns. And, as an aside to another writer, gun ownership is not granted based on "need", as in "no one needs to own a semi-automatic rifle". It is a right.

    I also watched the old Popeye cartoons, then went outside and brawled with my brother. Not a lot of shooting, as I recall in the cartoon, but fisticuffs aplenty.

    However, there is a big difference between watching what were little more than stick figures on a screen and a fairly realistic "game" in which you interact with other players. Most people can tell the difference between games and reality, but two of the most recent events of this nature involved people with mental problems.

  14. Until we are willing to go back to the first half of the last century and institutionalize those that have mental health problems to insure that they are getting the treatment required, then there is always going to be the possibility that incidents like this will occur.

    People can say it is because weapons and ammunition are available, people can say that it is because video games and movies are more violent than before, and people can continue to ask why didn't someone stop it before it happened.

    All I can add is that no matter what we do, something like this can happen. For once you look at the facts, it wasn't because someone sold him a weapon, it wasn't because he "seemed" to be a threat, nor was it because he had identified the school as a threat to self. Only now after the fact we can say he was "nuts" and a threat.

    As to a ban of "semi automatic weapons" I can agree with a ban of semi automatic long barrel weapons and a limitation of magazine size to not more than 7 rounds for hand guns. But what do you do with existing weapons in the hands of owners?

  15. There are many more guns available now than there were 60 years ago and as long as citizens have guns, we are going to have innocent people killed. Get used to it. Many people (sane and insane, amiable, ill tempered) have access to a wide variety of firearms. How could you not factor that into your equation? Massacres have to be expected because we can't control how people secure their guns in their homes or the mental states of those who also reside in the dwellings. It's only a matter of time before a tool that is designed to kill gets in the wrong hands (again) and families and society will suffer, which is the unwritten guarantee under under the 2nd Amendment.

  16. "People arming themselves is meaningless. It's training that matters."

    zippert -- have a look at what happens with those with training @ http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/dec...

    "...in recent days our government seems to do what it wants, the Constitution be damned. Already members of Congress have reared up on their hind legs calling for action."

    JudgeRoy --no argument from me on that. The worst part is the complacency of We the people, especially since the same culprits are elected over and over again

    "Until we are willing to go back to the first half of the last century and institutionalize those that have mental health problems to insure that they are getting the treatment required....."

    Retired -- going back to lobotomies and eugenics is no solution

    "Because there is no comparison whatsoever between an armed and a disarmed man; it is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed; or that any unarmed man will remain safe among armed servants." -- Niccolo Machiavelli 1513 "The Prince" Chapter IV

  17. I believe when the second amendment was written it had nothing to do with people going around and shooting other people in masses. It defines what rights were needed at that time. Now it has to be changed for our time and the situations we are dealing with. All of the rest of the bickering is useless face the facts and be responsible for change.

  18. Work place violence by a (former) student. Gee did he not have fond memories of that classroom? If not a gun, there are bows, cross bows, bombs, vehicles, IED's.... but again, NO ONE needs semi-automatic assault weapons.

  19. "I believe when the second amendment was written it had nothing to do with people going around and shooting other people in masses."

    irishspy -- your belief is wrong. Read the U.S. Supremes' recent Second Amendment decisions, Heller v. Washington D.C. and McDonald v. City of Chicago on the historic importance, and current relevance of, that important protected freedom.

    ".... but again, NO ONE needs semi-automatic assault weapons."

    Roslenda -- unless for self-defense or other lawful purposes, such as militia.

    "...the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table." District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. (slip opinion at 64) (2008)

  20. Its almost ironic that we should call for sanity in the gun culture when insanity is allowed to run rampant under the guise of individual rights.

    I get it, this horrible man used a gun to kill these innocent children. We degrade their loss by including him in the total killed. He murdered these kids, teachers and his own mother and should not be mourned by the public as a victim, he was the problem.

    Mr. Greenspun calls for sanity; I agree but not in the same context.

    I will assume for the time being, that there was something substantially wrong with this kid. Yes at 20 yrs old living with mom and dealing with whatever social or mental problems he had, he was a kid and I believe that in the near future we will learn that he was either on medication or was not taking it, or that he had a history of social, mental or emotional problems, etc and that these were the underlying causes of his actions.

    Since the 1970s and as early as the JFK era of the 1960s we have been undermining the need for effective of mental health services through de-institutionalization. This mainstreaming approach has given us a false sense of accomplishment and has placed potential problems back into the community. We only have to look at the number of mentally ill homeless and those that are treated for failing to take their meds time and time again in order to see the results of our own actions.

    We continually look at the tools used by people with problems and not the underlying causes of the problems. We must change our approach and cease using tragedy to undermine the rights of the law abiding .

    There is no answer that will make sense of this tragedy. No reason at all will every justify the actions of this mad man. We must conclude that some questions will remain unanswered entirely.

    My heart goes out to all that have suffered a loss, as a parent I can not imagine the horror nor can I shake the sick feeling that came over me when I first heard the news.

    The teachers should be held as an example of grace under pressure, their losses and their actions prevented greater tragedy. We must not attempt to make ourselves feel better by banning a tool and not addressing the problem. If we truly want sanity in the gun argument we must move to protect society by re-institutionalizing persons that pose a threat to the community, themselves or that are unwilling to take corrective action as dictated by their own physicians. Mental health is no joke and it should not be avoided for political correctness.

    Mr. Greenspun, we all want the same thing. To feel safe in our homes, schools, communities and workplaces. How we get there may be different but we must not ignore the facts in front of us. The problem was not the gun, it was the shooter.

    The writer is the host of the The Warren Markowitz Show, broadcast live and podcasted 2x a week at www.Blogtalkradio.com/wmakowitz and wrm.podomatic.com

  21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cou...
    Ian said my stats on gun deaths were grossly overstated. Read the above. 30,000 a year has been roughly the average although it has dropped a tad the last few years.

  22. Killer...rea your 3:45 post. Shooting is contagious. A function of adrenaline. In war tens of thousands of rounds get fired for every apponent shot. I have been involved in several shootings. Nothing gets you going like gunfire and the possibility of getting killed.
    Ian....in decades of police work I can't come close to remembering how many accidental gun shot victims I had to deal with. Many with semi automatic pistols don't understand that removing the magazine doesn't clear the gun. Every day people get shot with guns they believed to be unloaded.

  23. Duke rea your 3:34 post..Millions of gun crimes isn't really something we should get used to. How about rape, child molestation, property crime. Just get used to it all because we are a nation of violent, mentally unstable ideots.

  24. Thank you, Warren Markowitz, you stated it as eloquently as possible, given the topic. Great historical references. Long ago, I had field work at the Porterville State Hospital in California, which really opened my eyes to institutionalized mental health and the social risks in releasing those who are vulnerable. Your words take me back to those experiences and our responsibility to be compassionate as well as make wise decisions on the behalf of others unable to do so.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  25. "I have been involved in several shootings. Nothing gets you going like gunfire and the possibility of getting killed."

    zippert -- wow!

    Any thing of power is dangerous in the hands of a beginner. Some years ago I had the chance to take a Harley for a spin. The last motorcycle I had been on was my BSA 650 Lightning 20+ years before. Just as I let out the clutch I had a moment of clarity, realized it was far too much power, squeezed the clutch again, put it in neutral and dismounted.

    Like Dirty Harry said, a man should know his limitations.

  26. People trying to kill you is different than riding a motorcycle. I am 56 years of age. Not a beginner.

  27. The hell with the gun nut NRA !

  28. "Not a beginner."

    zippert -- didn't imply you were. How many here have actually been in a firefight? Since I haven't the Harley experience was relevant to me. So chill -- it was a general statement meaning weapon + beginner = tragedy perpetrated by a fool.

    "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." --- Ernest Hemingway in "A Farewell to Arms"

  29. You are all morons. Grieve for these children and then discuss how to deal with it. It's too soon.

  30. You can't wait too long. The next mass killing is just around the corner. A participant calling other participants morons is rich.

  31. Study the 2d amend. It was written at a time when this country didn't have an Army, didn't have a police force. We have the best in the world now. The Framers of the Constitution were concerned about a repeat of being invaded by a foriegn force. A loosely organized militia is all we had. The gun ownership laws need to be changed, and changed now.
    To killer b, I have been in a firefight, and it's no fun. To point a gun and pull a trigger takes more than just having a gun. You have to be willing to do it and live with the consequences. It's really frightening to shoot at some other human being, no matter who he is.
    BAN GUNS NOW11111111

  32. The gun laws should be changed and extinguished, they have proven to be a dismal failure. Last month we had 28 shootings in Chicago on one weekend. There was no condemnation from anyone. There was a lot of tisk, tisk. Chicago is a gun free zone, well apparently not everyone got the message. To claim that guns, the type of gun or the magazine were at fault is a false premise worthy of the press as they have been lying to the general public for decades.

    You have such short memories and little regard for life until it hits your small screen and screams at you.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."

  33. The rifle of the colonial militia was a flintlock that took 45 seconds or more to reload. If such a rifle were used instead of an assault rifle, the shooter would have been taken down by adults in the hall and classrooms.

    Multiple 30 round clips containing 100s if not 1000s of rounds make weapons of mass destruction out of simple guns and turn bedrooms into armories. There is nothing in the Constitution that allows for personal armories. Machine guns have been around since the Civil War but no one needs a machine gun for self protection.

    Assault rifles have been used in many of the public shootings. Possession of these weapons is not allowed - the Constitution spells that out. Assault rifles are not needed for personal protection - they are designed for mass murders.

    Do nothing and Sandy Hook will happen again and again.

  34. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cou...
    Mass slaughters don't occur very often. Someone should address the tens of thousands of other people that get killed outside of the mass killing setting. These occur every single day. Every 4 hours someone either shoots himself or herself or gets shot and killed by someone else.
    A million over the last few decades. We are a giant Charnal House.

  35. "Study the 2d amend."

    ernieb -- that would include the U.S. Supremes' Heller and McDonald cases. So far no one else here has mentioned them. No post on your topic is valid without including those decisions.

    "Chicago is a gun free zone, well apparently not everyone got the message."

    longun -- not after June 28, 2010. Read McDonald v. City of Chicago. Obviously you're oblivious on "the message."

    "There is nothing in the Constitution that allows for personal armories."

    SunJon -- ignorance again. What the federal Constitution "allows" is the federal government. The Bill of Rights protects freedoms, including keeping and bearing arms, particularly for self-defense.

    "The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to . . . fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections." -- West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette - 319 U.S. 624, 638 (1943)

  36. We warp the brains of our young by sending them repeatedly into war zones and then we think they can adjust to "normal" society. We warp our children's brains with tv violence and gladiator "sports" like football and win at all costs and we expect them to act civilly. We force loud, jagged visuals and sounds at ourselves all day long (via tv, movies, workplaces, computers, phones, earphones) and wonder why we are hyper vigilant as if we all have PTSD. We wonder if a backfiring car setoff police officers who then showered a speeding vehicle with bullets. We seem surprised when someone is startled by a loud or sudden noise and over-reacts. Obama via AGHolder shipped quantities of assault rifles into Mexico and pretends innocence regarding the murder of Border Agent Terry. So now Obama will pretentiously say American civilians should not arm themselves, should not protect themselves, from illegals / criminals in our streets and breaking into our homes. OK, we don't need semi-automatic assault weapons but since the criminals have them.....is there any way to halt the sale of ammo for assault weapons--at least the deadliest kinds? How about paying a bounty, roughly cost, for those who will turn in assault weapons. After a year or two of this, authority for LEO to confiscate assault weapons.

  37. Killer. My topic is very valid. I'm only talking about the way the amend was written, originally. I did not study the subsequent SC rulings. I wrote a term paper on this in College however that was in the 60's.

  38. One has only to think about why Jefferson suggests having a revolution every 20 years or so to understand why we have the 2nd Amendment.

    The fundamental problem is not so much what kind of weapon was used, but the fact that people capable of doing this are not dealt with when identified. Granted, if the mother had half a brain and had not had any guns in the house it might only her being killed with a kitchen knife, but this guy still would have done something.

    A neighbor was quoted as saying the boy was troubled, but that neighbor didn't want to say anything more. The boy was obviously a known quantity!