Monday, December 17, 2012

Newtown, and Dunblane, and Gruesome Violent Videos

Like most people with a heart mine was broken Friday as my family learned of  the horrific events unfolding in Newton, Connecticut; initial reports of a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, followed by conflicting and horribly inaccurate reports from a media and political crush that was remarkable mostly for the extent of the misinformation involved.

My wife and I were glued to the television for the bulk of the late afternoon, stunned, shocked, and grief stricken trying to find out what had happened, who did it, and at one point as the misinformation was sorted out I turned to her and said; "Dunblane, Scotland" and then "video games."

I made the reference to Dunblane because of the eerie similarities of the shootings in Newtown, to the March 13, 1996 shootings at a school in Dunblane, Scotland, by a gunman who killed 16 children in a class of five- and six-year-olds and their teacher.

The killer in Dunblane was identified Thomas Hamilton, 43, an alleged pedophile who was thrown out of the local scouts organization nearly two decades earlier, after parents learned that he forced some of his young charges to sleep with him on overnight camping trips. In the years just prior to his rampage Hamilton was described as a shopkeeper who was angry at his community for not patronizing his store.

Hamilton unleashed his anger at society by attacking the most vulnerable and innocent of victims; children at the local elementary school whose deaths would certainly make his point that he was angry and considered himself a victim.

As a result of his actions Great Britain's anti-firearms activists launched what became known as the Snowdrop Campaign leading in 1997 to a ban on all privately owned handguns. The anti-firearms proponents were successful in banning handguns, but unsuccessful at ending violent crimes against people which doubled in a subsequent 10-year period according to an article in the Telegraph in July 2009.

The article stated that the UK was thus the most violent place in Europe, with Austria second, followed by Sweden, Belgium, Finland and Holland.

I make a point of this because as appalling as we all found the shooting in Newtown to be, those who advocate disarming the citizens of this country who legally carry firearms for their protection were calling for new "gun control" measures before the bodies of the tiny victims were even released to their devastated parents.

Within hours of the shootings my inbox was receiving emails from anti-firearms activists crowing of the Newtown travesty with a "See, see we told you so!" mentality, making the case that now the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution can finally be circumvented at least and repealed at best. I find this to be as reprehensible as the crush of politicians who actually went to Newtown to stand before the cameras while the crime scene was still being actively investigated!

(Note to my readers; in a two-decade career as a reporter and editor, covering or directing coverage of criminal justice issues, I never, ever, ever saw a crush of politicians descending on the scene of tragedy while police were still engaged in an active investigation like that which occurred on Friday.)

In addition to the near copy-cat similarities with the shooting in Dunblane more than a decade ago, I brought up video games because as a combat veteran I know from personal experience that when locked in a life and death struggle an overwhelming desire for revenge against the enemy may be the dominant emotion. Eventually that may be replaced by a cold aloofness, but even then most combatants are keenly aware that human lives are being lost.

Yet the unending stream of extraordinarily violent video games that are played for thousands of hours by many American youngsters makes every enemy an inhuman "target" and the only emotion that counts is the joy of running up the score of "kills" and advancing to the next level. I believe those games act as breeding grounds for sociopaths, and every so often one of them takes the game playing out into the community.

As it turned out, I heard Fox and Friends co-anchor Steve Doucy report Saturday morning that the Newtown shooter was a "gamer," who was known for his video game skills, and also embraced the "Gothic" lifestyle which is a sub-genre of teen angst marked in many cases by wearing dark clothing, listening to deathrock music, and living under the assumption that everything related to life sucks.

Doucy's report speculated that the techniques the shooter developed playing video games were to account for the accuracy with which the victims were killed, and that may be, but I also believe that if a person who already has mental issues becomes immersed in the extreme violence of the video game culture, they are a walking prescription for disaster.

Only an inhuman monster could have blithely executed child after child in Newtown last Friday, or Dunblane Scotland in 1996 – as well as the adults who tried to protect them – with no sense of regret or remorse for their actions. Only a mindless sociopath could have committed those murders with no sense of responsibility – and that certainly appears to be what happened in Newtown.

If Adam Lanza thought he was getting back at his parents for divorcing, or some other issue, he failed and failed miserably. Few people are blaming his parents for the actions of a person who was legally an adult, but who still could not legally purchase the firearms he used in Newtown murders. The blame for the act itself lies squarely on the shoulders of the criminal, not his parents and not society; he was an adult and responsible for his own actions.

I am not making excuses for anyone who uses a firearm recklessly or with intent to harm others. But I don't see how disarming an entire society and thus creating a new class of victims will accomplish anything except encourage more criminals and bullies to abuse more peaceful citizens, as has happened in the UK since 1997 the handgun ban went into effect.

We don't tell everyone who drives to give up their cars when people die in a fatal accident caused by someone who is texting while driving; we didn't ban vehicles when deaths caused by drunk drivers increased, we took aim at the behavior of drunks; and we don't hear a call for banning kitchen knives in the wake of a maniac in China attacking and stabbing 22 elementary school students last Friday. We don't do that for myriad reasons but first on the list is that we all know it won't work and it is inherently unfair to penalize law abiding citizens for the actions of criminals.

So instead of resorting to name calling and threats to murder the head of the National Rifle Association, I think it would be far better to acknowledge the evil that exists in society – worldwide – and put our energies into helping the survivors of Friday's unfathomable tragedy work through their grief.

And instead of getting into unending arguments about firearms control we would be doing far more of a useful nature if we work on ending the conditions that led to the creation of an inhuman monster who killed 27 innocent people, and then in final act of cowardice ended his own life so he wouldn’t have to face the consequences of his actions.


Joe Visconti said...

Ron great write up. Why didn't Scotland even come up all weekend in the media? Could it be they knew it would link the tragedy to outlawing guns?

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