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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We Cannot Legislate against Lunacy

Credit: Blackwaterdog
A nation in mourning

The obscenity at Sandy Hook School has led to a chorus of condemnation against firearms. I would urge people in their anger and sorrow to look below the surface

This is the most difficult article I’ve ever written. In the face of the appalling tragedy in Connecticut it’s almost impossible to find the right words. I love words but sometimes they are so inadequate. Here it might be said that respectful silence is the only response, silence and sorrow in silence.

But others are speaking and some are shouting, bawling almost. I raise my voice in a perfect storm, knowing that I’m unlikely to be heard, or if heard I am likely to be misunderstood. Just about every report I’ve read about the mass shootings last week at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the town of Newton has raised the issue of gun control, the equation being that the Second Amendment right of US citizens to bear arms equals periodic massacres. Few seem to pause and think. The Second Amendment has been in place for over two hundred years but rampaging madmen are a feature of the modern age. Why, why and why again?

I’m going to push these whys but first I should declare an interest. The thing is I enjoy shooting, which opens be to an additional accusation - that of selfishness. I have licences for both a .22 rifle and a four-ten shotgun. I enjoy target practice and I enjoy rough shooting. I really do have to stress that all of the people I have met through this sport are sensible, intelligent and well-balanced. I first learned to shoot staying with family friends near Moultrie in Georgia. I have little doubt that most Americans who are in legal possession of firearms are also sensible, intelligent and well-balanced.

I do have firearms but unlike Americans I have no constitutional right to bear arms. It wasn’t always the case. The 1689 English Bill of Rights – upon which the American version was later based – enshrined the right of people to bear arms for defence. And so it remained, right into the twentieth century. In his A Brief History of Crime Peter Hitchens points out that when in 1909 the police in the Tottenham district of London came under fire from a gang of foreign anarchists they asked the public for assistance. Not only did they borrow guns from the local citizens but they also appealed to members of the public to help shoot back.

Over the course of the last century gun control in Britain got tighter and tighter, largely because governments started to fear the people, chiefly for political reasons. But tight gun control did nothing to stop the Dunblane School Massacre in 1996. Gun control has done nothing to stop more and more firearms getting in to the hands of criminals. The truth is the tighter the gun laws have become the more prevalent gun crime has become. It might be said that while we have disarmed honest citizens we have armed dishonest gangsters.

Looking to Europe there is Norway, which has particularly strong firearms control. That did not stop Anders Behring Breivik going on a rampage. Now consider another example altogether; consider Switzerland. This is a country whose proportion of gun ownership per capita is among the highest in the world, not far behind the United States. This is a country where almost every adult male is required by law to bear arms. Yet it’s also a country with a particularly low murder rate. Such gun crime as there is mostly involves illegally held arms.

Now I turn my eyes back over the Atlantic. So far as the clamour for gun control is concerned it would be as well to consider the words of Sammy Gravano, one-time mobster. In a 1999 interview with Vanity Fair he said – “Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I’m a bad guy, I’m always going to have a gun.” The simple truth is that many types of crimes, as Hitchens pointed out in his book, fall sharply in those districts where normal and law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry concealed weapons.

It might interest you to know that in England approximately half of all burglaries occur while people are at home. In America this is as low as one in eight. In those States which openly licence citizens to use deadly force against intruders burglary is virtually unknown.

What happened in Newton was not normal; it was an obscenity, just as Dunblane was an obscenity. Adam Lanza – I can barely bring myself to write his name - , a maladjusted twenty-year old, went on a ghastly killing spree. Why, what was his motive? Will we ever know with exactness? Possibly not, but possibly it was no more than a desire for notoriety and fame, that shallow contemporary obsession, the shallow obsession of losers and mediocrities everywhere.

But there is more. As I noted above, this kind of mass shooting followed by suicide is a feature of our age. Lanza was not normal; Lanza, as I understand from the Washington Post, had some mental or developmental disorder. The New York Times reports that it was Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. Accordingly it seems he was on strong medications.

Here I can only agree once again with Peter Hitchens. Writing recently on his Daily Mail blog, he says that it would make sense for the press to explore this route rather than raise a futile wail in favour of gun control. Is it possible, one has to ask, that there is a correlation between what happened at Newton and the increasing use of modern medications for mental illness? We badly need answers here. Instead we are likely to get the usual clichés.

A world away from Newton there was another murderous rampage last week, though it has attracted far less media attention. In central China a knife-wielding man stabbed twenty-two children outside a primary (grade) school. It was less terrible than Sandy Hook because none were killed, though several were taken to hospital, some with severed fingers and ears. According to police the perpetrator, since detained, is ‘mentally-ill.’ Tight control on firearms means that gun crime is virtually unknown in China. Instead knives, and sometimes explosives, are used in mass attacks. The sad truth is we cannot legislate against lunacy.



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Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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18 comments on We Cannot Legislate against Lunacy

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By neil6 on December 16, 2012 at 07:29 pm

Excellent article. You have unearthed the complex and multi-faceted nature of this debate. The current links between psychiatric/psychological disorder and the profiles of the perpetrators of mass shootings, couldn't be more stark.

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By Agit8r on December 16, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Around the time our Bill of Rights was written here, both America and Britain faced a fork in the road, and Britain took the course of:

"One of the first motives to civil society, and which becomes one of its fundamental rules, is, that no man should be judge in his own cause... He inclusively, in a great measure, abandons the right of self-defence, the first law of nature. Men cannot enjoy the rights of an uncivil and of a civil state together. That he may obtain justice, he gives up his right of determining what it is in points the most essential to him. That he may secure some liberty, he makes a surrender in trust of the whole of it."

Whereas the US took a rather more Jacobin path. In recent decades, the advancements in technology have lead from the potential of tyranny by the mob, to tyranny by random individuals--in the most recent instance, by the son of a "responsible gun owner." It would be impracticible at present to ban all guns here, and impolitic to make arbitrary distinction based on the presence of a pistol grip, as was done from 1994-2004, but there is room to restrict the size of magazines, perhaps with the sort of tax-stamp requirements that other destructive devises must presently meet.

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By Rum-Punch Drunk on December 17, 2012 at 07:20 am

Brilliant article Anastasia. I've taken the liberty on having a say on this too.

We will never know the mind of some people who go out to murder and cause pure devastation. People take revenge, snap for many reasons and once they reach their tipping point, they go on to do things like this and more.

We all think that we are very balanced, intelligent people who take good care that our guns are secure at all times. I don't doubt this is the case with many, but if something was to go wrong mentally, can we truly say with hand on heart, that we may not end up using our weapons in any given situation? Just a thought.

I use to say 'get rid of the guns', but to be honest to myself, any weapon in the hand of a madman, for want of a better word, is not a good thing.

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By Randy Mitchell on December 17, 2012 at 11:13 am

"We cannot legislate against lunacy" is a great way to look at this. Like you, I also own guns and believe in the right to do so, and only have them for defense only. Mental illness, to the point of the shooter in this instance, is something people need to be much more aware of, to actually intervene before an individuals illness reaches the boiling point. The shooters mother, in my opinion, is partly to blame because by all accounts she knew well the warning signs of her sons problems. Mother's never want to believe their children could ever do such horrific things, but taking the blinders off could save lots of people, especially in Connecticut.

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By Lartinos on December 17, 2012 at 06:33 pm

Gun Control is a very dumb idea and is actually just a way to disarm the people of this country. The real reasons behind these two shootings has already been uncovered. I have decided not to write an article about it though.

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By Anastasia on December 18, 2012 at 05:41 pm

Neil, thanks. It would seem obvious. It's certainly something that needs to be looked at closely, once the present passions have died down.

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By Anastasia on December 18, 2012 at 05:44 pm

Agit, that's clearly a matter for you and your fellow citizens. I hope the debate can be conducted calmly. I fear not. You talk about the 'tyranny of the individual.' I think it worth pointing out that incidents of mass shootings are infrequent, and thus all the more horrible.

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By Anastasia on December 18, 2012 at 05:46 pm

RPD, thank you. Indeed, as the Chinese incident shows.

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By Anastasia on December 18, 2012 at 05:48 pm

Randy, there are things that need to be looked at closely. The big question, as I suggest, is surely not gun ownership as such but why this kind of lunacy is a feature of the modern age?

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By Anastasia on December 18, 2012 at 05:49 pm

Lartinos, what concerns me is that the specifics of the Sandy Hook horor are being obscured by an onslaught on the Second Amendment.

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By melanie jean juneau on December 18, 2012 at 06:05 pm

exactly what I discussed with my youngest daughter last night

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By Anastasia on December 20, 2012 at 06:00 pm

Melanie, t's something I've been discussing with all sorts of people.

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By Uttam Gill on December 20, 2012 at 08:31 pm

Anastasia, if not the law how we can check this menace...WE HAVE TO HAVE STRINGENT LAWS...We have to have the conditional regulations for the people to posses Fire arms...One just cannot be a mute spectator...It is not about denying the right to people to posses gun for his or her own safety or for game...it is about ensuring that no such indent occur again... And that’s why strict legislation needs to be in place…

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By Dan Bonser on December 22, 2012 at 08:46 am

In the end, I fully agree, you can't legislate against lunacy. The only real way to combat is in the parent's hands.... Which is a scary though. Its truly a shame you got the comments about "OMG get rid of guns" becaus those people obviously just don't read or don't care about the facts. I've been reading and finding so many interesting things, like how a Tulsa OK school has armed guards patroling the halls, or how there's a school in Texas where the teachers themselves are armed. And the story about how there was a school where the principle was armed and shot a 16 year old that had already shot 2 people, preventing it from becoming worse.

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By John Nelson on December 28, 2012 at 02:57 pm

I agree you can't legislate against lunacy, but you can limit the damage caused by a deranged person through legislation.

I appreciate you mentioned the knife-wielding villager in China who entered an elementary school with a knife and injured 22 kids and 1 adult on the same day as the deadly incident in the U.S. The Chinese villager did not have access to a cache of automatic, or semi-automatic firearms. They have laws against access to such weapons. The end result was 22 injured and NOT dead.

In the U.S. we could legislate to make our schools safer if we had the courage. We can't control the thoughts of people, but as a society we can limit the damage. I think the parents in Connenticut would have rather read the headline 22 injured versus 22 dead.

Our Second Ammendment says "

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. The mother of the gunman in Connecticut was not a member of the well-regulated militia and should not have had an arsenal in her home. We have a well-regulated militia: local police, state police, national guard, federal military, ATF, FBI, NSA, DEA, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Park Service, CIA........All armed! We have a robust and well-regulated militia to keep us safe from tyranny. We don't need every yahoo in the country armed to the teeth. That does not make us safer....just ask the folks at Newtown.
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By Anastasia on January 06, 2013 at 05:24 pm

Uttam, the point of my article was to push below the surface. Stricter legislation will not work unless there is a better understanding of what motivates madness. The essential question remains: why is this a disease of the modern age?

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By Anastasia on January 06, 2013 at 05:25 pm

Dan, thanks. Here is another story almost completely overlooked in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

http://www.easybakegunclub.com/blog/1968/Concealed-Carry-Hero-at-Portland-Mall---The-Full-S.html

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By Anastasia on January 06, 2013 at 05:25 pm

John, yes indeed. As I have said elsewhere, I personally see no reason why private citizens should own automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Having said that, I have some experience of target shooting with an AK 47, though not in England. My greatest fear is that the whole debate is turning on the Second Amendment itself, which is going to go round and round in circles, getting exactly nowhere.

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