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'Depose the false deity'

Now featured on our homepage, E.J. Dionne on the Newtown shootings:

How often must we note that no other developed country has such massacres on a regular basis because no other comparable nation allows such easy access to guns? And on no subject other than ungodly episodes involving guns are those who respond logically by demanding solutions accused of "politicizing tragedy."It is time to insist that such craven propaganda will no longer be taken seriously. If Congress does not act this time, we can deem it as totally bought and paid for by the representatives of gun manufacturers, gun dealers and their very well-compensated apologists.

Read the whole thing here.

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Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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Jim P's experiece tells him 'A lot of Americans a huge percentage, maybe even half or more have an emotional attachment to guns.'Jim get new friends/neighbors/parishioners, or move.... you are in a stinking place.

If there is a tipping point, this must be it. Or else Dionne is right.

Let me utter the obvious inanity now so some True Believer doesn't feel compelled to:Guns don't kill people. People kill people.Now let's have an adult conversation.I suspect Dionne is correct re: politicans' protitution to the gun lobbies.

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. People with guns kill lots of people.

And if people didn't have such easy access to guns ....? How many of them would still be running around attempting mass murders, one child at a time, with knives? clubs? bare fists?Stanley, I know that you and I are in agreement.I have just heard a commentator on Chris Matthews (Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America) arguing for arming school officials. Wouldn't it be just so very special to have poorly or untrained weapons holders shooting at will? BTW, Larry Pratt is a freaking idiot!

Because Bobby Jindal seems to be running for President, I think you should all be reminded if you didn't already know, that he refused federal aid for mental health programs and closed down many mental health facilities. About two months ago New Orleans was horrified when a young mother shot her toddler and drowned her infant. She had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophreni and had been cared for in one of those closed facilities. There obviously will be more of this so long as Congress doesn't act.To repeat an important argument of one of the pundits this week: the same people who are against federal health car and other "socialized" programs, prayer in schools, etc., are for the most part the same people who are insanely anti-gun control. They will not vote for the Democrats no matter what, so the Democrats have no political excuse to kow-tow to them -- they are already lost to the Dems. The Dems must have the courage to oppose their insanity.

Jim, the elimination of semiautomatic weapons would be quite an improvement, even if people were allowed to keep revolvers for self-defense. I'll be gratified for whatever the politicians can get, but only confiscation would be truly effective. I wonder if that is possible. The last ban in 1994 only banned sales of new assault weapons. If effective legislation still doesn't happen, I'd look into protecting schools and public venues with a combination of nonlethal weaponry (laser dazzlers, tasers, drugged darts, immobilizing foam) withbullet resistant robotics. This would be paid for by a tax on firearms and ammunition.

Chris Rock proposes pricing bullets at $5000 each. It would certainly cut into impulse shootings.

One solution; I suggest that since the mother bought guns and brought them home and maybe the father supported this with his child support payments, a home with a mentally ill child, their estates should be held by tort law to be responsible for damages to 26 children and adults and families. . A multi- million dollar award would have an immediate national effect on the gun culture. 'Your guns are libel for all damages they cause, just like your car' Gun insurance should be about $3000 a year' Money talks best in our culture. '

And if people didnt have such easy access to guns .? How many of them would still be running around attempting mass murders, one child at a time, with knives? clubs? bare fists?Back in 1927 some guy killed about 35 kids. Didn't use a gun; used dynamite. By the way, why are liberals always angry? Is it a genetic thing?

Dionne's syllogism is simple:Massacres as at Newtown are accomplished with guns.Guns are relatively freely available.Therefore, legislation that makes gun ownership more difficult will make us safer.But this table from the DOJ suggests that violent crimes have declined substantially, perhaps even dramatically, since the mid 1990s. doesn't appear that this decrease is correlated with a reduction in the supply of available firearms. In fact, it seems that something on the order of 5 million new guns are sold in the US every year. So how to square these facts with syllogisms like Dionne's?I'm not opposed to sensible gun regulation. I do expect that facts like the ones I'm linking to will be deployed to counteract the outrage at guns that is being primed by Dionne and many others. I'm also skeptical that government regulations, even if they pass the Constitutional sniff test, would do much to prevent this kind of thing from happening. How many hundreds of millions of firearms are already in circulation? I've noted here before that I see a parallel between the gun-control issue and the immigration issue: enacting laws to make it more difficult to procure firearms is like erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico. It might help somewhat to stanch the flow of new firearms/new illegal immigrants. Neither measure does anything about the millions of firearms already in circulation / illegal immigrants already in this country. And large sectors of the US population are in favor of firearm possession / are in favor of illegal immigrants being able to come here and stay here. Legislation that ignores these deeply ingrained cultural realities probably won't be successful.As I say, I'm in favor of sensible firearms regulation. History doesn't give us much reason to expect that we'll see much substantive change in current policies.

Jim P. ==IF the availability of guns has little to do with the number of violent crims, then why worry about the enumber of guns people here possess?About numbers of guns in a society == On a national scale there is at least a correlation between gun homicides and gun ownership and gun homicide. In other words, nations with proportionally few guns have proportionally fewer gun homicides. The question is: is the relationship in fact a causal? If there is no causal relationship between gun numbers and numbers of homicides, then how do you account for the fact that (proportionally) the nation with the largest number of guns is also the nation with the largest number of homicieds -- and by an extremely wide margin?

@Bob Schwartz (12/17, 11:57 pm) Anger is an English word derived from the Old Norse word "angr" which means (or is related to) "grief". Humans tend to get angry when something or someone has been lost, or violated.In my own (very limited) experience of the past few days, anger at the Newtown massacre does not seem to be related to political ideology. The experience of anger and grief seems near universal at this (or any) slaughter of the innocents. (So, to answer your final question, yes, I suppose it is at least partly genetic---but not limited to liberals.)

From what I have been reading on the news sites and blogs, it all seems to have been decided. It is either because he was mentally ill, or because God is no longer in our schools (What kind of God is that? not an all powerful and loving one, that's for sure).What it most certainly is not, is anything to do with the fact that his mother had an arsenal of military style guns, that even on an army base would be locked in an armoury.The average American seems incapable of looking beyond Americas borders, and asking, why does it only happen here to this degree?

Jim: Correlation is not causation. There are many reasons violent crime has come down over the years. But then again, look at Chicago. It's experiencing an epidemic of violent crime. And New York City may or may not be accurately counting its violent crimes. Guns are designed to kill. They do so remarkably well. That's why they feature in so many violent deaths.

Grant: yes, Chicago's murder rate is far higher than it was last year. But as far as I know, Chicago hasn't experienced a mass murder during 2012. I understand that the great majority of that rise in the murder rate is attributable to increased gang violence. Is gang violence the same problem as a mass murder by a mentally ill person, or is it a different problem?The increase in murders in Chicago, attributable to gang violence, illustrates the point I made in my previous comment: the US is already awash in guns. Depending on whose estimate one uses of guns already in circulation, there are *already* enough guns in civilian hands to arm every virtually single person living in the US. I don't like guns. I'd be much happier if firearms weren't nearly as prevalent in the US as they are. What I'm not able to see is what laws or regulations can do about it. What legislation that would survive a court challenge is going to disarm the people who already have guns? Remember, this isn't a theoretical conversation; many attempts at gun control have been enacted already at all levels of government (and many of those have subsequently been struck down). If there is a way to disarm America, I could very well support it. I just don't see what can be done.

@Jim Pauwels (12/18, 8:46 am) Here are a couple of examples of what could be done:*Enact stricter gun safety laws. Here's a proposal from one of James Fallows' readers:"- Privately owned handguns should be limited to revolvers....- Rifles should be limited to bolt and lever action....- A mandatory safety training course specific to the class of weapon and provided by a state-licensed provider should be required before someone can purchase a gun. Feds should allow portability across State lines, but online courses should be banned. Instructors should receive training in spotting and reporting a high risk student.- State and federal firearm laws should be fully extended to gun show sales." here's a proposal from West Virginia native Michael Tomasky. "Congress should tell states, in the wake of this surely worse epidemic of gun violence, that they must put some substance into the phrase well-regulated militia. They must define well-regulated militia to include not only the National Guard, but all legally registered gun-owners in the state. If they fail to do so, and in line with the precedent set by the drinking-age act, they risk losing 10 percent of their federal law-enforcement funding." goes on to give examples of what a "well-regulated militia" might mean: Militia members/gun owners "...could be obliged by law to keep their guns in a locked, steel safe to which only the registered owner has access. They could also be obliged to undergo certain testing and evaluation before being permitted to own certain kinds of gunsor, depending on the state, barred from owning certain types of guns at all, or barred from keeping them at home (that is, they could buy and own them, but they would have to keep those guns at the firing range, which after all is the only place where they can be legitimately used)." Tomasky includes his argument for how such a federal law could and would pass constitutional muster.To respond to your first question, my sense is that gang violence is a different problem from that of mentally ill individuals engaging in mass murder. (With the obvious overlap that in both cases we are talking about, for the most part, young men.)

Wow: The New York Post calls the Second Amendment obsolete:

Even Wall Street is backing off its investments in gun makers:'s purely a business decision obviously. These things only happen because of reactions to the prevailing or expected environment. Will it last? I haven't dared ask the question, because these massacres happen all the time and nothing gets done in the aftermath. I'd love to think this time would be different. But...

Of course the Second Amendment is obsolete. No one has a right to own weapons of mass destruction.

David - Drew Magary at Gawker had a take on the gun issue that I didn't see anywhere else, pointing out (in characteristically colorful fashion) that gun manufacturers, the ones who profit most directly from the prevalence of guns (and who even profit directly from any public discussion about gun restrictions), never seem to end up with any of the opprobrium that follows in the wake of shootings like this one. Maybe the story you linked to suggests that this time will be different?

Bob Schwartz, I'll tell you what, I totally agree that dynamite and assault weapons are pretty much exactly the same and for that reason I am sure you agree with me that guns and dynamite should be regulated in exactly the same way. will be disappointed if you do an about face and now maintain that the two are not alike after all.

From the NY Times Dealbook link provided by David G: "It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level, Cerberus said in a news release. ... Tuesdays announcement follows a statement from the California State Teachers Retirement System, a large pension fund, that it was reviewing its investment in Cerberus in light of the firms holding in the Freedom Group."Good for the teachers. Socially responsible investing can be another important part of the solution.

One crucial function of a well-ordered government is to prevent disputes among its citizens lead to their resorting to violence. It does so by asserting its right to what Max Weber called a monopoly on LEGITIMATE violence. It recruits and supports police to enforce its laws. It punishes unauthorized violence. It determines who can possess what weapons under which circumstances.It follows that any claim by any citizen to a right to own any lethal weapon has to be consistent with this overarching obligation of the state to protect its citizens from illegal violence. Should the government determine that citizens have to have weapons to defend themselves, then it has to enact and enforce laws that address this need. But such laws ought to be as restrictive as feasible under the circumstances. To talk about an individual's right to possess lethal weapons simply because he or she wants them makes no sense. If possession of lethal weapons for hunting or sport permitted under circumstances that can reasonably be expected to be compatible with public safety, then they can reasonably be permitted. But the burden of the proof likes on those who want weapons for such purposes.I realize that what I say here may be suspect under the prevailing interpretation of the Second Amendment. So much the worse for that interpretation.

I still say sue the gun owners for all their money if their gun causes harm and is not under lock and key like dynamite has to be. Gun owners should be treated as social pariahs and cowards, somewhat like child porn addicts. Is that liberal anger enough for you... Bob Schwartz?

Luke and Bernard: I agree that restrictions on what can be made available for purchase may make for some marginal improvement over time in the prevalence and types of guns that are available. But none of these remedies, so far as I can see, would make any difference for the guns and accessories that are already in circulation. I just don't see that it's a problem that's amenable to a legislative fix. I don't know what the answer is.

Here is a conservative writer weighing in on the tragedy. While I don't expect readers of dotCom to agree with every point and suggestion made in this article - I don't, either - I wonder if there might be some possibilities for common ground, for example on bolstering mental health funding.

Joe Nocera suggests a M.A.D.D. model of social activism.

Jim P. "bolstering mental health funding.' The Lanzas were millionaires.. give us your next 'lets spin' idea please? Sue em enough so they live in a SRO.

ed, in all honesty we know next to nothing about Adam Lanza. We don't know if he exhibited incipient warning signs that were seen only by his mother. We do know that he was so isolated that very few people in his mother's daily orbit had much contact with him. One can only surmise why this was -- his choice, hers, or both of theirs. One sees potential clues all over the place -- not having seen his brother in more than two years or his uncle in more than six. I have an acquaintance whose troubled son (older than Lanza) one day went out and shot 7 people (not children) as he drove around. In retrospect there were all kinds of trroubling signs but no actual warning, and certainly no threats. The hardest thing to come to grips with is that threats are actually a positive sign because it is so likely that they are veiled pleas for help or intervention. Thus, the "worst" incidents are almost always going to be preceded by very few warnings or even none at all. Thus, unless your plan is to deprive every troubled individual of their civil rights in order to make the world safe for assault weapons (which wouldn't work anyway), there are not many solutions short of regulating guns, or maybe ammunition. Maybe, for instance, you could ban the sale of ammunition for certain types of weapons and make it available only at authorized gun ranges (the only places where it would be legal to use such weapons). I would note that the individual I am speaking of used a rifle and was stopped by police after killing four people. I can't imagine the carnage if he had used a semi-automatic weapon.

Megan McArdle pretty much captures my point of view, in a lot more words and in a more well-argued way than I could muster.

:"What it most certainly is not, is anything to do with the fact that his mother had an arsenal of military style guns, that even on an army base would be locked in an armoury."Michael P. -- Powerful point. I hadn't seen it made before.

David G. --Wow! indeed. Here's more on what is going on at Fox News -- Ailes has complete editorial say-so, and he and Hannity are bucking Murdoch. I say Yay, Murdoch! (For once.)

Mollie --About lack of opprobrium after these horrible events -- that's a hugely important point. And I think that one of the reasons that we as a culture do not assign blame is because our current crop of writers have not taken on the issue of arms merchandising and the dirty business of spying that Eric Ambler and Graham Greene took on. We need images to think accurately about these matters and we need the writers to supply them.Does anybody besides me remember Ambler's "A Journey into Fear" which is about the cynical, unscrupulous, and vicious underworld of arms dealers? Great novel. If you read it you will know that arms manufacture attracts people who are capable of the worst sort of behavior. Orson WElles made it into a great movie. But what do writers write about these days in novels and movies? Bruce Willis' sadism and other such de=moralizing @#$%. I'm not for censorship, but we have to learn to shame such writers and publishers so that people don't buy their products. They are a great part of the violence problem. Plus we need to support those writers whohelp us understand those issues. But in our relativistic age the literati don't seem to want to condemn anyone's moral values or lack thereof. The self-satisfied hard right can be very obnoxious at times in condemning other people's moral views, but there are times whenwe should be obnoxious.(Please excuse the bad typing. Bad eyes this week.)

I still say sue the gun owners for all their money if their gun causes harm and is not under lock and key like dynamite has to be. Gun owners should be treated as social pariahs and cowards, somewhat like child porn addicts. Is that liberal anger enough for you Bob Schwartz?But Ed, how do you really feel about gun owners? Don't you think that is a bit, ah, innocuous, not to say wishy-washy? I would have expected a more forthright and vigorous statement. And no, it's not enough, Ed. We, all of us, want to see some real passion. And finally Ed, I sincerely hope that you find some tranquility and amity, for your sake and for the sake of all of us. Peace.

Ann said, But in our relativistic age the literati dont seem to want to condemn anyones moral values or lack thereof. The self-satisfied hard right can be very obnoxious at times in condemning other peoples moral views, but there are times whenwe should be obnoxious.Thanks for letting the cat out of it's bag, Ann. Can I assume that you're talking about those who worship tolerance? And don't worry about your typing; the quality of your writing more than makes up for it.

Let's consider this as two problems: mass shootings and gun killings generally. My understanding is that mental illness--particularly depression--plays a role in most mass killings, so better treatment would be part of a holistic response to mass killings as a public health problem. But easily available guns make acting-out more deadly. (Consider the madman who attacked 20 schoolkids in China recently--all the kids survived.) Killings generally are a plague that afflicts the African-American community disproportionately. In 2009, fully one half of homicide victims were African American. (, stats from US DoJ.) (African Americans are about 13% of the US population.) Most murder victims are young--the rate of being a murder victim peaks in one's 20's. 82% of homicides among African Americans are committed with guns. ( Here's a striking stat: in 2007, 84 percent of African American gun deaths were from homicide, while 80 percent of gun deaths among whites were from suicide. ( Mass killings lead to at least some wider public response--here's hoping that the justified horror and outrage at the Newtown massacre leads to addressing of all the underlying factors, including mental health care and effective gun control (and yes, gun homicides are less common overall in places with stricter gun control.) But gun killings are destroying our inner cities all the time, every day, lots of them young men killing young men. This is also a multi-factorial problem, but effective gun control might limit the lethality there, too, if our outrage at Newtown can carry us to real action.

Bob S. --Yes, I'm thinking of the worship of tolerance. But it is not nearly so common among us liberals as you seem to think. We do condemn lots of things. Where we differ from conservatives is in what we think is immoral.

Re Jim Pauwels' endorsement of Megan McArdles' comments: McArdle counsels despair: In effect, she says that only one thing (totally banning guns) would work. But that itself won't work. So let's get on with other things. How about Christmas shopping?No thoughtful person would claim that solving the problem of murderous violence is easy or going to be quick. But to dismiss out of hand the idea that government action can substantially improve the situation is defeatist. I would further suggest that defeatism in matters like this is unchristian. It smells of the cavalier dismissal of public projects to alleviate poverty or racism on the grounds that "we'll always have the poor with us."

Barbara said:Bob Schwartz, Ill tell you what, I totally agree that dynamite and assault weapons are pretty much exactly the same and for that reason I am sure you agree with me that guns and dynamite should be regulated in exactly the same way. will be disappointed if you do an about face and now maintain that the two are not alike after all.Actually Barbara, I've recently been contemplating the purchase of an assault type carbine in order to have a defensive response option in case of a home-invasion type attack on our home. They have been an increasing phenomenon in our area. So I have to beg off on your challenge. But please feel free to call me a hypocrite if you wish; I'll man up and take it...

Lisa --Yes, some young black males are the biggest pert of the problem. But as I understand what the sociologists have been saying for generations (!), when young males are deprived of fathers, good educations, and are confronted with racist police authorities, they will rebel violently. That is not news. And we know generally what to do about it except, I'd say, their lack of fathers. That has become a problem not only in the black community but in the other groups as well. Our public schools are still a problem, thoughNew Orleans schools are now making a good deal of headway, which has given lots of educators new hope that the new combinations of methods here might work in other places.

Jim Pauwels, you might want to reconsider your endorsement of Megan McArdle's essay -- it is being widely and rightly derided not just for its terrible arguments but for this closing recommendation of hers:

"I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once."

That's unbelievably dumb, not to mention insensitive. But it's another way of trying to avoid the problem of guns. Other countries have strict gun laws and far fewer gun deaths. It's just a fact. Changing laws would also begin to change our gun culture, I think. That will take a long time, but why not start now?

@Jim Pauwels (12/18, 12:42 pm) The following excerpt near the end of McArdle's essay throws into question (for me anyway) the value of the whole column:"I'd also like us to encourage people to gang rush shooters, rather than following their instincts to hide; if we drilled it into young people that the correct thing to do is for everyone to instantly run at the guy with the gun, these sorts of mass shootings would be less deadly, because even a guy with a very powerful weapon can be brought down by 8-12 unarmed bodies piling on him at once. Would it work? Would people do it? I have no idea...."Did she really make a public policy recommendation that schools train 5-12 year olds to gang rush heavily armed shooters? Why yes, yes I believe she did. Furthermore she did so freely acknowledging that she has "no idea" whether it would work.Look, there's no one solution for complex problems in a complex society. But there are lots of small solutions that are pieces of the puzzle: more and better mental health treatment, lower unemployment (statistically linked to increased mental illness and suicide), increased gun safety (e.g., smaller magazines), etc. What's not helpful is people who throw their hands up in the air and refuse to follow "the little way", doing what can be done to make the world a little better and a little safer.

Not to mention, the first 2 people who saw this particular shooter did rush him, and were both immediately killed.

"McArdle counsels despair: In effect, she says that only one thing (totally banning guns) would work."That wouldn't work, either.First of all, I don't think it's correct to claim that McArdle dismisses government action "out of hand". If she simply parroted bumper stickers about freedom or 2nd amendment rights - well, in my estimation, that would amount to an out-of-hand dismissal. But her analysis is a good deal more thoughtful. She considers, one by one, a range of possible reactions and options, and points out why they are problematic. To face reality doesn't always mean to counsel despair. McArdle's description of the social and legal landscape strikes me as truthful. It's where we are. It's our starting point.It's a set of circumstances that is not amenable to legislative quick fixes. To admit that isn't to despair. I hope it's the beginning of wisdom. I really think Joe Nocera might be on to something with his M.A.D.D. model. The powerful thing about M.A.D.D. is that it laid a lot of groundwork by changing individual hearts and minds, and that in turn paved the way for social change, including legislation. My take on the situation in the US is that something similar might be needed.A lot of Americans - a huge percentage, maybe even half or more - have an emotional attachment to guns. In some cases, it might be the sort of love that a hobbyist has for his object. More frequently, I suspect, the emotion is fear: the emotion of, "If I have this thing, maybe I can get them before they get me." And that emotional attachment has metastasized into an extremely well-organized and well-funded lobbying organization, the NRA.A M.A.D.D.-style social movement might have the ability to change hearts - to intervene into the midst of that emotional connection to guns - and transform it into something else. Might be worth a try, anyway.

@Ann, Indeed, multifactorial. But still, if we can limit the availability or firepower of guns on the street, perhaps the ongoing slaughter of the young can be slowed. By all means, we should address the range of causes. But as a nation, we've not given enough attention to the everyday gun violence that takes such a toll on the African American community.

How does this sound? 1 - The average person does not need a machine gun or a semi-automatic, and they do not need 50 or 100 round clips (or magazines). I have a (i.e. one) 16-gauge pump shotgun; nobody goes hunting birds or deer with a machine gun.2 - If folks who have a child with certifiable mental problems come to divorce, society should encourage them to take the child to a sanity hearing (doctor, judge, family member) and properly commit the child to a state-run mental institution where they would receive the sort of reasonable, long term care that is necessary. If fact even if the parents are not divorced, let people know that if they find they simply cannot handle the child, that they can have the child admitted to a state-run mental institution so the insane child will receive decent care and so that they can properly tend their other children. People pay taxes and should without shame - be allowed this sort of recourse.3 - Put a fence (as decorative as it can be, but secure) around the school and have a security guard man the gate, to control who enters the school.It is worth noting that nobody involved with the family of this shooter was financially strapped; they lived in a large lovely home in a neat and well-kept town. Now think of the maniacs at the lower end of the economy scale, of the average mentally deranged person whose families either are not able to care for/tend, or have lost track of them altogether. These poor souls wander the streets day in and day out, babbling and squawking about God only knows what, dragging plastic bags around or pushing an old shopping cart. Filthy, un-kept, ill-fed and sometimes hysterical, it is obvious to anyone, that nobody cares for (tends to) them on any sort of regular basis; that as a society we have abandoned them entirely to their madness and/or to their demons. As surely as the sun rises, if the right conditions present themselves, some of these folks can/will do real and lasting harm. In other words, they are grossly neglected and they could easily endanger either themselves or society. Until we are willing to consider looking at the broader issues of violence in our pop culture (TV, video games, movies), until we are willing to regularly remind kids of the Ten Commandments (e.g., thou shall not kill), until we are willing to instill notions of Christian kindess and mercy, that even the lowest, laziest human is infinitely more valuable than the finest race horse at the Kentucky Derby simply because he is created in the image of God we should consider what practical steps we can take.It seems that most people could agree that talking a few practical, common sense measures like controlling access to semi and fully automatic weapons and body armor (they should be reserved for the miltary anyway), providing some decent institutional care for those who have mental problems (which we should already be doing but are not), and putting up some locked gates with a security guard to control who enters a school will at least help in the short term.

Mollie - I assume you refer to the principal and the counselor? I believe they showed incredible courage and self-sacrifice - the sort of virtuous behavior I'd like to think I could have the grace to scrape up in a situation like that. It is true that they were shot. Is the lesson to be taken away that they should have locked the door the office and let the gunman continue to fire away at kindergartners?

Further to David G @ 10:58 ...... Wouldn't it be nice?

"Did she really make a public policy recommendation that schools train 5-12 year olds to gang rush heavily armed shooters? Why yes, yes I believe she did."Ok. I won't endorse that particular point. Although I believe that strategy most likely did save lives on Flight 93.

How about making the internet providers and all print publishers of any and all kinds financially liable to enforce bans on the advertisement of the sale, trade, transfer, whatever of ALL guns, ALL gun parts and accessories, and ALL ammunition (including the raw products to make it yourself)? And outlaw what is euphemistically called the "secondary market" of all of these products?In other words, act like adults: when does this country have to stand by and, in the alleged name of "free speech," allow such obviously disasterous actions? The same for recipes/instructions for explosives and other similar products harmful to society.

It is easy to throw up one's hands and say "we can't do anything about this." Look the parents of the slain 20 children in Newtown in the face ... and the next set of parents when it happens again ... and say, with that hang-dog, mournfully pathetic sound of voice: "we can't do anything about this." But what if the next child is yours?There was a time when people thought the same about drunk driving, bicycle and motor cycle safety, etc. Well, guess what ..... adult thinking and adult action took place and people found a way to "do something about this." I refer back to Joe Nocera's op ed piece quoted above.

Bob Schwartz: why are you always obnoxious? Is it a genetic thing?

That was harsh. Why are your COMMENTS almost always obnoxious ... is THAT a genetic thing? (Let's keep this stuff impersonal.)

Jim P, re your Flight 93 analogy -- after 9/11 the government took steps to increase airline security. That has worked. Why is one okay and not the other?

No, Jim, the lesson is that Megan McArdle didn't even think seriously about the specific shooting to which her piece is meant to be a response before dismissing every other possible approach as not-worth-trying and then coming up with her proposal -- a perfect specimen of what Josh Marshall called "over-cleverness and hack think tank denizen garbage."

@Jim Pauwels (12/18, 3:04 pm) Correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that on Flight #93, the hijackers were not heavily armed (i.e., with semi-automatic firearms), and the passengers who organized and carried out the counterattack were not of elementary school age.

Oh, wow deja vu. The earliest I remember this conversation is 1963. Since then the voices of sweet reason haven't changed their song even though the uncounted number of guns loose in our society has doubled and redoubled and on and on. And even though the Most Catholic Supreme Court has ruled that it is, indeed, for personal protection that Americans can arm themselves for Afghanistan when they go to the mall.The only thing that has changed is that the voices of "never" have escalated from deer- and target-shooting and letting little Missy defend herself from rapists with a nice .32 in her purse to wondering out loud why the school children -- or at least their teachers -- were not trained, armed and ready to repel intruders.The only thing that has really changed is the speed with which we can erect "makeshift memorials" of stuffed teddy bears, balloons, drawings and votive candles. We've had a lot of practice. I don't hear anything in the voices of sweet reason that promises to lead to change. Wishing won't make it so while the shameless side owns the Congress and the Most Catholic Supreme Court.

Josh Marshall is correct of course, and this Megan Mcardle is spouting nonsense. To borrow a phrase I found here and like, McArdle is busying herself scurrying down the road to idiocy.Regarding this tregady, I will try to keep my post secular.Short term; common sense would indicate we should (an could):1-Limit access to military/police grade firearms2-Properly, reasonably tend to the lunatics3-Physically (mechanically) secure school buildings and have a security guard tend the doorLonger term; we should try to figure how we got here, and how we can escape from this nightmare. We should examine what images and ideas we fill our kids and each others heads with. Is our pop culture too violent, too cynical, too graphic? Is there any room for the Ten Commandments or natural law? How about the Golden Rule? If not, what creeds or philosophy should we put in their place? How (maybe ask why?) should we teach goodness, kindess and mercy? What about selfishness; what about sharing? My mother used to tell my brother and me "What sort of person are you? If you can't be kind to a dumb animal, who can you be kind to?" In this case, we could reasonably ask what sort of people we are e.g.; "If we can't be kind to each other; who can we be kind to?"The goal should be something like; given the cultural, technical and financial conditions in which we find ourselves, how can we best tend to our families and improve things via promoting the common good?

Ok. Despite Josh Marshall's uninsightful and unhelpful piece, in my view a lot of McArdle's points are well-taken: that the usual grab-bag of proposed remedies wouldn't have applied to what happened in Newtown (like fewer loopholes on background check requirements, or a ban on assault weapons), and/or wouldn't stop a reasonably dexterous killer (like a ban on extended-capacity magazines), and/or would be unconstitutional (like a ban on all guns, or forbidding the media to report these stories), and/or are wildly unrealistic (like a ban on all guns), and/or are unconstitutional and incredibly cruel and wildly unrealistic (like locking up everyone with mental illnesses), and/or some combination thereof.That doesn't mean that nothing should be pursued. It's just that ideas like the ones that McArdle debunks, should be debunked. Sorry if that upsets people. But y'all are the ones who have rushed to remedies. Until someone thinks of some good ones, there might be wisdom to accommodating oneself to the reality that there are no quick legislative fixes to what happened in Newtown, and then going on from there.

Uninsightful? He has her dead to rights. For the love of all that's holy, Jim, read this right now:

Jim McCrea:Could be genetic. But my father hated sarcasm, while I have always had that tendency. Maybe you're on to something. Or not...

Jim McCrea's comments about my posts have induced me to temporarily drop the irony and briefly list my dream scenario for dealing with scum and lunatics with weapons threatening our children:All school teachers and administrators required by law to1) Be trained and certified to carry, at all times during school hours, handguns of sufficient firepower to take down a threat person.2) Take part in periodic training in threat scenarios.3) Be trained to shoot to kill any threat person, not to try to take into custody that threat.4) In-class children and teachers to be trained to respond to threat scenarios.Our society is in a war not only with terrorists but also with various mental cases. The mother of the shooter knew she had a mentally unstable son, and chose to train him as a shooter.

Because this is so much more logistically feasible than passing a real assault weapons ban, or putting more cops on the street. I suppose we should train our movie-theater attendants to become lethal weapons too? This is one of the worst ideas I've heard all week. Right after training our kids to throw themselves at gunmen.

We are overarmed as it is. We need to not only stop the sale of semiautomatic weapons, but confiscate existing ones. It worked in Australia. Anything less will not work. The idea of training teachers to be commandos with weapons may satisfy the modern American mentality formed by revenge and violence porn, but is not fixing the basic problem.

Mr. Gallicho:But until all assault weapons are removed from the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable, our children must be protected, and it is teachers and administrators who are at the front lines of this war, and they, not cops, are in the most immediate danger in a situation like Connecticut. They deserve the right to real-time means of protecting the children and themselves. Waiting for the cops to come results in Columbine and Sandy Hook death results. Teachers and administrators who are carrying, trained, and confident would have saved a lot of lives, and that's the bottom line.

Grant, thanks for the link to that Ezra Klein article. Very sensible.

Lisa ==I didn't mean to suggest that we should not have strict gun control. Far from it. But as long as the motives persist violence will persist, and the lives of both the perps and victims be ruined.

'How (maybe ask why?) should we teach goodness, kindess and mercy?"Ken --In the now long-distant past, the Humanities departments of colleges (including lit, philosophy, history, theology, art and music) used to be charged with teaching students what the best - and worst -- human values are and how to think critically about them. Students were required to take many courses in them. Nowadays in many universities the Humanities are the step-children, and requirements for Humanities courses keep getting cut, and too often, in my opinion, Humanities teachers are allowed to teach whatever they feel is interesting, not the basics of, well, what the old white men used to learn at good colleges.. But that's another huge problem. American science education is the greatest. Our Humanities education is generally pitiful.

The late James Q. Wilson, one of our most thoughtful experts on crime problems, after the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy:"Let's take a deep breath and think about what we know about gun violence and gun control.",0,728...

Patrick M.. your five year old link has the blood of thousands stuck to it's paper. Gun sales by the sickos are going up and up even after the Newtown slaughter.

I thought this Nate Silver post on who are the gunowners was really interesting. Political affiliation is a really powerful predictor, but white people are much more likely to be gunowners than anyone else and we Catholics are much less likely to own a gun than our Protestant sisters and brothers.I have no thoughts at all on what any of this means, but found it very interesting.

@Bob Schwartz (12/18, 8:23 pm) "Teachers and administrators who are carrying, trained, and confident would have saved a lot of lives, and thats the bottom line."I'm curious to know what you think the cost (in time and money) would be to develop and maintain a system like the one you suggest. As a counter to what seems to be your position, here's an excerpt from one of James' Fallows readers:"There is another reason against the "more guns at school" argument. My personal lesson from the tragic Trayvon Martin case earlier this year is a reminder of the danger of an armed citizenry that thinks they are empowered to exercise the state's monopoly on violence. My brother is a police officer back in New England, and they go through hundreds of hours of training before they get close to that responsibility. The reason isn't because it is hard to shoot straight or learn how to cuff someone, it is because it is really hard to tell whether someone is about to commit a crime and what is the appropriate level of force and approach to minimize danger for the officer, suspect, and surrounding community. " (For emphasis, the author used bold typeface on the final sentence.) seems to me an excellent point. If public school teachers and administrators are required to complete, say, a 500 hour course on gun safety and usage as part of their certification and, as a condition of maintaining their certification, to spend 2-5 days a year of their professional development time on keeping their gun knowledge and skills current, that's a not inconsiderable expense.And if it's required for public school educators, should (in your view) it also be required for private and parochial school teacher?Should students also undergo firearms training and be required or allowed to carry firearms at school? (Why or why not?)Is there (in your view) any danger in having dozens of firearms carried and/or stored in a school with hundreds of children and/or teenagers? (And if so, what?)

I really think you should be asking yourselves, as a Nation, why this type of atrocity is ONLY committed by white, young, men.And what kind of culture it is that thinks this is cool:

@Patrick Molloy (12/18, 11:39 pm) Thanks for your comment, and for your link to Prof. Wilson (and enormously knowledgeable expert in his field).I was disappointed at what I took to be the defeatist tone of Wilson's column. He concludes by writing, "The main lesson that should emerge from the Virginia Tech killings is that we need to work harder to identify and cope with dangerously unstable personalities. It is a problem for Europeans as well as Americans, one for which there are no easy solutions such as passing more gun control laws."I agree there are no easy solutions. But there are (and this seems to me a crucial area of common ground) many partial solutions that can each, incrementally, add up to significant change.Ken offered some constructive suggestions above, and others have linked to articles that contain common sense proposals that have evidence to suggest they make a difference.Suggesting, as Wilson seems to do in this column, that because gun safety laws won't solve the entire problem we should therefore not enact gun safety laws that will solve part of the problem isn't helpful.

Luke Hill,I dont classify Wilson as a defeatist but rather as, in his own words, a policy skeptic. There are plenty of ideas that sound good but are not proven, or perhaps proven only to the satisfaction of those proposing them. Some bright ideas are even counter-productive (e.g., people snap when they hear that more aggressive anti-gun measures are in prospect).At any rate Wilson did have some positive proposals re gun control. The article that I linked to doesnt represent the sum total of his thinking. I dont have time today for a back-and-forth discussion of his recommendations but I recommend one chapter in his book Thinking About Crime, A Note on Gun Control. He makes several proposals but concludes, sadly but soberly, that real progress in reducing gun violence almost certainly requires methods - aggressive patrolling, undercover operations, tougher sentences - that liberals instinctively dislike. Grounds for skepticism, imho, because so many of the "best and brightest" are "defeatist" about the effectiveness of such policies.

@Patrick Molloy (12/19, 9:28 am) Thanks for the reply. The fact that the Wayne LaPierre's of the world "snap" at the prospect of stronger gun safety legislation is not, in my view, reason not to adopt such laws. Rather, the fact that gun extremists "snap" in situations like the current one is reason for moderate, responsible gun owners and enthusiasts to unite, step forward and aggressively lobby for better gun safety laws---like closing the gun show loophole, like limiting the size of clips/magazines, etc.Again, the fact that none of these laws individually solves the entire problem is not an argument against passing laws and implementing policies that will reduce gun violence. If, for example. Sen. Joe Manchin continues to demonstrate leadership in working to pass better gun safety laws, it would help enormously if some of his Republican colleagues joined him (rather than adopting the posture that any defeat for President Obama is a victory).

Luke--What is the gun show loophole? I agree that improvement of the status quo will be earned by incremental changes. It seems to me there are three big areas in which to act: make it hard to get the hardware, penalize the law breakers severely, and help the mentally ill.

A pertinent note by Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, Dec 18, 2012 --- He describes the changing legal interpretation of the 2nd Amendment since the 1970s, specifically on "the people" in "the right of the people to keep and bear arms". He concludes that the law is not settled and will be determined by political pressures, again.

The notion that you deal with gun violence in schools by introducing more guns in schools is just plain nuts. Are we really ready to turn a second grade classroom into a free-fire zone? And at what grade level are we going to permit students to arm themselves? After all, who is going to protect them if the principle goes batty? Stand your ground on the playground? Hey, what could go wrong?And I say that as someone who actually WAS an armed teacher. In Vietnam, as part of a CAP I taught English. We were required to carry our side arms. Don't know what good a .45 automatic might have done in any tactical situation, though. Certainly nothing would have been hit that was aimed at, but that's beside the point, I guess.

"Principal." I always got that wrong.

@Ann Olivier (12/19,11:10 am) About 40% of gun sales at the 5,000 or so gun shows held annually in the U.S. are by unlicensed sellers who are not required to perform background checks on the buyers.

There is no question something will be done this time. Murdoch's comments were huge as was his NY post saying the time has come for restrictions. Even O'Reilly agrees tho the method may be different. The fund connected to gun manufactures is removing its interest. This is a paradigm shift. The NRA which has a press conference on Friday scheduled has more ingluence with congress than the US population. Hopefully the worship of guns in this country will end.

Thanks, Luke. What fools we Americans can be.

Megan McArdle can breathe easier. As Jon Chait notes, Charlotte Allen in National Review has gone her one better in terms of what should have happened at Sandy Hook -- and who is to blame:

Well, at least we know what Joe Biden thinks about guns:Vice President Joe Biden is expected to lead the White House task force to examine more gun control legislation, but back in 2008 he did everything he could to convince voters that his running mate supported the Second Amendment.I guarantee you Barack Obama aint taking my shotguns, so dont buy that malarkey, Biden said to voters during a campaign stop in Castlewood, Virginia on September 20. Dont buy that malarkey. Theyre going to start peddling that to you.Biden informed the crowd that he was the proud owner of two guns.If he tries to fool with my Beretta, hes got a problem, Biden added, referring to Obama.</bAnd he's only a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Luke:Can I use a cheat sheet for this exam, or is it an open-book kind of deal? And, most importantly, are these trick questions? Also, how long do I have to answer? Partial credit or no?What's the lowest score I can make and still get a gentleman's 'C'? Can I talk to the department head? Or is that you? Just asking...

@Bob Schwartz (12/19, 5:21 pm) It's an open-ended, open-book ungraded kind of deal with no trick questions. And the questions are, in my own poor way, an attempt to take seriously the implications of what you (and many others) have suggested. I grew up in a town where it was, for many of my friends and classmates, a rite of passage (usually around 9th or 10th grade, if I recall correctly) to miss school the first day of deer hunting season and go hunting with their fathers and uncles. There were families that counted on getting a deer to help make it through the winter (when heating bills were highest and food bills were tightest).Today, through family connections, I have some sense of the time and money involved in training and certifying those who want to enter the teaching profession, or move into administration. If we're seriously talking about adopting a public policy that many (some? most? all?) educators will be carrying firearms in school, surely it's worth thinking and talking seriously about the costs of implementing and sustaining such a policy.I can't speak for you or anyone else, but I've certainly known teachers and coaches with explosively bad tempers, and all things being equal, I'm glad they weren't armed when they exploded.Maybe what you propose is the most sensible way in which to proceed, but I'd like to hear more of the specifics of how you (and others) see such a policy functioning.

LUke and Bob --If you require teachers to be the sort of people who are willing to carry guns, then I think the profession will attract a different sort of person from the sort attracted now. I have never known a teacher below college level who was not a very nurturing person, and I think that is a very great asset in a teacher, and that doesn't seem consistent with sometimes packing a 38.My grandmother was a social worker back in the 30's and 40's, working with Children's Bureau. The police insisted on issuing guns to the social workers. My grandmother refused to carry hers. Sometimes you just have to be couragous.

"I really think you should be asking yourselves, as a Nation, why this type of atrocity is ONLY committed by white, young, men."Many do seem to fit that profile, but not all are white, and not all are particularly young.Seung-Hui Cho, the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre, was Korean.Chai Vang, who shot eight people in the northern Wisconsin woods, is Hmong. He is 44.The so-called Beltway Snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, were/are African-American. (Using past tense for Muhammad as he was put to death via the death penalty). Muhammad was 49 when he was executed.Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused shooter in the Ft. Hood massacre, is of Palestinian descent. How one would classify his race, I don't know (nor particularly care; I don't think race is an important determinant). He is 42.I believe it would be difficult to find commonalities among all these shooters, except that they shot a lot of people.

"If were seriously talking about adopting a public policy that many (some? most? all?) educators will be carrying firearms in school, surely its worth thinking and talking seriously about the costs of implementing and sustaining such a policy."Do we have to take it seriously? I really hope the idea is a non-starter. I can't think of a single teacher of any of my children who would think it's a good idea.

Here is what a forensic psychiatrist suggested that we do to reduce incidents of mass killings:

If you don't want to propagate more mass murders...Don't start the story with sirens blaring.Don't have photographs of the killer.Don't make this 24/7 coverage.Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.Do localise this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.

Commonweal's discussions on this in the last couple of years: YourselfJuly 30, 2012, 5:31 pmPosted by Dominic PreziosiI found a story at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, detailing the availability of a survival plan from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that I had not been aware of. It includes booklets, posters, pocket cards, and other materials you might expect in a government-issued kit aimed at helping citizens contend with hurricane, fire, or flood. Only this particular guide offers what the reporter calls pointers for making it through a shooting spree alive. 26, 2012Courage DeficitWHEN IT COMES TO GUNS, WHY ARE WE SO GUTLESS?E. J. Dionne Jr. NRA, the Vatican and the Arms Trade TreatyOctober 31, 2011, 10:05 amPosted by Paul MosesIm not sure how I wound up on the list, but I received a robo-call first thing this morning from the National Rifle Association. investigates AZ gun show.January 31, 2011, 12:57 pmPosted by Grant GallichoThe New York Times reports that earlier this month, Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent undercover agents to Phoenix to investigate selling practices at a gun show. Such venues serve as the planet-sized loophole through which people who shouldnt have guns are able to buy them without a background check. that pistol down.January 16, 2011, 11:09 amPosted by Grant GallichoBefore you settle in for a long day of giant men smashing each other while chasing an oblong ball, be sure to read Barry Gaults Lay That Pistol Down: It Wasnt Our Mental-health Laws that Enabled Loughner. It Was Our Gun Laws. Obamas remarks in Tucson.January 12, 2011, 9:35 pmPosted by Grant GallichoRemarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for DeliveryAt a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, ArizonaUniversity of Arizona, McKale Memorial CenterTucson, ArizonaJanuary 12, 2011To the families of those weve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona: I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

Good points George D., but you make the assumption the news crowd has a genuine interest in solving the problem. Sadly, most news outfits do not think that big; they simply follow the if it bleeds it leads philosophy.

Claire, thanks for the list. There was also this short editorial after the shooting in Binghamton in 2009, which goes to George D.'s point above: Tragic Consequences.

I just now saw this in the NYTimes online. I wanted others to be able to see it, too:

Benjamin Wheelers funeral was held on Thursday morning at Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown.Here is an excerpt from an obituary for Benjamin in The Newtown Bee:
Ben was an irrepressibly bright and spirited boy whose love of fun and excitement at the wonders of life and the world could rarely be contained. His rush to experience life was headlong, creative and immediate. He was a devoted fan of his older brother, Nate, and the two of them together filled the house with the noise of four children. He loved the local soccer program, often running across the field long after it was actually necessary, but always smiling and laughing as he moved the ball, nearly always at full tilt. He was becoming a strong swimmer and loved his lessons. Eager to learn, he could not wait to get to school to see his teacher and his growing group of new first-grade friends. Ben was also a member of Tiger Scout Den 6, which met at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Firehouse. Earlier in December, Ben performed at his piano recital, and sitting still long enough to play one piece was an accomplishment he reveled in. He loved the Beatles, lighthouses, and the No. 7 train to Sunnyside, Queens.

The obituary said that, in a conversation with his mother before school on Friday, Ben said, I still want to be an architect, but I also want to be a paleontologist, because thats what Nate is going to be and I want to do everything Nate does.

--- although semi-automatic rifles appear to be the weapon of choice by the deranged individuals who have engaged in random killings of this type, they are almost insignificant in terms of the overall murder rate and are rarely used in day-to-day crime. The federal ban did not have much statistical effect and proved very difficult to enforce. That is largely because the American gun culture remained untouched, and gun ownership continued to receive social and cultural approval.The transatlantic comparison is relevant to the American debate because it refutes the argument always produced by the National Rifle Association that guns dont kill people, people do. It is the availability of guns in the US estimated at one per head of a 300 million population that kills people. The British almost never see a real handgun. So every lawful and responsible owner of a firearm in America helps to create the context in which the shootings such as those at Sandy Hook can take place. That amounts to moral complicity.Editorial in The Tablet, 22/29 December 2012

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