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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.


Commenting Guidelines

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