The Plastic Hippo

December 17, 2012

A child`s Christmas in Connecticut

Filed under: Education,Law,Politics,Rights,Society,World — theplastichippo @ 6:23 pm

Newtown
Image via cnn.com

In a political bear pit that regards any evidence of real emotion as a sign of weakness; when the most powerful man on the planet pauses to wipe away tears we can safely assume that something is very, very wrong.

It is impossible to describe or even to begin to understand the horror that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut but the sad and astonishing fact is that the parents grieving for lost children violently taken are not the first to experience the desolation and anguish of random and indiscriminate barbarity. When two teenage schoolboys killed themselves after shooting and killing 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado in April 1999, some people dared to question the God-given right of US citizens to bear arms as enshrined in the constitution. Nothing happened.

In July 1999, a stock exchange trader killed his wife, two children and nine others in Atlanta, Georgia before turning the gun on himself. Two months later, a gunman took his own life after killing six people at a prayer meeting in Fort Worth, Texas. Ten people were randomly targeted and shot dead in Washington DC as a result of a lone sniper in October 2002. Nothing happened. In August 2003, a recently laid-off worker dispatched six of his former colleagues with a firearm. A hunter in Wisconsin during November 2004 killed six other hunters after an argument. Seven died in a church shooting at Brookfield, Wisconsin in March 2005 and ten Amish schoolgirls were shot for no apparent reason in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in October 2006. Five died and the Amish community immediately forgave the killer. Nothing happened.

In April 2007, a student shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. In August of that year three students at Delaware State University were “executed” without motive and in December a young, lone gunman opened fire in a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska killing nine and wounding a further five. On Christmas Eve 2007, a woman and her boyfriend shot dead six of her family members. Six women were tied up and shot in a clothing store in Chicago in February 2008. Five died. Later that month, five students died and 16 others were wounded when a lone gunman opened fire in a lecture theatre at the Northern Illinois University. In September, a mentally ill man recently released from prison shot eight people in Alger, Washington leaving six dead. In December, a man dressed in a Father Christmas costume opened fire at a family party in Covina, California and then set fire to the house. Nine bodies were recovered from the ruin including that of the gunman. Nothing happened.

2009 was another dreadful year. In March a gunman killed ten driving through several towns in Alabama and another killed eight in a nursing home in North Carolina and yet another shot and killed six people in an apartment block in Santa Clara, California. In April, 13 people were shot dead at a civic centre in Binghamton, New York and six died in July in a drive-by shooting at the Texas Southern University in Houston. November saw a US Army psychologist kill 13 and leave 42 wounded at Fort Hood, Texas.

Three died in February 2010 when a professor opened fire at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and in January 2011, six people including a nine-year-old girl, a state judge and senior citizens were gunned down outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head but, mercifully, survived. Still nothing happened.

Even with 14 days left of 2012, there have been 16 so-called “shooting spree” massacres in the US so far this year resulting in the deaths of 88 people who just happened to be in the wrong place. Five at a health spa in Norcross, Georgia, one in a nightclub in Jackson, Tennessee, three at Chardon High School in Ohio, two at a psychiatric hospital in Pittsburgh, two at a funeral in North Miami, seven in a Christian college in Oakland, three in random racially motivated attacks in Tulsa, Oklahoma, five in a coffee shop in Seattle, three at a soccer tournament in Wilmington, Delaware, 12 in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, six at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, two outside the Empire State Building, five in Minneapolis, three at Texas A&M University, three in Brookfield, Wisconsin and on December 11, two in a shopping mall in Portland, Oregon. Nothing happened.

Now, with 20 small children, six teachers and one very disturbed young man dead, the powerful gun lobby in the US are attempting to make sure that nothing continues to happen. Within a few short hours of the carnage in Newtown, supporters of the second amendment to the United States Constitution claimed that the slaughter was a mental health issue and had nothing to do with freely available assault firearms. Others claimed that so-called “spree-killings” hardly happened at all. ABC News ran a report quoting “criminologist” James Alan Fox from Northeastern University:
“Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds who have been victimised in senseless attacks, the facts say clearly that (there) has been no increase in mass killings and certainly no epidemic. Occasionally, we have witnessed short-term spikes with several shootings close together in time. In the 1980`s, we had a flurry of postal shootings, and the 1990`s included a half dozen schoolyard massacres. Other than the copycatting reflected in these cases, the clustering of mass murder is nothing more than random timing and sheer coincidence.”

It would seem that for supporters of the National Rifle Association, there are only three stages of grief. Firstly denial, followed by incandescent rage and then indiscriminate lethal violence. Some bright sparks in the gun lobby have suggested that the horror of Newtown would have been avoided if the victims had also been armed. “One good shot”, wrote one would-be Rambo with an IQ marginally lower than the calibre of his 9mm Glock, “would have ended the situation before it started”. The logical conclusion of this defence of the second amendment would be to arm five and six-year-olds and train them in the most effective use of 300 rounds per minute. As lunatic as this idea might sound, there are gun junkies doing exactly that with their own children. With a sickening abrogation of responsibility, proponents of battlefield weaponry in the hands of ordinary sane or deranged citizens accuse politicians who voted to remove firearms from schools as having blood on their hands. They would prefer to arm two lunatics rather than disarm one.

”Spree-killings”, defined as random, unpredictable and without specific targets, are not confined to the United States. In the UK, communities in Hungerford, Dunblane and Cumbria have scars that are unlikely to heal and Norway may never recover from the Oslo bombing and Utoya Island massacre of 2011. The weapons used in those atrocities were legally held and laws were changed as a result of the carnage. In the US however, gun ownership remains unregulated and any suggestion of gun control is greeted with the switch off of a safety catch on an assault rifle.

Obama arrived in Newtown to address the community at a moment of unspeakable heartbreak. Amid patronising platitudes offered up by a variety of local clergy stating that children were not dead but had gone to a better place and were now being looked after by God, the President hinted that gun control might now be an option in the United States. For all Obama`s faults, this is a courageous stance given the pond life that inhabits his country that can only formulate self-expression and meaningful existence through the medium of firearms designed to kill people. The President chose his words carefully. He did not mention guns, Congress or legislation and seems pragmatic enough to realise that the gun lobby in Congress and the House of Representatives will literally fight to keep the right to take other human lives. If he is serious, the President should look at repealing the second amendment. That`s the one that legislates that:

“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.”

He told the people of Newtown and the people of the United States that “we can`t tolerate this anymore”. His views are not shared with all of his fellow Americans. There are those that wish to continue to allow disaffected and desensitized young men to walk away from their computer game consoles and violent movies and play Cowboys and Indians for real. If “meaningful action” is not taken, then the next Columbine or the next Newtown will rest firmly in the consciences of the gun lobby determined to block reform and children now playing “bang bang – you`re dead” will grow up demanding the right to bear massive fire power.

The various clergy and politicians, for all the fine words offering comfort to grieving parents and a shattered community, have yet to explain that innocent lives were blown away by not just a lone, deranged young man barely out of his teens.

The children were also murdered by the second amendment.

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2 Comments »

  1. A powerful and moving piece.

    Like the recent murder of a number of Afghani children by the Taliban and the colossal and continuing rate of infant attrition among under-developed nations, it is deserving of much wider circulation.

    That such tragedies should ever happen is amost unthinkable. That they continue to occur and then be subjected to a barrage of pyscho-babble, rabble-rousing analyses, justifying the right to have a gun and to kill your own community is horrific at every level.

    If there were ever two incidents that should provide a wake-up call to anyone in the States who believes in the logic produced by the NRA, the mess that constitutes USA state gun laws and the need for a foreign policy that puts American interests above all others, these are they. If there was ever a time for serious action to protect children from murder, starvation and neglect, this is it.

    Unfortunately, nothing will change. Obamah will make an effort change the USA mindset. The gun lobby, the arms makers and the Republicans, abetted by the majority of American citizens, will hold sway. Their reason will be, as the Hippo says, founded on the second Amendment, which grants freedom to and indeed responsibility on individuals to bear arms and defend themselves, their families and their country.

    Except when it comes to others who are, conceivably, equally committed to their own existence and that of their families and their nation. These so-called rights are, of course, perceived and responded to differently when they are not exclusive to the USA.

    Unfortunately, for many children and parents across the world, the outcomes remain the same.

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — December 18, 2012 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

  2. I would have thought the words “A well regulated militia…” would be enough to make a start.
    That suggests a structured and organised system of ownership, not the free-for-all that has been allowed to develop.

    You could also argue that a dirty great professional army (about a million strong, if you include the National Guard and Army Reserve, if memory serves) takes care of the “…security of a free State” bit.

    And it doesn’t say you have the right to bear semi-automatic arms either.
    They could limit gun ownership to little handguns which only fire two or three rounds, as they do in some parts of europe.

    I imagine the original idea behind the second amendment was to have an army on ‘standby’ for when it all kicked off, as it frequently seemed to do, or threaten to do, in the 1700s.
    Now, in the 21st century, the only time it kicks off is when an armed nutter lets rip with the weapons he is allowed to access because of his ‘god-given’ right bear those weapons.

    I’m not holding my breath, but I hope Obama can do something.

    Comment by martin — December 18, 2012 @ 4:24 pm | Reply


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