SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 21, 2012

Why the Killing?

the washington post


Charles Krauthammer

By , Published: December 20

Opinion Writer

Every mass shooting has three elements: the killer, the weapon and the cultural climate. As soon as the shooting stops, partisans immediately pick their preferred root cause with corresponding pet panacea. Names are hurled, scapegoats paraded, prejudices vented. The argument goes nowhere.  
Let’s be serious:
(1) The Weapon
Within hours of last week’s Newtown, Conn., massacre, the focus was the weapon and the demand was for new gun laws. Several prominent pro-gun Democrats remorsefully professed new openness to gun control. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is introducing a new assault weapons ban. And the president emphasized guns and ammo above all else in announcing the creation of a new task force.I have no problem in principle with gun control. Congress enacted (and I supported) an assault weapons ban in 1994. The problem was: It didn’t work. (So concluded  a University of Pennsylvania study  commissioned by the Justice Department.) The reason is simple. Unless you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry and repeal the Second Amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.Feinstein’s law, for example, would exempt 900 weapons. And that’s the least of the loopholes. Even the guns that are banned can be made legal with simple, minor modifications.Most fatal, however, is the grandfathering of existing weapons and magazines. That’s one of the reasons the ’94 law failed. At the time, there were 1.5 million assault weapons in circulation and 25 million large-capacity (i.e., more than 10 bullets) magazines. A reservoir that immense can take 100 years to draw down.(2) The KillerMonsters shall always be with us, but in earlier days they did not roam free. As a psychiatrist in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I committed people — often right out of the emergency room — as a danger to themselves or to others. I never did so lightly, but I labored under none of the crushing bureaucratic and legal constraints that make involuntary commitment infinitely more difficult today.

Why do you think we have so many homeless? Destitution? Poverty has declined since the 1950s. The majority of those sleeping on grates are mentally ill. In the name of civil liberties, we let them die with their rights on.

A tiny percentage of the mentally ill become mass killers. Just about everyone around Tucson shooter Jared Loughner sensed he was mentally ill and dangerous. But in effect, he had to kill before he could be put away — and (forcibly) treated.

Random mass killings were three times more common in the 2000s than in the 1980s, when gun laws were actually weaker. Yet a 2011 University of California at Berkeley study  found that states with strong civil commitment laws have about a one-third lower homicide rate.

(3) The Culture

We live in an entertainment culture soaked in graphic, often sadistic, violence. Older folks find themselves stunned by what a desensitized youth finds routine, often amusing. It’s not just movies. Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence. And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men go out and enact the over-learned narrative.

  • If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?

The irony is that over the last 30 years, the U.S. homicide rate has declined by 50 percent. Gun murders as well. We’re living not through an epidemic of gun violence but through a historic decline.

Except for these unfathomable mass murders. But these are infinitely more difficult to prevent. While law deters the rational, it has far less effect on the psychotic. The best we can do is to try to detain them, disarm them and discourage “entertainment” that can intensify already murderous impulses.

  • But there’s a cost. Gun control impinges upon the Second Amendment; involuntary commitment impinges upon the liberty clause of the Fifth Amendment; curbing “entertainment” violence impinges upon First Amendment free speech.

That’s a lot of impingement, a lot of amendments. But there’s no free lunch. Increasing public safety almost always means restricting liberties.

We made that trade after 9/11. We make it every time the Transportation Security Administration invades your body at an airport. How much are we prepared to trade away after Newtown?

(Jan’s comment:   

Was catching the “Morning Joe” show today during which he raved about one of his favorite political commentators over at the Washington Post in his article dated 12-20-12 entitled  “The Roots of Mass Murder.”   No argument, it is a well-done piece, full of understanding the problem.  Read it, brought it over     to share with my friends here.

But it leaves me feeling somewhat ‘undone’ – like Peggy Lee’s song – “Is that all there is?”  Why does this letter not help or take us anywhere?  Oh, I forgot – – Mr Krauthammer states right up front “The argument goes nowhere.”  Perhaps this is making reference to  – which right or group of rights do we choose to trample? 

I dunno – – is disallowing  shouting FIRE in a crowded theater a trampling of rights or simply a regulation bowing to sanity and fairness?  When we discuss freedom to move about or travel, we are taught safety measures and rules of the road to protect self and others.   In an expanding multitude, it takes a lot of cooperation and a good deal of organizing to keep things running smoothly.  All things are regulated and, in fact should be.  This does not detract from anyone other than the totally self-absorbed.   For laws and rules are generally brought about for protection  and to promote “the common good.”  As it should be.

It appears that there are many areas which are not doing a good job in protecting the rights of people in today’s world, for the general good;  FDA (safety factors of pharmaceuticals – injuring and killing people);  the way our foods are produced, both in factory-farming our animals  and plant food which are grown with toxic chemicals not fit for human consumption – – making our people  sick. We could ascribe enough blame for what is wrong in the world of today  by going on page after page of carping.  Suffice it to say that we are all guilty here. 

Most of us have allowed many things to go on happening even though we KNOW in our gut that it is wrong. Most of these things should be taken up with other goals (global-warming,  sustainable farming, life-style and health issues and so on, standards of decency in the motion picture industry), because – in this topic of senseless killing, especially of our children, we seem to have enough on our plate.   

I am curious about the source of some of the statistics referenced above, like poverty declining 50% since the 50’s (in my lifetime, I have not known of such poverty-broadly found, as we see today) or that the homicide rate (including gun murders) has declined by 50% over the last 30 years.  I do agree with this author that everything MUST be on the table.  Violence does indeed seem to stem from the home, perhaps a learned thing.   For decades, there has been a growing violence in movies. (most of which I know little, for my own constitution cannot handle this)  Is the Hayes office no longer there?  or has the meaning of all this changed dramatically, you know. . what the meaning of IS is.  Perhaps “violence” much like “porn” should be rated so that it can be restricted to the general population.   

As to those games spoken of, I shudder to contemplate this.  As pointed out in this article, it is mind-blowing that isolated, bright,  but lonely kids must find their solace in such activities and most definitely, this is a major factor which in my opinion should be highly considered by parents who allow their kids to become immersed in such a lifestyle.  Under no circumstances would this be healthy.This must be addressed – how?  I haven’t faintest idea – – better minds than mine must take the lead here.

Much to think through, this is heavy on all our minds.  But it is our burden – yours and mine.    Jan.



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