Editorial: Threat to national security

18:40, Dec 17 2012

The National Rifle Association's Facebook page disappeared after the Connecticut school shooting. Apparently the association decided to make itself less of a target for a spell, after a barrage of tweets directing violent sentiments towards it.

"What are they worried about?" asked one commentator. "They've got the guns."

The notion that steeping an entire society in weaponry makes it safer is one of the great puzzlements that the United States presents to the rest of the world.

The NRA viewpoint, at least expressed by individuals, is that the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy should have the US looking at its mental health failings, rather than gun regulation.

For pity's sake. This is not a single-issue event. Can it really continue to escape the nation's attention that massacres of this kind happen much more often in the land of the free than they do elsewhere? There are dangerously unwell people all around the world. The difference is that most people don't have the kind of ready access to ridiculous weaponry that Americans regard as their by-God birthright.

Killer Adam Lanza's motivation for wading into the school for young children with murderous intent is unknown. But his methodology was tediously familiar. He picked up some of the guns around home. He used, primarily, a Bushmaster .223 bush rifle. Not a weapon preferred by hunters, nor for self-defence. It is more like the weaponry being used by soldiers in Afghanistan, though it previously had the dark endorsement of the 2002 Washington DC Beltway snipers.

Connecticut's so-called "gun control" laws are of standard stripe for the US and don't go so far as to require permits or licences to buy or carry such weaponry. They're not big on gun safes either. The upshot was that Adam's mother, Nancy Lanza, was entirely within the law to have the the gun collection she enjoyed talking about in local bars. She also reportedly told a drinking buddy she was concerned about her self-harming son. "I'm worried I'm losing him." He turned one of those guns on her, and then went to a kiddies' school in that financially comfortable neighbourhood. Sandy Hook Elementary had the resources a modern US school needs - it had security systems, an enclosed courtyard, an ability to go into lockdown once the kids have arrived. The kids train for violent intrusion, a little like the 1950s kids trained to duck-and-cover against nuclear warfare. So when the bad young man came, they cowered and they wept and they trembled, and 20 of them died. So did teachers, like Victoria Soto, who took a bullet after hiding her kids and confronting the gunman herself, and principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, who also put themselves between him and all those beautiful young children.

Their heroism is rightly being honoured but the numbers are growing of people who are speaking out - at the risk of being accused of "politicising a tragedy". Few have put it as well as Andrew Cohen wrote in The Atlantic about "the disconnect that exists in America between the lengths to which we as parents (and teachers and school administrators) are always willing to sacrifice for our children when the bullets are flying and what we all are always unwilling to sacrifice for our children when the guns go silent. We rush to protect our kids from imminent death by gunfire but are content to allow thousands upon thousands of our children to die each year as a result of gun violence".

President Barack Obama has promised "meaningful action". The NRA is going to have to fire up that Facebook page.


The Southland Times