On December 14, 2012,Adam Lanza helped himself to guns owned by his mother, to kill her and murder 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. This tragedy shook the nation, and even brought tears to the eyes of the President of the United States. Since then, there has been talk, as well as the refusal to discuss, the issue of guns in the United States. Also, concern about the treatment of mental illness has emerged as questions surround whether Adam Lanza suffered from autism. Compound that with the video game burning to be held in Southington, CT., and the blame is well distributed.
Guns. Mental Health. Video Games & Movies.
Addressing these issues individually or collectively is merely focusing on symptoms of the deeper problem.
American gun enthusiasts throw out the cliché “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” as a mantra to protect their perceived rights to owning guns. However, they, and everyone else overlook the corollary:
Guns don’t protect people; people protect people.
This is the deeper issue.
We live in a society where our media, private interests, and politicians divide us based upon our differences:
Christians vs. Non-Christians.
North vs. South.
Conservatives vs Liberals
“Majority” vs Minorities
Male vs Female
Heterosexual vs LGBT
Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice
Rugged Individualism vs Collectivism
Free Market vs Socialism
Self-Made Man vs Welfare Queen
Workers who are anti-union vs unions
Corporate interests vs the environment
Wall Street vs Main Street
Profits vs People
Journalism vs Infotainment.
Liberty vs The Government
“Americans” vs. Immigrants.
United States vs All Other Nations.
Hammering these differences and creating fear against “the other” heightens our sense of self-preservation. It is the promotion of this perpetual consciousness that allows us to witness the President of the United States with tear-filled eyes commenting on the Sandy Hook incident, yet fail to question why not a single tear is shed, or even acknowledgment of the civilians and children he and his predecessor have killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
What kind of country are we that kills other country’s children (such as three children ages 12, 10, and 8) and justify it based on a philosophy that “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.”?
It’s okay to kill children who have “hostile intent?” Really?
This corollary – Guns don’t protect people; people protect people – also relates to the mental illness discussion of the Sandy Hook incident. In this nation, we are marketed the idea that a single-payer health care system, whereby we, as a collective people pool our resources into one central location – the government – to cover every one’s health care costs, is somehow inferior to the “pay-or-die” system we currently have in place. The propagators of this idea are the very people who profit from the “pay-or-die” system – insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, private hospitals, and the media that reaps the financial benefits of these industries through advertising dollars. Here again, our collective mantra is not “protect myself and all others,” but rather “me first, let everyone else take care of themselves,” which is the mental and societal breeding ground for incidents like Sandy Hook.
About three years ago I had a conversation with a couple – Dominic & Anna – who were Italian immigrants to Canada. Health care was a hot button issue at the time, so I asked them about their experience with the Canadian system. Anna’s mother had moved to the Metro Detroit area, and Anna had to care for her and her late father in the United States. Anna could not believe the inhumane health care system that America has in comparison to Canada. She said that in Canada (and Western European countries like the UK, France, and Italy, where both Anna and Dominic were born), the common belief amongst its people is that we all look out for each other. “Over here,” she said, “it’s all about ‘me.’”
Guns don’t protect people; people protect people. The more we focus on that mantra versus the one the gun lobby and the citizens they’ve instilled fear into, the more sober an approach we’ll have to preventing incidents like Sandy Hook. It’s not about arming every citizen (personally, if you need an assault rifle to kill Bambi, it’s time to take up a new hobby); it’s not about denying health care or maximizing profits from those who suffer from illness; or about burning video games (it’s seems an amnesty can be achieved without such a Fahrenheit 451 spectacle). And if the President is concerned about the causes that are “desensitizing our children to acts of violence” as the Southington SOS claims in its press release regarding the video game burning, he should turn his attention to the largest perpetrator and influence of desensitized violence in our nation – the Pentagon.
Guns don’t kill people, nor do they protect people. It’s about we, as a society, choosing how we wish to live. If we’re going to be fear-based creatures, believing that everyone outside our immediate circle of family and friends is out to do us harm, whether they are in our neighborhood, city, state, country, or abroad, and therefore, we take care of our selfish interests first, and every other person for him or herself, there will be more tragedies similar to Sandy Hook. However, if we become a society like those Dominic and Anna spoke of, where we all look out for each other, imagine what a different nation this would be.
Are we a people who kill people, or a people who protect people?
The choice is ours.
 I say “perceived” because, throughout the history of this nation, the Second Amendment has been interpreted to protect the “militia-related, not self-defense related interests.” (Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller,128 S.CT, 2783 (2008) Read Justice Stevens dissent, for it articulates the history of 2nd Amendment case law and is very well reasoned). It wasn’t until the Heller decision by five conservative activist judges that overturned historical precedent. “Conservatives, who for the last several decades have taken a narrow approach to individual liberties and refused to recognize new rights, had no difficulty in finding a Second Amendment right of individuals to have handguns.” Erwin Chemerinsky, The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2010).