What we can learn from that *other* horrific schoolyard incident on Friday

On Friday, someone brought an assault rifle to Sandy Hook Elementary School and shot 26 people and then himself. Some people blame easy access to guns. Other people blame this country’s treatment of mental illnesses. I think they’re both right — but I also don’t think that the existence of one problem excuses dealing with the other.

What follows is a selection of statuses that appeared in my Facebook newsfeed. I’m citing them as a representative sample, since I’m way too lazy to search the internet for others. But I’m sure you’ve seen this sort of thinking before, so I’m not going to lose too much sleep over being somewhat less than scientific:

There are definitely changes I would like to see to gun laws in the United States. But I am saddened that there is so much talk about that and so little about the lack of a good enough societal and mental health safety net to notice and help the perpetrator of this heinous crime before his life had to end like this.

I agree with almost everything people have been saying about guns. But I think more importantly we need to figure out what the hell is wrong with our society that people keep wanting to go on killing sprees.

I don’t think the problem is with gun control, I think the problem is with the people. Strict gun control won’t change that… The US government should instead focus on the underlying reasons that cause those events instead of gun prohibition.

It seems to me that these shootings are becoming more and more common, and yet the availability of guns has been relatively constant (and according to some sources, going down)…this speaks to a cultural issue, not an access to weapons issue.

the real problem isn’t guns, it’s insufficient treatment for mental illness

Say all you want about gun control, it can only go so far… these tragic mass shootings all have a common thread in that their perpetrators were troubled or disturbed individuals who desperately needed psychological treatment and social outreach. There are always signs that an individual is withdrawing from society before something like this occurs, and it is on us to notice them and speak up, or even try to reach out to the person.

In short: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Or more charitably: guns kill people a little bit, but really it’s the people so focus on them.

Again, I agree that more should be done to help mentally troubled individuals. But I don’t think that means we should dismiss proposals for stricter gun control out of hand.

This morning, the front section of the New York Times ran eight stories about the tragic events in Newtown. But — believe it or not — it also covered another schoolyard incident: Man Stabs 22 Children in China got, maybe, eight column inches on A9.

The editorial decision is understandable. After all, what happened in Newtown took place about 60 miles from New York; what happened in China happened in China.

But the similarities between the two tragedies are arresting. Both incidents took place in a school. Both happened at the beginning of the school day. Both were perpetrated by men, and police discovered no motive for either attack. Perhaps most strikingly, both involved a roughly equal number of students of similar age.

But more illuminating than the similarities are two crucial differences: in Newtown, 21 students were shot, and only one survived. In China, 22 were attacked, nine were admitted to the hospital, and every. single one survived. I’ll repeat that: Every. single. one.

Also, the attack in China was perpetrated with a knife.

I have to imagine these differences are somehow related. Yes, knives are a deadly weapon. But there’s a reason humans invented assault rifles, and it’s probably because they’re a lot more efficient than everything they’re meant to replace.

So sure, bulk up on mental treatment all you want, but the difference between meaningful gun control and what we have in this country today is whether one crazy person can walk into a schoolyard and maim 22 small children — which is, of course, horrifying — or whether he can choose to simply end their lives.


2 thoughts on “What we can learn from that *other* horrific schoolyard incident on Friday”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s