Shameless opportunists are seizing upon the murder of innocents to advance their ideological objectives

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the loudest voices have, predictably, belonged to those with a gun control agenda.

In all the column inches that have been written, only a tiny percentage have tried to focus on what prompted Adam Lanza to murder his mother, then go to the school where she had taught and murder as many of her colleagues and pupils as he could, before killing himself.  Much more of what has been written has been about gun control.

Surely it is more important and valuable to explore the significant mental health problems experienced by Lanza and how these were being dealt with.

It is essential to understand what exactly happened prior to the mass murder, where reports have suggested there had been an altercation at the school involving Lanza.  That incident and what either happened after it, or what interventions should have happened, are far more pertinent to this tragedy than the availability of guns.  But instead of focussing on an analysis of the risks caused by Lanza in his prevailing mental state and how these could and should have been mitigated, the anti-gun lobby is focussing attention purely on the risks of the availability of guns and how these risks must be removed by taking away the guns.  And the media is providing them with acres of copy to do that without any balancing argument.

So it was pleasing to see a more level headed analysis of the politics of risk is provided by Charles Crawford today at The Commentator.  While the focus is on one narrow element of the whole terrible incident in Newtown, Crawford reminds us about other issues this raises, and references comments about the morally corrupt encouragement of learned helplessness, which were made by Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic.  Crawford’s piece prompted the following comment from me:

Worse than the kneejerk reaction we are seeing from some in the US – cheerled from parts of the commentariat on this side of the Atlantic – are the opportunist efforts of those whose political ideology esposes learned helplessness in order to restrict self reliance and individual responsibility and press for conformity to the structures they and their ilk have put in place. We need the kind of reasoned responses you have written to try and hold back the statist tide.

The usual argument in response to such challenges is for the anti-gun lobby to declare that without the guns he used Lanza could not have killed as many people as he did.  Their argument therefore boils down to nothing more than a simple matter of scale, while doggedly avoiding any focus on what led to the attack and how that could or should have been tackled.

The difficult point that needs to be accepted is that Lanza could have still killed many people with knives or other weapons.  Being as fiercely intelligent as he reportedly was he could have even chosen to rig an explosive device.  Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured over 800 and didn’t use a firearm.  But there is little in legislating against those things beyond what has already been done that extends the government-preferred condition of learned helplessness – something that has infested western Europe – and which increases the power of the state over the people as they are forcibly made dependent on the often ineffective state sanctioned provision for their protection.

Having a disarmed population suits the establishment and ensures they have their desired monopoly on use of force.  But it doesn’t tend to work out well for ordinary people who try to tackle criminals and assailants but are denied the right to participate in their own defence.

Nevertheless there is a shameless opportunism at play, where the use of guns in the murder of innocents is being used as a reason to advance an ideological objective that is alien to the American cultural norm of self reliance and personal freedom; and used as a reason to maintain the learned helplessness in the UK we should be throwing off.  When will there be a focus on that story?

Afterthought: Think back to 1994 and the genocide in Rwanda where around 800,000 civilians died at the hands of government-backed militias.  The vast majority of the killings were carried out with machetes, not guns.  The international community stood by.  Some allege some international actors assisted the slaugher.  The UN troops in the country witnessed the slaughter at first hand, but were barred from intervening and preserving life.

This was one of the most graphic and extreme examples of learned helplessness in action, shaped by the rules handed down by the political class.  The fact is the slaughter only ended when a rebel force, armed with guns, fought their way across the country and forced the militias to flee.  One can’t help but think things would have been very different if the Tutsi population had been able to protect themselves.

21 Responses to “Shameless opportunists are seizing upon the murder of innocents to advance their ideological objectives”

  1. 1 James Morrison 16/12/2012 at 1:28 pm

    Peter Hitchens has long been calling for a review of the effects of anti-depressants on people. There is a large percentage of people who perform hideous acts like these who – it turns out – are on some sort of mind-altering prescription pharmaceuticals.

    Of course it’s far easier to blame the guns, which as Mr Hitchens points out today, have been available in America for a very long time, but the sort of massacres that happened on Friday – like the hugely increased use of anti-depressants – are a relatively new phenomenon.

    Of course correlation is causation, but I happen to agree with him that investigations should follow.

  2. 2 James Morrison 16/12/2012 at 1:34 pm

    Of course correlation is *NOT* causation

  3. 3 permex 16/12/2012 at 3:27 pm

    Guns are only for governals & criminents.

  4. 4 John 16/12/2012 at 4:58 pm

    Are you moaning about the people blaming guns for the atrocity ?
    Or the chance [extremely, very-extremely, slim] of the possibility of gun control ?
    You could argue that the person shooting was in need of more could equally argue that owning an assault rifle was a bit over-the-top.
    It’s not going to make any difference now for protecting themselves against the government….

  5. 5 John 16/12/2012 at 5:02 pm

    “So spare us all for a decent interval the long distance shibboleths of gun control, the amateur psychoanalysis, the morbid and soul killing paparazzi shots of parents learning for the first time of the slaughter of their children”

    Read more:

  6. 6 Charles Crawford (@CharlesCrawford) 16/12/2012 at 5:25 pm

    One of the most baffling features of ‘shared helplessness’ is the emphasis it gives to ‘feeling safe’.

    I had to give a training session for teachers on Handling Difficult Conversations at a school last week. It was striking how those introducing the session felt obliged to emphasise that the course participants should feel ‘safe’ at all points in the proceedings.

    This sort of language has some creepy numbing effect on the way we think about life. It encourages a shifty sort of enfeebled emotional dependency on those who purport to provide the ‘safe’ environment. It discourages intelligent risk-taking as a skill that needs to be learned to help you through life – you need the challenge that comes precisely from *not* feeling 100% safe to keep you on your toes and keen to learn.

    Isn’t a core part of the EU’s Social Model all about a doomed attempt to make ageing European Union citizens feel existentially safe? The one thing they aren’t in the competitive global environment they now face…

    Above all, by disarming the public the modern European state nationalises all private responsibility for public safety, and then starts to pick and choose who gets protected and on what terms. The great majority of Americans choose to look at these things differently and deny the state a monopoly on armed force: good luck to them

  7. 7 Olive 16/12/2012 at 6:00 pm

    The question i,d like to ask here and across the pond is in all these shootings in schools, theatres,colleges and malls is how many of the VICTIMS had guns.

  8. 8 BrianJay 16/12/2012 at 9:26 pm

    Conneticut has consealed carry. So why weren’t any of the teachers armed. Maybe they are responsible for the 26 deaths!

  9. 9 James Murphy 16/12/2012 at 11:18 pm

    “The difficult point that needs to be accepted is that Lanza could have still killed many people with knives or other weapons.” – What sort of facile logic is at work here? Casuistry of the most specious kind, AM!

    The tragically proven fact is that guns have repetitively been the weapon of choice for sociopaths. Therefore, gun control lobbyists rightly object to the pathological ease with which they can be obtained by such people. In defending Lanza’s right to bear arms you are effectively confusing your trademark (and occasionally glib) libertarianism with anarchy. The principle of law exists to disarm our vices. Laws thus restrict our so-called ‘rights’ in all sorts of ways: gun control should be another. In this context, respect for – and even a certain fear of – a vigorous legislative philosophy is (perhaps ironically) a sign of a healthy culture insofar as it implies a recognition of the inherent evils of human nature under certain circumstances.

    Conversely, it is surprisingly naive (and ironically socialist) of you and Peter Hitchens to believe that society should concern itself with the evolution and ‘treatment’ of madmen such as Lanza by engineering their circumstances. Evil is an inextricably complex state of mind: we cannot unravel and eradicate it permanently – only try and limit its effects. Moreover, given that our ‘culture’ will inevitably continue to throw up sociopaths, we have a responsibility to adopt laws which will deny them access to the expressly designed means to harm us. If this means denying them guns by sacrificing our ‘right to bear arms’ (incidentally, should individuals also have a right to possess nuclear bombs too?) then so be it.

    You talk dismissively about ‘knee-jerk’ reactions, AM; perhaps you should examine your own twitchy so-called Libertarian philosophical response…

  10. 10 Andrew 17/12/2012 at 5:08 am

    “In this context, respect for – and even a certain fear of – a vigorous legislative philosophy is (perhaps ironically) a sign of a healthy culture insofar as it implies a recognition of the inherent evils of human nature under certain circumstances.”

    You mean a cowed culture.

    I’ve stepped in dog shit I’ve had more respect for than your average politician.

    If you believe humans are inherently evil (under certain circumstances) why would you want to give a small elite group of them power over everyone else?

    Especially when century after century shows us they have complete and utter contempt for the people they “serve” and are only interested in your money and your obedience.

    The likes of Adam Lanza have got a long, long way to go before they’re even in the same league as government when it comes to wholesale murder.

    “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” Thomas Jefferson.

  11. 11 Delphius 17/12/2012 at 8:03 am

    The thing is, removing guns from the population won’t remove the risks. On the same day as the Newtown shootings, in China a man attacked children in a school with a knife, injuring 22. Luckily they were only injured, but we could quite easily have seen killings on the same scale as Newtown.

    I was saying on Friday as the Newtown incident unfolded that really more needs to be learned about why these incidents happen. For until we know the cause, we will still see incidents like this happen whether its guns or knives or a sharpened stick used.

  12. 12 James P 17/12/2012 at 9:08 am

    “Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured over 800”

    With a little help from the government. McVeigh’s truck was not the only bomb and would have done a lot less damage if it had been.

  13. 13 StrongUnitedKingdom 17/12/2012 at 11:16 am

    A great article AM.

    It is interesting that a president is perceived to be a target and he is surrounded by armed & trained personnel. Yet when soft targets like schools are seen to be a target, and are attacked, the answer is apparently to further restrict or ban the ownership of firearms, rendering them even more helpless. This is utter hypocrisy.

    Let Obama lead the way here and get rid of his armed secret service and remove all small arms and missiles from around the Whitehouse and other buildings full of “important” people. Then get rid of the guards and leave him as naked as the schools are that are subject to these attacks. Until then this is shameless political opportunism from him and all who share the vision of a helpless population dictated to by an all powerful state.

    If the threat of fire is met with fire dectection, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers, the threat of theft and vandalism is met with fences and CCTV, surely the logical approach to anyone bringing firearms or knives into a school would be to control access and search them, backed up by an armed guard. This seems to work quite well at airports.

    The trite and over-simplistic claim by the anti-gun lobby that less guns will produce less crime has been shown to be false in numerous independent studies. Take the UK, Blair’s ban on legally held hand-guns, and the subsequent massive rise in armed crime. Take the areas like Washington DC with the highest restriction on gun ownership and one of the worst crime rates in the US.

    And, if adding guns to the equation makes things worse, why do the police turn up with firearms when there is an armed situation? The reality is that the firearms are merely tools and the danger is the person. If everyone carrying a gun was by definition mad then all armed police and soldiers should be in prison, which is nonsense. The hard fact is that as long as schools, hospitals, cimemas and the like are seen as soft targets, they will be the choice of target for those hell bent on murder and “death-by-cop”.

    When a country is threatend the borders are hardened, the security is increased and the people are trained. It should be the same with a school. No one has the right to remove a law-abiding individual’s ability to defend themselves. The police are never there when you need them and all the peace, love and dope espoused by the politically agendered anti-gun lobby will never stop the slaughter of unarmed people when push comes to shove.

    When a middle-eastern country thinks about threatening us they invariably get invaded or given enough airborne “humanitarian intervention” to take them back to the middle ages. Yet when an individual slaughters our own, the only action taken is to further strip the citizens of protection against future incidents. My guess is that I am not alone in seeing this contradiction.

    In the USA, it is also interesting to note that the mainstream press and media repeatedly avoid reporting stories where the immediate action of armed citizens has prevented crimes and specifically innocent loss of life. Does anyone believe this to be a continuing string of coincidences?

    My thoughts and sympathy are with those who have suffered in this and similar incidents. They are not with those who would seek to ensure this happens again by rendering civilians helpless in the face of a continuing and deadly crime wave.

  14. 15 Robert of Ottawa 17/12/2012 at 5:53 pm

    Interestingly, guns were not allowed in the school but the insane were.

  15. 16 A of M 17/12/2012 at 10:56 pm

    “Take the UK, Blair’s ban on legally held hand-guns, and the subsequent massive rise in armed crime.”

    Link please, so we may see the figures.

  16. 17 swesleymcgranor 19/12/2012 at 5:03 am

    It is clear, that this opportunity to establish gun control, is a ‘cheap shot’. Regarding defending oneself: How about Nigerian Protestants’ armed against Mohammedan terrorist/organized crime?

  17. 18 james higham 21/12/2012 at 7:29 pm

    Yes, it’s really sickening, the opportunism.

  18. 19 Lynne 22/12/2012 at 10:24 am

    What hasn’t been widely reported on either side of the pond is that Lanza, whom previously attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, wouldn’t have actually stood out from his fellow pupils for being weird and withdrawn.

    Most of the children that were murdered were special needs, high functioning (and intelligent) sufferers of autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Neither autism nor Asperger’s predispose a person to commit mass murder. My own son is officially classed as gifted and suffers from Asperger’s (he wasn’t diagnosed until his early 20s). Although he will stand his ground in a robust debate (and has occasionally proved me wrong with panache), he’s not managed to raise his voice in anger let alone reach for a carving knife and do me in.

    I cannot speculate about what triggered Lanza’s mental meltdown. I do agree with AM that, had no firearms been available to him, he would probably have improvised and gone on the rampage regardless. After all, this monster didn’t need a firearm:

  1. 1 Wer war die Jüdin Nancy Lanza? Nur Mutter des Kindermörders von Sandy Hook Elementary School? | Der Propagazzi Trackback on 16/12/2012 at 3:56 pm
  2. 2 Sense Has Virtually Had its Day | The Arkside of Thought Trackback on 17/12/2012 at 3:39 am
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