December 15, 2012

Re: Looking for Reasons

Monique Chartier

Under Justin's post about the unspeakable attack in a Connecticut elementary school, Joe Bernstein makes the following comment.

How about this Adam Lanza was an evil little f**ker?Maybe he was mentally ill also, but the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people aren't a danger to anyone except for themselves.

Connecticut has very stringent gun laws including some kind of assault weapons ban which obviously didn't prevent this.

I really resent foreign nationals like Piers Morgan and Martin Bashir ranting at us on OUR national networks about banning guns. They are resident aliens-guests-and yet feel comfortable lecturing us. Maybe they'd like a lecture on their ridiculous system of royalty and House of Lords and titled inbreds. I've been in the UK and saw some good things and some really bad things, but I wouldn't presume to dress them down in their own country.

I can't imagine the grief of the families of these children and school personnel murdered senselessly or the horrible effects on the first responders.

Maybe the major media that vomits out nonstop gratuitous violence on tv, film and above all, video games, for profit ought to do some soul searching, but they lack any soul. And the disgusting reality shows that dehumanize people and exploit human failings for fun and profit.

Depicting violence and human weakness certainly has a place in art and literature and in film, too-but we are subjected to way too much over the line cr*p.

In real war, there is no "start over" button. People that get f**ked up stay that way.

What a miserable situation this is-and we hate feeling helpless, but there isn't much that can be done - maybe armed security in schools. Hell, we guard armored cars full of money with firearms - our children are far more precious.

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There is no need to rehash the extent of this tragedy, particularly while the facts are not clear.

One thing seems certain "they'll be coming for our guns".

Perhaps because I am not a fan of military style weapons, I wonder why Nancy had a Bushmaster (I dare not say "Assault weapon"). My knowledge of psychology would fit in your eye, but shooting your mother in the face seems to tell me something.

Since there seems little reason to shoot up a school you do not attend, I fear "copycatism". Joe made some valid points above. I agree particularly that the senseless violence of the media and video games has perhaps deadened the idea that death is final. The dead don't get up for the next episode.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 15, 2012 7:27 PM

Joe your anger is shared by an entire nation. Impossible to comprehend the evil at work here. Genuine evil.
Think we'll see cities (many have it now) and towns all across this country installing armed security in the schools. Think we also need some simple security measures that would help, i.e. heavy duty sliding locks on all classroom doors. A sad commentary that we need to implement any of this but we must do all we can to keep our wee ones safe.

Posted by: Linda at December 15, 2012 7:58 PM

A minor request - please leave video games alone. Video games never hurt anyone. Thank you.

- Avid gamer since '88

Posted by: Dan at December 15, 2012 8:54 PM

Sorry, Dan, we need to take a clear look at the culture, and I don't see any way that video games aren't a part of that, particularly first-person-shooters.

That doesn't mean a ban. It doesn't mean more approbation of people who make and play such games. It does mean a bit more awareness of what we put into our brains and allow our children to put into theirs.

Only a vanishingly small number of people who play such games ever go on to commit atrocities. But then, only a vanishingly small number of gun owners ever do... and a vanishingly small number of the mentally ill... and so on.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 15, 2012 10:02 PM

Look all you want, but don't touch, please. I think most in this country have come to accept that it isn't the content of books that's a problem in need of "fixing." In other words, it was Chapman, not Salinger, who killed John Lennon. Video games being the newer medium, it may take some time before they gain the same acceptance with the generations that didn't grow up with them.

Posted by: Dan at December 15, 2012 10:39 PM

Let's take a look at a few facts. Less than 50% of "gun deaths" are homicides. Most "gun deaths" are suicides. I point this out only because it is rarely mentioned in reports of "gun deaths". I suspect that is why "gun deaths" is preferred over "gun homicides".

Far more children will drown in swimming pools this summer, there will be no outcry to close, or eliminate, swimming pools. So, we obviously have a fixation on guns.

I will concede Dan one point about the video games. When I was really a kid, before video games, we played "guns" all of the time. On the other hand, the TV was full of "black and white" WWII movies. No one was ever truly shot in those movies, they simply clutched their stomachs and fell. That is what we did when we were "shot" while playing "guns". So there was some cause and effect. Still we are all products of our times. I recently came across a photo of myself, age 7. I am wearing a cowboy hat and wielding two "cap" guns. A later photo, age 16, shows me holding a shotgun, a brace of pheasants (got them on a "double) and being nuzzled by my bird dog, Mycroft. Cause and effect?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 15, 2012 11:41 PM

Let’s not jump the gun and be quick to point the finger at Adam Lanza and hard core violent video games as if he did like them or played them as you don’t know what games he played or how violent they were.

As Warrington Faust indicated; “When I was really a kid, before video games, we played "guns" all of the time. On the other hand, the TV was full of "black and white" WWII movies. No one was ever truly shot in those movies, they simply clutched their stomachs and fell.”

It was Hollywood and special effects in the movies and TV that brought to life the visual impact of tissue exploding from the impact of projectiles with blood and gore all over the place to imitate realism in the movies and TV not video games that has gone mainstream deadening our perception to violence.

Hard core fantasy video games with a lot of shooting and killing does not play the visual impact on a person that TV shows and Hollywood movies special effects does each day in our daily lives to desensitizing us to violence.

The same hold true for gaging if he had mental issues as everyone interviewed indicated if that were true his mother would have had medical treatment for him. His mother was a gun collector and taught him how to shoot. If there was a stability problem to his mentality she probably would have backed off due to passing strict CT gun law registration and ability to purchase guns and keep them in the house.

By the way, it now has been determined his mother Nancy was a stay at home mom that home schooled him during latter half of elementary school and was well off financially according to reports.

“A booklet for Newtown's Bennetts Farm neighborhood indicated that Adam Lanza moved to Connecticut from Kingston, New Hampshire, with his parents and older brother Ryan. He enjoyed soccer, skateboarding and video games, the booklet said.”

Other information passed on during interviews pegged him as a computer geek.

The investigation is ongoing trying to digest all the leads, forensic data and life histories together and already people are jumping the gun with mentally unstable and it was video games that caused him to do it!!

What we do know was he tried to purchase a gun on Tuesday (why?), got into an altercation on Thursday with 4 teachers at the school (why was a 20 year old on elementary school grounds and what was he doing?) and returned to the school on Friday after killing his mother breaking into the school and shooting 3 of the teachers he had the altercation with and killing their class children (why???)!

Posted by: KenW at December 16, 2012 1:30 AM

Ken W-I am not indicting video games per se as the cause of this incident-a lot of people play them with no harm.just like some people can drink without becoming alcohol dependent and others can't,
What is more disturbing is that when we were kids and played "guns"it was with actual other people-we interacted physically and socially-we got into fistfights and even rock fights were I lived.No one went home and found a gun and shot anyone else
Nowadays there are people who isolate themselves,connecting with the world only through electronic media.It is no coincidence that most mass shooters are loners or social misfits.
BTW Ken-I am amazed that you didn't mention Hawaii once :)

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 16, 2012 6:08 AM

It is exceedingly tempting to try to find something or someone to blame for this senseless act . . . for some of us it is particularly tempting to view this through the lens of our own pet cause.

Blame Sarah Palin, blame Roe v. Wade, blame the NRA, blame Pres. Obama's failure to push more gun control, blame secularism, blame video games, blame MTV, etc., etc.

Could there possibly be an explanation that we could comprehend?

Not likely.

This troubled young man went so far off the rails that he believed his solution was death -- his own and the deaths of many innocents.

Death, while inevitable for us all, is never the solution.

Posted by: brassband at December 16, 2012 8:11 AM


Your point is well taken, but there's a more subtle exercise than "blame the [blank]" that we ought to engage in. As I said in the essay on the Current, the entertainment is more a clue of the problem. I recall those games with toy guns in the woods (back when kids still played outside), and nobody ever wanted a more realistic impersonation of death... we never complained that our friends' chests didn't burst open when we pretend-shot them.

Another lesson I think we should learn is the need for a strong moral culture to complement our freedoms. As I've said, we let our more responsible children have more latitude in what they do and what they watch.

Over it all, though, I'd suggest that we shouldn't simply dismiss with "we can't know what's going on in their minds" the demographic trends among mass shooters as a group in the period after the introduction of high-quality-graphic first-person-shooters coinciding with the Quentin Tarantino brand of gore-violence movies.

Posted by: Justin Katz at December 16, 2012 8:50 AM

Joe - "-we got into fistfights and even rock fights were I lived.No one went home and found a gun and shot anyone else"

I reflect on that fairly often. By the time I was 14, it seemed as if all my friends had a gun. By the time we could drive we took them to school in the trunks of our cars (during duck season), I can remember a teacher admiring my Fox Sterlingworth. A lot of homes had a WWII trophy, in the form of an automatic weapon, hanging from the joists in the basement. I was able to buy ammunition at the local hardware store, with a note from my mother. A Friday night social event was "reloading" at a friend's house. No one even thought of shooting anyone. We would have been appalled. In fact we were proud to display our knowledge of gun safety, such as laying your gun on the ground before climbing a fence.

As hunters, we knew death was final. A group of 14 year olds carrying shotguns caused no alarm if it was duck, or rabbit, season. At 19, I stopped off in Manhattan to visit a girlfriend. I was carrying a suitcase and my skeet gun in a case. I had to walk from the East Side Air Terminal to East 86th. No cab would pick me up, no cops bothered me. At the airport, I had turned my gun in at the ticket counter. It was kept in the cockpit. There was a protocol, it seems to me I had to be last on and first off. No one was excited.

I remember a friend's father showing us a well preserved copy of Life magazine from 1957. It had a picture article on how to make a "zip gun", supposedly the favored weapon of New York street gangs. These were crude weapons which used a piece of auto antenna, of roughly .22" diameter, for a barrel. This was backed by a door bolt shaped into a firing pin, propelled by a large elastic band. We were shocked, everyone knew that city kids were animals.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 16, 2012 9:06 AM

I have just surveyed a few online newspapers. All of the reporting is "emotional" and very short on facts. Here are some sample headlines:

‘Deep sense of loss’ for victims
‘Heavy heart’ weighs on quiet Conn. town
Victoria Soto: ‘She was a hero’
Emilie Parker: ‘Bright, creative and very loving’
Dylan Hockley: A ‘mischievous grin’
Noah Pozner: ‘Very inquisitive’

Reading these stories is similar to listening to the news on NPR, where emotionalism regularly vies with facts. One wants to crawl into a closet, sure that Armageddon is at hand. I often wonder if it is this surplus of emotional reportage which is putting the scare in us. I cringe when I hear adult males part with an admonition to "stay safe".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 16, 2012 9:27 AM

@Warrington-"zip"guns-I remember those-they were as likely to injure the shooter as the target.I purchased my first gun at 19,shortly before joining the military-it was an Enfield 303 Jungle Carbine and I took it home on the subway in a gun case and I had 100 rounds of ammo separately and no one gave a second look,because even in "handgun free"NYC that was no big deal-it was legal to carry a rifle or shotgun unloaded if it was cased in a public place.Nowadays they'd have the SWAT team responding.
Emotion is understandable in the wake of a mass shooting.Where children are involved even more so because they are truly innocent-somewhat different from a case where someone feels they were fired for no reason and comes for payback.Not justifying that at all-but there is a difference.How can a 5 or 6 year old have done anything to deserve this?Of course the answer is they couldn't.
What we should not do is allow emotion to govern our response.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 16, 2012 12:02 PM

Typo above-I was 18

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 16, 2012 12:03 PM

Certainly a part of the blame for the steady, creeping deterioration in morality that leads to such incidents can be seen when such banners are BANNED from schools:

Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

NO!! We can't have that, now can we!!

This shooting is in no small part, the result of the tangled web we weave when we allow our rights to be systematically stripped away.
And Connecticut, which enjoys some of the "strictest gun laws in the country" couldn't stop this. Maybe because these sick f*@&ers know that schools have been sterilized of guns, and therefore, any method of stopping them until it's too late. We're all sitting ducks for these wackos.
Personally, I'd feel one hell of a lot better if I knew that a Joe Bernstein was in the theater, mall or wherever I am, with a loaded gun.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at December 16, 2012 12:55 PM

@Mike-I do carry legally as a retired LE officer under HR 218 and also with a RI permit-I spent my whole career on the street and was in a number of confrontations with people armed with guns,knives,and motor vehicles-thankfully I never had to shoot any of them.I hope I would react as well nowadays.I will say this-I am always conscious of my surroundings,and notice when something isn't right.I don't sit with my back to a door in a public place.That was something I learned early on in law enforcement.
My understanding is that a legally armed civilian stopped the mall shooter in Oregon,but the mainstream media is suppressing the story.If true,it would not fit their agenda.
The Israelis had a school massacre carried out by terrorists at Maalot many years ago.Try that now-it would not happen because their schools have armed security-if we can protect armored cars full of money with firearms we can at least do that for our schools.Banks are insured-we can't replace children.
BTW thanks for the vote of confidence Mike-and your point about the eviction of God from our schools is well taken-when His presence is denied,evil has a way in.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 16, 2012 1:13 PM

Joe - "if we can protect armored cars full of money with firearms we can at least do that for our schools."

We may have to learn to accept an unbelievable incident every 10-15 years. Armed guards in schools, the overwhelming majority would spend their entire careers doing nothing. The most likely result is that they would start looking for trouble. There has been mention of locks on classroom doors. This has some appeal, but I wonder at the result in the far more likely event of fire.

We live in a society of perhaps 350 million people. As the Secret Service loves to chant "there is no stopping an assassin who is willing to sacrifice himself". I suppose that the Middle East suicide bombers are the proof of this. Mr. Lanza could probably have done as much damage with a couple of detergent enhanced Molotov Cocktails.

Joe, did your Enfield have the "flash suppressor"?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at December 16, 2012 5:31 PM

Hire retired law enforcement-no Wyatt Earp mentality and no benefits-just an hourly wage.
Yes,it had a flash suppressor and a "recoil pad"which was a piece of HARD rubber and that carbine recoiled like a mule.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 16, 2012 7:27 PM

joe Bernstein,

For your benefit because you complained; Hawaii is one of the 12 states in the nation of 50 states that have not had any school gun violence.

Posted by: KenW at December 16, 2012 11:55 PM

Hawaii also has insanely restrictive gun laws.And I didn't complain-I wasn't sure it was "our"Ken commenting seeing as there was no mention of Hawaii.
Rhode Island hasn't had any actual school shootings,although in 1990 there was a nonfatal triple shooting on the grounds of Central HS which did not involve any students or staff,just some a-holes who chose that spot to have their beef.

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 17, 2012 12:39 AM

I always imagine Ken showing his visitors around Hawaii like the Alamo tour guide in Pee Wee's Big Adventure:

Posted by: Dan at December 17, 2012 8:39 AM

joe bernstein

Rest assured I'm your Ken but thanks for checking!


When people visit me I show the spirit of Aloha which is part of the state culture which makes this state so unique compared to the other 49 states and why we average 88,240 visitors and tourists a day just in Honolulu alone spending at least $100 minimum each (Chinese and Japanese average over $250 per day).

But that has no impact why my City and County real-estate property tax is only $300 per year. If I move to another island I could get it down to $150, $100 or $25 per year. What is your property tax? My sales tax is $4.5%; what is yours? My retirement is fully exempt from Hawaii income tax; how is your state income tax? I pay no property tax on my vehicle; what’s your tax? I have no heating bills, extra wardrobes (spring, winter, and fall) to purchase because my average 365 day temp is 78 F degrees and no air-conditioning bills; what’s your current temp? Because Hawaii 40 years ago instituted healthcare reform my Blue Cross Blue Shield Delta Dental dropped $100 a month moving from RI to HI; what’s your healthcare costs? Because Hawaii instituted auto insurance reform in 1990s my auto insurance dropped $1,000 per year moving from RI to HI; what’s your costs?

I have private business, municipal, state pension, social security and VA war combat disability payments.

My retirement living costs are so low I haven’t even started collecting my Federal FERS pension yet!

Gee I just received my City and County real property assessment for 2013 and they upped my property value but after exemptions my net taxable value is $0.00 meaning another year at $300 (used to be $100 before recession).

What's your retirement going to be like?

Posted by: KenW at December 18, 2012 1:39 AM
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