The Wrong Fight At The Wrong Time

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

ImageThe horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut have left us all with a sense of shock and helplessness. Twenty elementary school children dead, six educators slaughtered, and a place we all like to think of as a safe haven from the misery of the world polluted by horrific violence wrought  by weapons more properly used on a battlefield.  Politicians from President Obama to New York Mayor Bloomberg have called for “meaningful action” to combat gun violence which is endemic to America.

But does this mass murder of innocents present the right case to support effective gun control? From what we know now the answer is “no.”  The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was a troubled teen who suffered from either Asperger’s syndrome or a personality disorder according to the New York Daily News. One family friend described the young man, saying, “This was a deeply disturbed kid. He certainly had major issues. He was subject to outbursts from what I recall.”

Lanza also had strange permutation of the syndrome in that he was impervious to normal stimuli. Another “longtime” family friend said Lanza had a condition “where he couldn’t feel pain. A few years ago when he was on the baseball team, everyone had to be careful that he didn’t fall because he could get hurt and not feel it.”

Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)  which allows the sufferer to maintain high academic and cognitive functioning but handicaps social interaction. It is the classic high school brainiac who is unable to ask a member of the opposite sex out on a date. The cause is unknown but certain genetic markers may be present to suggest that is its origin. Thus, Lanza may have acted from a motivation he had little control over and which no amount of gun control or mental health legislation could control.

Additionally, the guns used in the slayings were purchased legally by Lanza’s apparent  first victim, his mother, Nancy. Lanza stole the weapons — a .223 Bushmaster assault weapon*,  and two semi-automatic handguns, a 9 mm Sig Sauer, and a 9 mm Glock — after murdering his mother and thus began his rampage. The simple fact is that no gun control measures either on the books or reasonably under consideration could have stopped such a disturbed person from acquiring these weapons if he was willing to kill to get them.

As much as many of us would like to see guns regulated at least as much as cars or liquor, the facts here do not present the best case to achieve this goal. The American love affair with guns is seemingly getting stronger with sales of firearms setting new records. Gun manufacturers and their minions at the NRA have succeeded in scaring many Americans into believing that Obama and the Democratic Party have a secret agenda to disarm the public.

In fact, the public’s support for gun control has been on a steady decline according to polling conducted by Pew Research. Even the school mass murder at Columbine registered only a bump of support which quickly vanished. The chart below (from the Huffington Post) graphically demonstrates the public’s attitude about guns in an era of distrust with government and the political process.


It would take a paradigm shift in the culture to create the political will to take on the Second Amendment.  It is a telling — and perhaps damning  — fact that even the death of 20 children under age 10 is simply not enough.

Source: CNN; New York DailyNews; Huffington Post

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger


Our good friend, slartibartfast, has provided a link on the effectiveness of the federal ban on assault weapons. It’s good reading. Here it is: Did the federal ban on assault weapons matter?

*Also commenter, Roman Berry, (9:19 am) has provided some context for the term “assault weapon.”

Thanks, guys.

547 thoughts on “The Wrong Fight At The Wrong Time”

  1. mespo,

    Yeah, I read that. However, much that behavior isn’t that unusual for ASD patients. I have a good friend with a son with what used to be called Asperger’s and we’ve talked about the various levels of functionality with the disorder. It’s quite broad. Some kids are high functioning like her son, but at the other end are kids that are so isolated in their inability to communicate with others that they lash out at others and try to harm themselves. I really don’t think the ASD was a direct contributor here, but what I do think is that the frustration his autism engendered could have compounded a psychotic break when he found out his mother wanted to commit him. In a world where he had problems making relationships, the one relationship he had always counted on was going south on him. Could that make someone go homicidal? It has done so with “normal” people not battling the challenges of ASD so why not? Just like this is a problem with no simple cause and no simple solution, the causes of Lanza’s final eruption into violence I don’t think is going to be simple either, rather compound, if we are ever to discern his motivation proper at all.

  2. mespo,

    Somewhere, a math teacher is weeping.

    1:31.3 or ~ 1:32

    Reduction! It’s not just for sauces any more. However, just because something can happen doesn’t mean it will happen. That’s an appeal to probability. Changing the sample space also gives the illusion of increased probability but it isn’t really a valid probability. The chance of a student being shot become 1:1 if your sample space is students killed at Sandy Hook. Assuming Bob’s stats are correct (could we get a cite on that Bob?), the chance for dying by gun violence is still 1:328 in the America populace. Just because something did happen doesn’t mean it will or won’t happen again. Probabilities have a place in argumentation and in evidence, but I think both you (and Bob) are off base if you use them for anything other than risk analysis.

  3. Bob,Esq:
    Odds of dying by suicide: 1 in 122
    Odds of dying in an auto accident: 1 in 244
    Odds of dying in from falling: 1 in 270
    Odds of dying by accidental poisoning 1 in 292
    Odds of dying by homicide (firearm): 1 in 328
    Odds of dying from drowning: 1 in 1,008
    Odds of dying in a fire: 1 in 1,062
    Odds of dying in random public shooting: 1 in 384,000
    Odds of dying from falling vending machine: 1 in 450,000
    Odds of dying in school shooting: (roughly) 1 in 1,000,000
    Odds of dying in a terrorist attack: 1 in 9,300,000


    You left off one salient stat:

    Odds of a child dying at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012: 20 out of 626

    I wouldn’t take those odds with my kids.

  4. Elaine, there is no excuse or justification I can think of for letting an elementary school age kid have access to a firearm of any kind. That was gross negligence on the part of whoever left that loaded pistol out where the kid could get it.

  5. Otteray,

    I was not talking about Adam Lanza. I was talking about the six-year old boy who brought a gun to school in Houston:

    6-year-old brings gun to Houston school; 3 hurt
    Officials say the gun accidentally discharged when it fell out of child’s pocket

    A kindergartner who brought a loaded gun to his Houston elementary school Tuesday was among three students injured when the gun fired after falling from his pocket as he sat down for lunch, officials said.

    One bullet was fired about 10:35 a.m. in the Ross Elementary School cafeteria, spraying fragments at the students, said Houston Independent School District Assistant Police Chief Robert Mock.

    “It dropped on the floor, under the table. It was loud, it was so loud,” 6-year-old Kennedi Glapion said as she was being picked up from the school by her grandmother.

    Kennedi, one of 42 kindergartners having lunch in the cafeteria when the gun went off, said she was scared and started crying after it fired. She pointed to her right foot to indicate where she said she saw one child injured.

    Two 6-year-old boys were wounded, including the one who had the gun. The boy who brought the gun was injured in his foot and the other boy was grazed in his leg, said Sam Sarabia, the elementary chief school officer for the Houston school district. A 5-year-old girl was injured in her knee, he said.

  6. Until further info is available, I’m looking directly at his mother. Violent video games, mental health issues … what about gun lovers who don’t secure their weapons? -Blouise


    I don’t disagree that she made some horrible decisions, but I still contend that “it takes a village” and there’s plenty of blame to go around, IMHO.

    Regarding his hard drive, the state police and FBI are working together, I believe. It’ll be interesting to see what turns up…


    Thanks for the “odds”, Bob, Esq. Good to keep it in perspective.

  7. OS,

    Can’t do it in New York. Saw a man get kicked off the range for trying to teach his kid how to fire a hand gun.

  8. Odds of dying by suicide: 1 in 122
    Odds of dying in an auto accident: 1 in 244
    Odds of dying in from falling: 1 in 270
    Odds of dying by accidental poisoning 1 in 292
    Odds of dying by homicide (firearm): 1 in 328
    Odds of dying from drowning: 1 in 1,008
    Odds of dying in a fire: 1 in 1,062
    Odds of dying in random public shooting: 1 in 384,000
    Odds of dying from falling vending machine: 1 in 450,000
    Odds of dying in school shooting: (roughly) 1 in 1,000,000
    Odds of dying in a terrorist attack: 1 in 9,300,000

  9. Blouise,
    You have to be 21 to buy a handgun anywhere. However, there are no restrictions on persons under 21 shooting one that belongs to someone else. At least in most states where I know the law.

  10. Elaine,
    That was not a child. He was 20 years old, which is old enough to get a hunting license, and vote.

    I made a couple of comments on DKos earlier today. Maybe they will be helpful. I am concerned about too many pundits and politicians offering “bumper sticker” slogans as solutions when this is a truly complex matter, much of which is deep seated in our culture. FWIW, I got a call from a friend who said he went past the local gun dealer, and the parking lot was not only full, cars were double parked all the way around the end of the block.

  11. ap,

    Hopefully the CT state police are pulling all this together. They say they found two smashed computers in his home and are gleaning a good deal of info from there.

    Until further info is available, I’m looking directly at his mother. Violent video games, mental health issues … what about gun lovers who don’t secure their weapons?

  12. The “village” failed Adam Lanza, IMHO:

    “It Takes A Village To Raise A Child”

    By Hillary Rodham Clinton

    I write these words looking out through the windows in the White House at the city of Washington in all its beauty and squalor, promise and despair. In the shadow of great power, so many feel powerless. These contradictions color my feelings when I think about my own child and all our children. My worry for these children has increased, but remarkably, so has my hope for their future.


    We know much more now than we did even a few years ago about how the human brain develops and what children need from their environments to develop character, empathy, and intelligence. When we put this knowledge into practice, the results are astonishing. Also, because when I read, travel, and talk with people around the world, it is increasingly clear to me that nearly every problem children face today has been solved somewhere, by someone. And finally, because I sense a new willingness on the part of many parents and citizens to turn down the decibel level on our political conflicts and start paying attention to what works.

    There’s an old saying I love: You can’t roll up your sleeves and get to work if you’re still wringing your hands. So if you, like me, are worrying about our kids; if you, like me, have wondered how we can match our actions to our words, I’d like to share with you some of the convictions I’ve developed over a lifetime–not only as an advocate and a citizen but as a mother, daughter, sister, and wife–about what our children need from us and what we owe to them.


    I chose that old African proverb to title my book because it offers a timeless reminder that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if the whole of society cares enough to provide for them. The sage who first offered that proverb would undoubtedly be bewildered by what constitutes the modern village. In earlier times and places–and until recently in our own culture–the “village” meant an actual geographic place where individuals and families lived and worked together.

    For most of us, though, the village doesn’t look like that anymore. In fact, it’s difficult to paint a picture of the modern village, so frantic and fragmented has much of our culture become. Extended families rarely live in the same town, let alone the same house. In many communities, crime and fear keep us behind locked doors. Where we used to chat with neighbors on stoops and porches, now we watch videos in our darkened living rooms. Instead of strolling down Main Street, we spend hours in automobiles and at anonymous shopping malls. We don’t join civic associations, churches, union, political parties, or even bowling leagues the way we used to.


    The horizons of the contemporary village extend well beyond the town line. From the moment we are born, we are exposed to vast numbers of other people and influences through the media. Technology connects us to the impersonal global village it has created.

    To many, this brave new world seems dehumanizing and inhospitable. It is not surprising, then,, that there is a yearning for the “good old days” as a refuge from the problems of the present. But by turning away, we blind ourselves to the continuing, evolving presence of the village in our lives, and its critical importance for how we live together. The village can no longer be defined as a place on a map, or as a list of people or organizations, but its essence remains the same: it is the network of values and relationships that support and affect our lives.


    One of the honors of being First Lady is the opportunity I have to go out into the world and to see what individuals and communities are doing to help themselves and their children. I have had the privilege of talking with mothers, fathers, grandparents, civic clubs, Scout troops, PTAs, and church groups. From these many conversations, I know Americans everywhere are searching for–and often finding–new ways to support one another.

    Even our technology offers us new ways of coming together, through radio talk shows, e-mail and the Internet. The networks of relationships we form and depend on are our modern-day villages, but they reach well beyond the city limits. Many of them necessarily involve the whole nation. They are the basis for our “civil society,” a term social scientists use to describe the way we work together for common purposes. Whether we harness their potential for the greater good or allow ourselves to drift into alienation and divisiveness depends on the choices we make now.


    We cannot move forward by looking to the past for easy solutions. Even if a golden age had existed, we could not simply graft it onto today’s busier, more impersonal and complicated world. Instead, our challenge is to arrive at a consensus of values and a common vision of what we can do, individually and collectively, to build strong families and communities. Creating that consensus in a democracy depends on seriously considering other points of view, resisting the lure of extremist rhetoric, and balancing individual rights and freedoms with personal responsibility and mutual obligations.


    of the consensus we build is how well we care for our children. For a child, the village must remain personal. Talking to a baby while changing a diaper, playing airplane to entice a toddler to accept a spoonful of food, tossing a ball back and forth with a teenager, are tasks that cannot be carried out in cyberspace. They require the presence of caring adults who are dedicated to children’s growth, nurturing, and well-being.

    What we do to participate in and support that network–from the way we care for our own children to the jobs we do, the causes we join, and the kinds of legislation we support–is mirrored every day in the experiences of America’s children. We can read our national character most plainly in the result.


    How we care for our own and other people’s children isn’t only a question of morality; our self-interest is at stake too. No family is immune to the influences of the larger society. No matter what my husband and I do to protect and prepare Chelsea, her future will be affected by how other children are being raised. I don’t want her to grow up in an America sharply divided by income, race, or religion. I’d like to minimize the odds of her suffering at the hands of someone who didn’t have enough love or discipline, opportunity or responsibility, as a child. I want her to believe, as her father and I did, that the American Dream is within reach of anyone willing to work hard and take responsibility. I want her to live in an America that is still strong and promising to its own citizens and lives up to its image throughout the world as a land of hope and opportunity.


    we can take together, as parents and as citizens of this country, united in the belief that children are what matter–more than the size of our bank accounts or the kinds of cars we drive. As Jackie Kennedy Onassis said, “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.” That goes for each of us, whether or not we are parents–and for all of us as a nation.


    “If massacre of 20 children in Newtown doesn’t bring gun control, what will?

    If the death of one child is a tragedy, the murder of 20 is a scandal of outrageous proportions.

    By Elie Wiesel / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
    Monday, December 17, 2012, 9:37 PM

    US author and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel is up in arms over gun issues.

    Disbelief, horror, revolt: This is what we all felt when the news arrived. By its magnitude and cruelty, it surpassed everything else. We were not ready for it. Earlier tragedies should have immunized us. But they didn’t. Not to this violence, to this bloodshed.

    A young man assassinates his mother with her own weapons. Then, he goes to an elementary school and murders 20 children, one after the other, firing more and more bullets into their small bodies.


    The need, the desire to understand is as strong as the pain itself.

    Today, the Daily News is launching a petition to call for the ban of assault weapons. To participate, print and send in the form at the bottom of this page, or SIGN ONLINE HERE.

    Somehow, in spite of the lost lives that we read about in street fights, in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, in faraway war regions such as Syria and Afghanistan, we were unprepared to see this kind of evil in action.

    What does it say about the world, the culture we live in, the ideas we cherish and the education we receive?

    In the most passionate address of his life, President Obama spoke for all of us when he said that his heart was broken. So was ours. Other areas of our being were also affected. If the death of one child is a tragedy, the murder of 20 is a scandal of outrageous proportions.

    Beliefs and certainties are to be reexamined, habits and values reevaluated. In the face of so much pain and mourning, we must not ignore the question: Where did society go wrong? What made humanity so frail, so blind? Where did education fail? What does such an outburst of anger say about our generation’s hopes and ideals?

    In other words: Is there anything we can learn from this event? That all murder is evil but that of children is seven times seven more? That the ease of acquiring a weapon is no longer acceptable. If this tragedy does not produce universal gun control, what can and what will? What else do we need for preventing further horrors such as this?

    And what do we know about the perpetrator? We know he didn’t finish college and struggled socially. But what did he do in his spare time? What books did he read? What music did he listen to? What was he dreaming about? What made him laugh or weep?

    We must discover, to the extent possible, what his secret ambitions were. We must remember: He was not a stranger from another planet.

    He was one of us.”

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