Why the next shooting massacre is (sadly) inevitable

Cover of "Blown Away: American Women and ...
Cover of Blown Away: American Women and Guns

Here are some facts about gun use in the United States.

I hope they are helpful as you try to make sense of the latest massacre, in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman yesterday killed 2o children and eight adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I spent two years — 2002 to 2004 — studying how Americans think and feel and behave, how they lobby and legislate — about gun use in this country.

The result is my 2004  book, “Blown Away: American Women and Guns” (Pocket Books). I’m now considered an expert on the subject.

The book was acquired by every Ivy League school and their law schools, by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and I was invited to address senior Canadian government officials in Ottawa. It includes women who enjoy gun use and those whose lives have been traumatized by it, whether they were shot, or lost loved ones to suicide and homicide.

Fifty percent of American gun deaths are suicide.

Neither an academic nor gun-owner, I took a three-day course in handgun use and shot a wide variety of guns, from a .22 rifle to a .357 magnum, in the course of my research. I spoke to 104 men, women and teens about their use of — and hatred of — guns. I interviewed politicians and lobbyists and hunters and Olympic shooters and cops.

Here are some of the reasons that “gun control” is an issue that often seems unmanageable:

— The health care system in the United States, which unlike many other nations, has no single-payer structure, makes it difficult, if not impossible, to spot, track and dis-arm someone who is mentally ill and/or sociopathic with access to a firearm before they commit mass murder. Unlike STDs, for example, there is no requirement to publicly report their existence as a matter of public health.

— Americans believe, more than anything, in their individual rights and their right to privacy. Asking a patient about their ownership or use of firearms can be seen as deeply invasive.

— Americans’ dominant ethos is self-reliance and freedom from government restriction. Any effort to limit access to guns and ammunition runs counter to this deeply held belief.

— American physicians and health-care professionals have no way to report their fears, (should they even be aware of such a threat, which is highly unlikely), to law enforcement. They fear being sued. They are reluctant to ask their patients if there is a firearm in the home and, if so, where and how it is stored and and if it (they) is kept loaded.

— It has been said that 25 percent of Americans will suffer from mental illness during their lifetime. On any given day, then, there is a percentage of the population for whom ready access to a weapon and ammunition is deeply unwise. Co-relate this statistic with the number of Americans whose home contains a gun.

Forty-seven percent of Americans own a gun. This is the highest rate of gun ownership since 1993. (source: Gallup poll.) There is no way to know when or how these two factors intersect.

— Politicians who call for, let alone fight hard for, “gun control” may well risk their re-election. Not so for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose term soon expires, and who is leading this charge. But New York City has had the nation’s toughest gun laws for more than a century, since the enactment of the Sullivan Law and popular sentiment here is behind him.

The same cannot be said for many other regions, such as those that allow concealed carry — like Missouri, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Utah. (CC, for those outside the U.S., means the legal right to carry a loaded gun on your person or in your vehicle.)

— Legislators must work “across the aisle”, with men and women of opposing political views who represent areas with widely divergent views on gun ownership. These views can vary widely even within a state; downstate New York is much less sympathetic to the issue than upstate, where hunting is popular.

— Opposition to the powerful and well-funded National Rifle Association remains weak and splintered. In 2003, the NRA had a budget of $20 million — 10 times larger than that of the Brady Campaign.

— Law-abiding gun-owners feel beleaguered by cries for “gun control.” They have chosen to own and use firearms responsibly and feel that any restriction on their legitimate, legal use of them is unfair. Politicians are very aware of this.

— In many areas of the United States, hunting is a lucrative and popular sport.

— The federal government profits from gun sales, by collecting an excise tax. In 1998, that came to $126,620,000 from long guns and ammunition and an additional $35,528,000 from the sale of handguns.

— Even those politicians deeply and personally sympathetic to the terrible violence inflicted by killers such as these face their own limitations when enacting legislation. Carolyn McCarthy, a former ER nurse whose husband was shot and killed and whose son was shot on a Long Island, NY commuter train, is now a Congresswoman, in office 14 years. When I spoke to her for my book, she told me that her challenge is working effectively with other legislators, whose own constituents may have views diametrically opposed to those of her own.

The challenge of regulating gun use in the United States is daunting.

60 thoughts on “Why the next shooting massacre is (sadly) inevitable

  1. Having been a gun owner for years, I consider it as important as a house alarm for safety when living in the US. That said, I relish the peace of mind that I now feel living in a society where gun ownership is strictly controlled.

    The low incidence of deaths due to gun violence 58 per year in the UK, versus 87 per day in the US, has caused me to reconsider my strong support for handguns in the home.

    More important than the numbers is the way I feel in the UK. Whether I’m in London, or rural Cornwall, I just feel safer.

    1. But the larger set of issues — you know well — is also complex. Britain has more of a social safety net, for one, and easier access to free or affordable health care. It is a devilishly complicated challenge unless you are utterly Draconian. And the Second Amendment sees to that…

    2. mhasegawa

      Did you ever think that you feel safer in the UK where there aren’t so many guns?

      It appears now that the guns were owned by the shooters mother who had them for target practice although why she owned semi-automatic rifles is beyond me. Owning guns is a dangerous propositions. If I recall correctly, the guns used at Columbine were legally owned by a grandfather.

      There are just too many guns!

      1. This also really complicates the “easy”solution — which is not easy at all to implement — of only allowing mentally healthy people to buy guns. Many of them share a home with someone disturbed, as we see again and again.

  2. I appreciate your discussing these facts, not all of which get the coverage I would like to see. Elizabeth’s comment is interesting. I have noticed as a long-term expat in France (18 years!) that while the French are appalled at American use, possession and ease of obtaining firearms, they think nothing of wide use of methods for securing against break-ins that I had never or only rarely seen in even the urban U.S. (Chicago, S.F., New York…). People regularly barricade their shutters every evening, even when they head out to the store – and every house is equipped with them, even in rural parts of the country. Ground-floor windows usually have iron bars. Doors are secured at three or five points by complicated deadbolt systems, and windows or screens in doors are unheard-of. There is usually a gate and security code at a street-level access to a vestibule, before attaining anyone’s residence. Why? It’s not South Africa, but there is still a greater public perception of the dangers of property crime than I ever felt in the U.S.. Probably, that is borne out to some extent, even though I know this isn’t a great source:

    My point being, that in the U.S. the homicide rate is three times what it is in the UK or France. So, people are more incited to defend themselves with what they consider effective means. I only wonder to what point these are all self-fulfilling loops of cause-and-effect.

    1. Thanks for such a fascinating and helpful comment! I lived in France in my 20s, but in a student dorm in Paris, so was not as aware of this.

      The dirty secret of American gun deaths is that the majority of them are inflicted on and by teenage males — i.e. those in the drug trade. But this is so un-PC to discuss and so difficult to fix. These massacres, which now seem more common, are still the minority, although horrific.

      And how about an ongoing recession which has dis-enfranchised millions of desperate Americans from paid work?

  3. I’ve been watching to see your response to yesterday’s tragedy, as someone who respects your opinions and thoughts, and knowing your background as someone who has researched gun use and ownership in this country.

    I’m just as deeply sad as I was yesterday. Today, though, more appalled. I shouldn’t be, but I am. I have friends who are gun owners. I don’t get it. When they talk about Constitutional Rights and the 2nd Amendment, not one mentions the change in speed and efficiency of firearms since the Constitution was written. If John Q Public wants to keep a musket in his home for protection, I support it. A 357 magnum, not so much. The arguments make no sense. Yes, a deeply disturbed individual will attempt this type of horror regardless of laws, but I’m skeptical that the carnage would have been as great if the young man had been armed with a knife, or bow and arrow.

    The idea being floated that this is a result of lack of God in schools? I don’t get it at all. If you believe in (the Judeo-Christian) God, you believe He is omnipresent, not limited to the walls of churches.

    I hate it more than I can say, but I agree with you, this will happen again. Unless, maybe, the laws are radically changed (sorry for this looong reply).

    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment! Long is always appreciated when helpful!

      There was a time in American history, centuries ago, when access to ammunition was actually regulated and controlled — a gun without bullets or powder is useless. But the horse left that barn a LONG time ago.

      I know of few nations whose citizens cling so ferociously to their nation’s Constitution, and often to the utter detriment of their fellow citizens who feel very differently, as Americans. That’s the part I still will never comprehend. It’s an emotional response to a complex problem that is very real.s

      1. I believe we, as a nation, have come far. But there is so much further to go, as a nation, as individuals, as members of what is now a truly global community.

  4. Oh my goodness, where to begin. I’ll start by saying I’m a Canadian. We love to hunt, I was raised on wild game.Owning a rifle for hunting is fine; it serves a purpose. We do not have the right to bear arms, hand guns are illegal. We can not shoot first ask questions later when our hedges rustle at night. We don’t have self appointed neighbourhood watchers gunning down the likes of Treyvon Martin. Our border guards weren’t even armed until a few years ago.News flash America – I feel safe.

    Try as I might I can’t fathom the mind set of America’s gun lust. Part of my confusion undoubtedly stems from living in a country where “Lobbyist” is not a legitimate profession. Human nature, mental illness, and God are unavoidable.

    America is its own worst enemy. Debating apples and oranges while the country implodes because the NRA and outdated constitution have you by the balls; strikes me as unamerican. Yikes.

  5. Steve

    So what law could you propose and enact that would have made a difference in outcome? Laws against guns don’t ever stop nut jobs from doing their evil deeds. As a matter of fact, existing gun laws in Connecticut didn’t protect these people. I believe one of the guns used was illegal to possess in Conn. How’d that work out for this group of innocents? Whether you like it or accept it, the US Constitution says that I as a law abiding citizen have the right to protect myself and my family against any and all comers. In my world that includes nut jobs like this guy and some deadbeat scumbag that wants to come in my house in the middle of the night and do harm to me or my family. It really doesn’t have much to do about muskets or militias or whatever other reason you want to give for taking away my right to do so. My second amendment right to protect myself is every bit as important as all my other God given rights. You’re a writer, how about your first amendment right of free speech? I’m sure that’s quite cherished by you as it should be. I think we need to tred very softly when we start talking about taking away peoples Constitutional rights. When the government finds out it can take away any of them, all the rest aren’t very far behind. Perhaps if someone in that school had a right to carry a gun the results may have been different. At least they may have had a chance. With existing comfiscatory gun laws and regulations the only ones with an advantage are the ones who choose to use a gun in a negative manner. I’m sure you’ll disagree but that’s the way I see it.

  6. Great piece. I’m going to have to get your book ASAP. I do not own a gun, and don’t ever want one in my house. In my day to day life I don’t worry much about guns. But if I had one in mouse I would worry all the time. I would be worried that one of my kids would do something careless or crazy with it. I would worry that someone might steal it and use it in a crime. I would worry that I would use it mistakenly in the middle of the night, in a situation clouded by darkness, sleep and confusion. I would be worried constantly that my family’s history of mental health issues in combination with gun ownership would lead to tragedy.

  7. Instinctively, a gun scares me to death. To try to imagine people who keep them in their house as protection is something I cannot wrap my head around. I’m Canadian, and it’s not a common thing to own a gun. If someone owns a weapon for protection, the first thing that comes to mind is “What is this person involved in?” or “Is this person feeling OK?” (meaning sane). I know – as I’ve heard of situations – that hunting riffles are sometimes used around here (they are more readily available) to conduct acts of violence and that on its own is really scary because the people that do use them for such purpose have issues. Human behavior is not all that simple – there are many medical issues that cause psychological problems (severe anxiety, panic attacks, and so forth). Hence, this goes way beyond what psychiatry can even fix (and I am not defending the failing system). So how is it that people lose or ignore the instinct of the danger at the mere sight of a weapon?

    1. Interestingly, this might (or not) change is you were trained in its use. A car is also lethal if you don’t know how it works or how to start or stop it. So that “instinct” which may well be one is, for good or ill, overcome by anyone who does weapons training — which includes everyone who works in law enforcement and the military. I am not scared of guns, per se, as I’m now, thanks to training and understanding what it takes to aim and shoot, a darn good shot with a Glock 9mm. (Women, statistically, tend to be more accurate shooters and easier to train than men.)

      But I am fearful of people whose behavior I cannot predict and who own a gun. That’s a lot of people.

  8. Nemesis

    UtterlyTragic. But I suspect nevertheless, an event which is the altogether too predictable, symptomatic expression… of a far deeper national malaise, Caitlin. A malaise transcending gun control.

    This will be contentious… please take a deep breath….

    “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.” – Madelaine Albright [stated on CBS’s 60 Minutes (May 12, 1996) in reply to Lesley Stahl’s question “We have heard that half a million [Iraqi] children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” – Albright was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the time.]

      1. Nemesis

        Indeed, what is the value? An important question, Caitlin… and there are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue…

        Equally important, perhaps even more important… is ‘why’, as regards the individual, granular motivating factors that drive demand and fuel proliferation [quite literally, a domestic civilian ‘arms race’].

        In that regard, are ‘supply side’ solutions to American gun violence likely to prove any more effective than they have been in combating the diffusion/abuse of prohibited substances [so called ‘war on drugs’]? An open question.

        Pragmatically speaking, such measures may be the only practical short term political ‘fix’… although I suspect that any attempt at implementation, given the ‘fervour’ of debate, would as likely exacerbate as ameliorate the problem.

        A better approach might be to focus the national dialogue on the criminogenic etiology underpinning these individual pathologies… which is why I dredged up Madelaine’s Albright’s infamous quote… As the ‘tone’ of any national discourse is invariably set at ‘the top’… and, in so far as an explicit tenet of American foreign [and some would argue, domestic economic/national] policy is that ‘collateral damage’ sustained in the execution of national security objectives is ever and always a ‘price well worth paying’ [provided, of course, that the damage is predominantly – if not always exclusively – visited upon ‘disposables’, ‘the other’].

        Really this is all about something you said earlier, in response to another reader….

        “The dirty secret of American gun deaths is that the majority of them are inflicted on and by teenage males — i.e. those in the drug trade. But this is so un-PC to discuss and so difficult to fix. These massacres, which now seem more common, are still the minority, although horrific. And how about an ongoing recession which has dis-enfranchised millions of desperate Americans from paid work?”

        There will be no permanent fixes until the demand side issues are addressed…

        The only thing I am certain of is that more equal/inclusive societies are generally happier societies – and it’s been a long time since the American polity was a functioning egalitarian meritocracy.

        When that gets fixed… you’ll never see Friday’s headlines again.

      2. Nemesis

        “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.” – Justice Louis D. Brandeis

  9. Another long post ahead. But in the midst of my horror and grief about what happened in Connecticut, these are the things that I keep thinking about.

    Thank you for bringing up the healthcare system link, and how some in American culture slip through cracks when what they really need is treatment for mental illness. I was thinking about that yesterday, and I thought about the Aurora, CO shooter and how people had noticed that things were not right with him, but yet he still managed to get a gun. And I thought about the shooter in Arizona who killed and wounded several people. His classmates and professors, I believe, knew something was not right with him. Yet, again, he was able to acquire weapons and commit his crime. And I thought about the Virginia Tech shooter, and how, again, he was a young man who had exhibited strange and possibly violent tendencies, and his classmates and professors noticed it. But there, too, he was able to acquire weapons and do what he did. In this case, some reports are suggesting that this young man, too, may have exhibited behaviors that “weren’t quite right.” I heard a recent report that the brother in New Jersey had not spoken to his younger brother “since 2010.” Which makes me wonder what was going on in that family and did internal dysfunction exacerbate whatever was already wrong with the shooter? I don’t know. Perhaps we’ll never know.

    So then I thought, if we had better regulation of firearms in this country, would these obviously disturbed individuals have been able to destroy as many lives as they did because they may not have had access to the weaponry to do it? I keep thinking that no, they wouldn’t have. After all, there was another elementary school attack yesterday. A Chinese man stood outside a Chinese elementary school and started stabbing students with a knife. This is part of a tragic trend in China; mass knife attacks. Twenty-two Chinese students were injured in the attack yesterday. But none died. Here’s a link to that story: http://newsone.com/2103827/min-yingjun-chinese-school-stabbing/

    Something that jumped out at me was this (quoted from the story):

    “No motive was given for the attack, which resembled a string of similar assaults against Chinese schoolchildren in 2010 that killed nearly 20 and wounded more than 50. The most recent such attack took place in August, when a man broke into a middle school in the southern city of Nanchang and stabbed two students before fleeing.

    “Most of the attackers have been mentally disturbed men involved in personal disputes or unable to adjust to the rapid pace of social change in China, underscoring grave weaknesses in the antiquated Chinese medical system’s ability to diagnose and treat psychiatric illness.”

    Which speaks to your point, above, about how a healthcare system might help provide a net for people like this, who commit these kinds of attacks. Granted, these knife attacks have killed people, but yesterday, none of the children died.

    And I keep thinking that if we were a society like the UK, which has strict regulations on firearms, would yesterday’s shooter have been able to acquire the weapons he did to do what he did? Maybe. But it would have been a lot harder for him to maybe do it on his own. And, back to the healthcare link, if we had a different kind of healthcare system, would someone have alerted to anything that might have indicated this young man was having issues, and would there have been channels in place to ensure some form of intervention for public safety? If we had that kind of healthcare system, and a gun policy in place like in the UK, I keep thinking that he would not have been able to access the weapons he used to commit the horrendous deed he did.

    Having said that, the guns he used were legally registered to his mother. They were obviously in the house or at least some place where he knew to get them. Would that perhaps have changed if the US had policies similar to the UK? Would that mean that the mother would not have had the weapons available? I don’t know. But I can’t help wondering about that.

    And if anyone’s interested, Mother Jones has been really digging into US mass shootings. You can find a timeline of these horrific events since 1982 here: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map?page=2 One of the things they tally is the types of weapons used and whether the shooters acquired them legally (80 percent did). You can see that at this link: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map#update Within that link, you’ll find links to other MoJo pieces, e.g. on the “crucial mental health” aspect of some of these shootings: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/11/jared-loughner-mass-shootings-mental-illness And here is their summation of recent states rolling back gun regulations: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/09/map-gun-laws-2009-2012

    At any rate, thanks for the post. I don’t know what the answers are or should be. But I do know that we as a country need to really start having these discussions, without resorting to screaming at each other across a political divide. Violence like this affects everyone, regardless of political background or beliefs.

    1. Lots to think about here!

      I am very intrigued to know why his mother — a small-town (the perfect little safe New England town) elementary school teacher — owned two handguns?! What’s that about? Jose wondered if she’d bought them to defend herself against her son. I wonder if we’ll get to that level of detail in all the reporting we will read or hear.

      “But I do know that we as a country need to really start having these discussions, without resorting to screaming at each other across a political divide. Violence like this affects everyone, regardless of political background or beliefs.”

      Here’s another problem — it is almost impossible to create the conditions for this (essential) respectful dialogue. I spoke to people on both sides of the issue (gun haters and gun lovers). They told me, off the record, they cannot be seen to budge from their positions because they will lose credibility, voting, funds. I have been trying, off and on, for a decade to create this conversation. But I agree!

  10. You’re writing about this too, huh?
    It’s absolutely horrible how this keeps happening, and how nothing is being done to stop it. It’s horrible and it frustrates me to no end. How many more deaths will happen before we get something done?

  11. You have given me much to think about. I would say that I’m for having the right to own a gun, but I’m trying to sort through all the recent news and why I believe this way. My parents got a gun when I was a teen after someone tried to break in, and it was never used. It was kept unloaded, and we kids were never told where they kept the bullets. However, I know there was a time where a family member contemplated suicide by using said gun, a frightening idea.

    If I were to own a gun, I would want to know how to properly use and pray that target shooting would be the only time it ever was used. I feel like I wouldn’t feel helpless before a criminal. But, it is too easy to get a gun these days, and that makes me very nervous. Gun laws won’t do much to criminals who don’t care, but could it keep guns out of the hands of the mentally disturbed? Or would it make us sitting ducks before criminals?

    I have much to think about. Thanks for the food for thought. 🙂

    1. The issues are indeed very complex. I explore them in depth — including suicide — in my book.

      What happens when someone who is sane and healthy buys and owns a gun, and it falls into the hands of a family member who is mentally disturbed?

  12. I wish I had time to read all of the probably intelligent comments on here, but I don’t. I saw something on Facebook about just having guns have the same regulations as a license to drive. That makes sense to me. Some people get incredibly charged about it, to the point of thinking it’s a government conspiracy to plan these things so that gun control is tightened. I think that such thoughts are absolutely insensitive and pretty crazy, and probably a defense mechanism against the raw feeling of “woah, someone actually DID that on their own volition.” which is much scarier than a conspiracy. I grew up in Connecticut and that tragedy hits home, and is so incredibly heartbreaking. I’m still processing it I guess, and I appreciate the clarity of your post. It illuminated some useful things for me.

  13. I am a Canadian who has lived in the States. I found that the American cultural attitude toward gun ownership is based more on extreme fear than anything else and began with kicking the British out. The fear of being told what to do by someone else sometimes overpowers common sense and has become ingrained in the American cultural ethos: without guns, they might be forced into something against their will. So yes, the belief in the right to gun ownership becomes an incredibly difficult one to counter.

  14. Dorli

    Your book sounds fascinating, and I appreciate such a grounded and well-founded perspective on this horror. I spent grades 4-12 in Newtown, and I am a parent of small children, so even though I am in Switzerland now – where, incidentally, gun ownership is high due to military service and other cultural factors – my reaction to the tragedy is visceral (as it is for so many). Thank you for trying to make sense of the bigger picture. For the suffering at hand, I think that The Onion, perhaps surprisingly, does it justice: http://www.theonion.com/articles/fuck-everything-nation-reports,30743/

    1. This must be a terribly difficult day for you! Thanks for making time to comment and share your thoughts and this link.

      One of the challenges, you know, is even trying to explain to non-Americans why guns are so popular here — and growing in their appeal. Lynette said it well!

  15. Raven

    First of all, my comment is not meant to offend or sound stupid. If it does then blame it on me being European. But way I see it the US has but one choice. Bring back the old sheriff we know from those horrid movies. Put them in classrooms, in malls, and so on. I know this will be costly but if its a right to arm and protect yourself, then there is also the right to protect peace and crowds. Aka, fight fire with fire. Again, not posting to be offensive but I truly think the US has almost no other choice left. And it makes me sad. But with a ‘sheriff’ in the classroom hopefully the balance will flip to the good side eventually. The sheriff won’t do that probably but the constant being aware how dire the situation is, gun wise, might turn the minds of the masses and maybe just maybe they will reconsider their right to carry a gun.

  16. As always, an interesting – though harrowing and sad – post, and the comment-string helps to shed additional light on this complex and difficult issue. Being Australian and living in Australia, I don’t understand everything that seems to feed into this far-too-frequent tragic incidents overseas, particularly in the US. However, it does seem to me that the ‘right to arm and protect yourself’ is problematic, at least the ‘arm’ bit is.

    After the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthur_massacre_%28Australia%29), the Australian Government at the time, which it should be noted had only recently been elected, and was also very conservative in nature (and would get more and more conservative), brought in very strict laws on gun ownership, and also offered a moratorium where people could drop off guns at the local police station with no questions asked.

    Australia has many faults, and we have our dark and sometimes violent side, but I am a supporter of having very tight controls around gun ownership. We do have the right to protect ourselves, but it seems a good thing if guns and other potentially dangerous weapons are taken out of the equation. Of course, a broken wine bottle can be a very dangerous weapon, though it would be difficult to kills 20 school children with such a thing.

    For more on guns in Australia: http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/australia

    1. Thanks for weighing in. One of the things I most enjoy about this blog is hearing such international viewpoints — from Australia, Europe, Canada and the U.S. Americans have a very distinct and different relationship to their government as well.

      It will be interesting to see what political or legislative action, if any, results from this latest tragedy.

  17. Dan Wierzbinski

    I hold every politican that advocates the use of personal firearms just as guilty as the gunman that pulled the trigger killing those innocent children. I also hold our founding fathers responsible for allowing this to happen.

  18. Jean w

    The government doesn’t have the kahonies to go up against the gun lobbyists. Until they do these senseless tragedies will continue to happen. I am the mother of an elementary school principal and grandmother to two beautiful children. I am afraid for their safety every day. Illinois lawmakers have just approved every person to carry concealed weapons. They are all holding our lives hostage to idiots. My prayers go out to all those that lost babies to this homeland terrorist attack.

  19. Thanks Caitlin, for spurring a productive conversation. With so many millions of guns already in the hands of responsible citizens and criminals, I have no idea how tighter regulation would ever be possible. Jeffrey Goldberg made this case in The Atlantic:

    I am not a gun-owner, but am contemplating buying a shotgun for various hunting and recreation purposes. Handguns scare me.
    That said, despite fervent gun-ownership in the US:

    1. The murder rate is as low as it has been in four decades.
    2. Overall, homicide statistics are skewed due to Black on Black crime, with a homicide rate 7x greater per capita than Whites.
    3. Mental-health treatment and screening seem to be the more pressing issue.

    I’m not a pro-gun zealot by any means, but I do believe that these tragic and widely-covered narratives such as Newtown often lead us to ignore some vital statistics.

    1. Thank you. You know this subject well. The statistics are easily found at cdc.gov, no matter how unpalatable they might be politically.

      I’ve been watching the endless chatter on my Facebook page and watched one woman, (who writes a column for Vanity Fair) recoiling from someone’s mention of black-on-black crime, clearly a taboo subject. Liberals have a difficult dance to discuss gun control without including the realities of who shows up with GSWs in the nation’s ERs every night. I’d considered visiting a big-city ER for that reason for my book research, but knew I would (as I was) become traumatized enough by my reporting without that.

      There are many issues within the larger discussion of who owns guns, what use they are put to and how to — if possible — control access to them by people who plan mayhem. Politicians are going to have a very difficult time with this. Which is no excuse for not trying.

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  22. runningonsober

    Caitlin, thank you for an informative post and lively, educated comments. I look forward to reading your book soon.

    I quoted a section from above and linked to your blog and book in a post today. I just wanted to say thank you for giving us all some facts and points to ponder. I know something has to be done; hopefully some good will come out of these recent tragedies. Though I fear none to soon to prevent the next tragedy from happening. ~ Christy

    1. Thanks so much.

      I gave an interview tonight to BBC, which will be broadcasting that segment worldwide as part of their radio show Newsday. It is an honor and a challenge to try and explain these stories to those beyond America’s borders. It’s difficult enough within the U.S.

      I’m also writing an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen and have reached out to some of my media contacts at NPR and the L.A. Times, hoping to be useful as these stories continue and the debate goes on about what to do next.

      1. runningonsober

        My best to you in your continued efforts.

        I thought of you this morning as I watched McCarthy’s closing op-ed segment on CBS Sunday Morning. She delivered a very moving message on the need for us to “cross the aisles” that divide us on this issue. Her piece (text and video) is online at the CBS Sunday Morning website if you missed it.

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