Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Deus Benedicat animarum eorum

Charlotte Bacon
Daniel Barden
Olivia Engel
Josephine Gay
Dylan Hockley
Madeleine Hsu
Catherine Hubbard
Chase Kowalski
Jesse Lewis
Ana Marquez-Greene
James Mattioli
Grace McDonnell
Emilie Parker
Jack Pinto
Noah Pozner
Caroline Previdi
Jessica Rekos
Avielle Richman
Benjamin Wheeler
Allison Wyatt

Rachel D’Avino
Dawn Hochsprung
Anne Marie Murphy
Lauren Rousseau
Mary Sherlach
Victoria Leigh Soto

Nancy Lanza

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Emotional Pornography

From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Unabated, unabashed, and increasingly unhinged, the sordid parade continues apace. Last week, Barack Obama flew some of the Newtown families to Washington, D.C., for a rally at which he argued for the putting aside of “politics” that disagree with his own, warned against “political stunts” (presumably with the exception of the one he was performing), and declared a monopoly on “common sense.” This weekend, the president ceded the pulpit of his weekly address to Francine Wheeler, a grieving mother, so that, in the name of “doing something” that might have prevented her son’s death, she could urge the passage of a set of policies that the Left has supported for years.

Over the last three months such behavior has been common. In countless appearances, the president has suggested that the interests of “our children” and “the gun lobby” are diametrically opposed,” he has brazenly maligned the intentions of those who have the temerity to disagree with him, and he has made catharsis for the families of the Newtown massacre a national priority. It has been shameless. There is, it appears, no emotional pornography that the administration will refuse to distribute in the pursuit of its agenda.

But the approach betrays a certain desperation. As Kathleen Parker observed bluntly in the Washington Post last week, “nothing proposed in the gun-control debates would have prevented the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and everybody knows it.”

Everybody does — which explains the mawkishness. The sole purpose of wheeling in innocent children, of pointing incessantly to the grief of victims of gun violence, and of relating tales of family suicide (as Harry Reid recently did on the Senate floor) is to dare your opponents to be hard-hearted enough to oppose your agenda. Instead of engaging his critics on substance, the president has done his level best to circumvent the debate by transmuting a dispute over the wisdom of new laws into an up or down vote on whether or not one is sad about gun violence.

This is cynical and grotesque, but it is also clever. What better way of deflecting criticism than by encouraging your antagonists to censor themselves? Anyone foolhardy enough to write what I am writing here knows full well that he will be accused of “attacking” grieving families. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the likes of Media Matters, whose fatuous claim that Fox News was “dismissing the voices of the families who suffered in a mass shooting in Newtown, CT by claiming they’re being used and exploited by Democrats” is sadly typical. Or Greg Sargent, who characterized Mitch McConnell as “callously rebuffing” families that wished to meet with him. Or Michael Moore, who argued that if Harry Reid’s kids were shot, he would change his mind on gun control. Moore, Media Matters, and Sargent have the same hope: that their opponents, cowed by emotional blackmail, will stay quiet, allowing the president free rein.

It makes no rational sense whatsoever to privilege the testimony of Newtown’s parents in our deliberations. The children of Sandy Hook were randomly chosen victims of abhorrent and reckless violence. It is reasonable to seek the counsel of victims if you suspect that they can help you prevent future atrocities. But we wouldn’t expect the casualties of bombings to have particular insight into how best to deal with security, nor the victims of a gas leak to shed light on the details of piping infrastructure. Cruel as it might seem to observe, you are not afforded greater insight into the legal and economic questions surrounding gun control because a bullet fired by a madman has hit you or somebody you love.

This, of course, does not mean that the victims of gun violence, or their families, should sit down and “shut up.” Far from it — they can and should say whatever they wish and they should explain the devastating consequences of gun violence. But they should not be treated as expert witnesses.

In March, when the chances of a gun bill looked remote, the president griped that the public was forgetting the scale of its outrage. Perhaps so. But if true, this is healthy. Laws that are passed in haste and designed to assuage raw emotion are almost always disastrous. (New York State’s recent debacle illustrates this perfectly.) The president is a good campaigner, and he is smart enough to know that, if he is to cram something through Congress, he has to keep the outrage levels up and the focus on grief. He thus takes the perverse position that Americans will be able to produce a proper response to what happened in Sandy Hook only if they maintain their raw emotions and keep logic out of it.

The rest of us should take the opposite approach: What America does next will be best considered in the cold light of day, and that will mean looking past “the children” — and their parents, too.

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The Wisdom of Fools

From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Some ugly news out of Pennsylvania yesterday, in which state a five-year-old girl was suspended from school for talking about a bubble gun that she had left at home, a reference that was interpreted by the school as a “terrorist threat.” Per ABC:

Her weapon of choice? A small, Hello Kitty automatic bubble blower.

The kindergartner, who attends Mount Carmel Area Elementary School in Pennsylvania, caught administrators’ attention after suggesting she and a classmate should shoot each other with bubbles.

“I think people know how harmless a bubble is. It doesn’t hurt,” said Robin Ficker, an attorney for the girl’s family. According to Ficker, the girl, whose identity has not been released, didn’t even have the bubble gun toy with her at school.

The kindergartner was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation during her 10-day suspension, which was later reduced to two days. The evaluation deemed the girl normal and not a threat to others, Ficker said.

The suspension comes one month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which has created a heightened sense of alert at schools across the country.

Have we all run mad? It certainly looks that way. Sandy Hook has not just created a “heightened sense of alert,” but has also ushered in a lot of hysterical nonsense and mawkish self-indulgence. Children so much as pointing their fingers at one another are being treated as criminals. In Maryland, CBS reports:

There’s controversy at a Talbot County school after two 6-year-old boys were suspended while playing cops and robbers during recess and using their fingers to make an imaginary gun.

“It’s ridiculous,” said parent Julia Merchant.

This is the second time a Maryland child has been suspended for such play. Earlier this month, 6-year-old Rodney Lynch was suspended from his Montgomery County school after pretending to fire an imaginary gun more than once.

“Just pointing your fingers like this and then she did the pow sound and I just went like that and then I got sent to the office again,” Lynch said.

The school reversed its decision after Rodney’s parents appealed.

Amid all the asinine calls to “do something for the children,” it would be nice if a few adults took the reins. What happened at Sandy Hook was unspeakably awful, but it is no reason for us to turn ourselves into blithering fools. Or is it? New York’s State Assembly isn’t so sure. Last week, it rushed through an astonishingly rash piece of legislation that, among other things, has put mental-health professionals in a tough spot, called into question the right of cops to carry their duty weapons, and almost certainly violated the Constitution as defined in D.C. v. Heller. Not to be outdone, the president of the United States stood in front of the world’s cameras and read out letters written by children, praising their great wisdom and making them the centerpiece of his push for new legislation. He was serious.

It is not beyond the wit of man to recognize that children’s letters could be put to propaganda use in support of almost any policy position you can imagine. How about a letter from a child that said, “Dear Mr. President. New York State has just made my Daddy’s gun illegal. We live in an area with a lot of bad men. I am really scared at night. Please don’t take away Daddy’s gun”? Or: “Dear Mr. President, I find it really gross when men kiss each other. I don’t like seeing it because it is icky. Please make it illegal, Mr. President. Thank you.” Or, perhaps: “I love everyone in the world, Mr. President. Uncle James tells me that in Pakistan little girls of my age are being killed by flying death robots. Uncle James says that you have the power to stop it. Please stop little girls in Pakistan being killed by flying death robots Mr. President!” And so on and so forth. As Brendan O’Neill pointed out in the Telegraph,

The use of children to front a potentially big overhaul of Americans’ constitutional rights is really about silencing dissent, exploiting the wide-eyed innocence of worried children to try to shame those adults who still dare to say: “But what about my constitutional rights?” Indeed, it is normally only the most censorious, authoritarian regimes or groups that use children to front or follow through political campaigns. Who can forget the Child Spies in George Orwell’s 1984, those “ungovernable little savages” whose simplistic moralism made them the perfect monitors of adult behaviour? Today, all sorts of fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-masses campaigns – from Green efforts to guilt-trip us over our carbon use to Mary Whitehouse-style demands to censor wicked art – exploit or evoke children to get their message across. And that message is: “It doesn’t matter what you adults believe or want or desire – the feelings of children are way more important.”

That America has not rejected this trick outright and demanded to be treated with a little more respect by its employees in the government is not a good sign. Likewise, that the teachers responsible for suspending or punishing children for pointing imaginary guns at each other or for talking about Hello Kitty bubble blowers have not resigned or been fired in disgrace is an indication that our common sense is being overridden by our emotions. (“If it saves just one teacher . . .”). After all, if the children are so wise, then perhaps they should be running the schools instead. Raise your hand if you agree . . .

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The Massacre of the Innocents

From Mark Steyn:

‘Lullay, Thou little tiny Child, by by, lully, lullay . . . ”

The 16th-century Coventry Carol, a mother’s lament for her lost son, is the only song of the season about the other children of Christmas — the first-born of Bethlehem, slaughtered on Herod’s orders after the Magi brought him the not-so-glad tidings that an infant of that city would grow up to be King of the Jews. As Matthew tells it, even in a story of miraculous birth, in the midst of life is death. The Massacre of the Innocents loomed large over the Christian imagination: In Rubens’s two renderings, he fills the canvas with spear-wielding killers, wailing mothers, and dead babies, a snapshot, one assumes, of the vaster, bloodier body count beyond the frame. Then a century ago the Catholic Encyclopedia started digging into the numbers. The estimated population of Bethlehem at that time was around a thousand, which would put the toll of first-born sons under the age of two murdered by King Herod at approximately 20 — or about the same number of dead children as one school shooting on a December morning in Connecticut. “Every man a king,” promised Huey Long. And, if it doesn’t quite work out like that, well, every man his own Herod.

Had my child been among the dead of December 14, I don’t know that I would ever again trust the contours of the world. The years go by, and you’re sitting in a coffee shop with a neighbor, and out of the corner of your eye a guy walks in who looks a little goofy and is maybe muttering to himself: Is he just a harmless oddball — or the prelude to horror? The bedrock of life has been shattered, and ever after you’re walking on a wobbling carpet with nothing underneath. For a parent to bury a child offends against the natural order — at least in an age that has conquered childhood mortality. For a parent to bury a child at Christmas taints the day forever, and mocks its meaning.

For those untouched by death this Christmas, someone else’s bewildering, shattering turn of fate ought to occasion a little modesty and circumspection. Instead, even by its usual execrable standards, the public discourse post-Newtown has been stupid and contemptible. The Left now seizes on every atrocity as a cudgel to beat whatever happens to be the Right’s current hottest brand: Tucson, Ariz., was something to do with Sarah Palin’s use of metaphor and other common literary devices — or “toxic rhetoric,” as Paul Krugman put it; Aurora, Colo., was something to do with the Tea Party, according to Brian Ross of ABC News. Since the humiliations of November, the Right no longer has any hot brands, so this time round the biens pensants have fallen back on “gun culture.” Dimwit hacks bandy terms like “assault weapon,” “assault rifle,” “semiautomatic,” and “automatic weapon” in endlessly interchangeable but ever more terrifying accumulations of high-tech state-of-the-art killing power. As the comedian Andy Borowitz tweeted, “When the 2nd Amendment was written the most lethal gun available was the musket.”

Actually, the semiautomatic is a 19th-century technology, first produced in 1885. That’s just under half a century after the death of Madison, the Second Amendment’s author, and rather nearer to the Founding Fathers’ time than our own. And the Founders were under fewer illusions about the fragility of society than Hollywood funnymen: On July 25,1764, four Lenape Indians walked into a one-room schoolhouse in colonial Pennsylvania and killed Enoch Brown and ten of his pupils. One child survived, scalped and demented to the end of his days.

Nor am I persuaded by the Right’s emphasis on preemptive mental-health care. It’s true that, if your first reaction on hearing breaking news of this kind is to assume the perpetrator is a male dweeb in his early twenties with poor socialization skills, you’re unlikely to be wrong. But, in a society with ever fewer behavioral norms, who’s to say what’s odd? On 9/11, the agent at the check-in desk reckoned Mohamed Atta and his chums were a bit strange but banished the thought as shameful and discriminatory. In a politically correct world, vigilance is a fool’s errand. The US Airways cabin crew who got the “flying imams” bounced from a Minneapolis plane for flamboyantly, intimidatingly wacky behavior (praying loudly, fanning out to occupy all the exit rows, asking for seatbelt extenders they didn’t need) wound up in sensitivity-training hell. If a lesbian thinks dragging your wife around in a head-to-toe body bag is kinda weird, she’s being “Islamophobic.” If a Muslim thinks taking breast hormones and amputating your penis is a little off, he’s “transphobic.” These very terms make the point that, in our society, finding somebody else odd is itself a form of mental illness. In an unmoored age, what’s not odd? Once upon a time, TV viewers from distant states descending on a Connecticut town to attend multiple funerals of children they don’t know might have struck some of us as, at best, unseemly and, at worst, deeply creepy — a Feast of the Holy Innocents, so to speak.

Okay, what about restricting it to wishing murderous ill upon someone? In her own response to the Sandy Hook slaughter, the novelist Joyce Carol Oates tweeted that hopes for gun control would be greatly advanced “if sizable numbers of NRA members become gun-victims.” Who’s to know when violent fantasies on social media prefigure a loner getting ready to mow down the kindergarten or just a critically acclaimed liberal novelist amusing her friends before the PEN Awards cocktail party? As it is, in American schools, mental-health referral for “oppositional defiance disorder” and the like is a bureaucratic coding racket designed to access federal gravy. Absent widely accepted cultural enforcers, any legislative reforms would quickly decay into just another capricious boondoggle.

It would not be imprudent to expect that an ever broker America, with more divorce, fewer fathers, the abolition of almost all social restraints, and a revoltingly desensitized culture, will produce more young men who fall through the cracks. But, in the face of murder as extraordinarily wicked as that of Newtown, we should know enough to pause before reaching for our usual tired tropes. So I will save my own personal theories, no doubt as ignorant and irrelevant as everybody else’s, until after Christmas — except to note that the media’s stampede for meaning in massacre this last week overlooks the obvious: that the central meaning of these acts is that they are without meaning. Herod and the Pennsylvania Indians murdered children in pursuit of crude political goals; the infanticidal maniac of Sandy Hook was merely conscripting grade-school extras for a hollow act of public suicide. Like most mass shootings, his was an exercise in hyper-narcissism — 19th-century technology in the service of a very contemporary sensibility.

Meanwhile, the atheists have put up a new poster in Times Square: Underneath a picture of Santa, “Keep the Merry”; underneath a picture of Christ, “Dump the Myth.” But in our time even Christians have dumped a lot of the myth while keeping the merry: Jesus, lambs, shepherds, yes; the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, kind of a downer. If the Christmas story is a myth, it’s a perfectly constructed one, rooting the Savior’s divinity in the miracle of His birth but unblinkered, in Matthew’s account of Herod’s response, about man’s darker impulses:

Then woe is me
Poor Child, for Thee
And ever mourn and may
For Thy parting
Nor say nor sing
By by, lully, lullay.

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Grieve First, Then Make Decisions

From Jon Caldera:

As you may know, I lost my daughter Parker, my only child at the time, to cancer just days before her first birthday. I cannot express the pure terror of that experience. The reality of shopping for a coffin and choosing a burial plot for your only child is a horror that is thankfully rare in modern America.

It is with this personal experience I have a special sensitivity to what the families in Newtown, Connecticut, are now suffering. I lost my child to illness, and at least had the opportunity to try to comfort her and tell her how much I love her. The families of Newtown had no such luxury, no such last goodbye.

For the last decade, I have had an internal battle trying to understand why God or nature would cause my little girl to suffer so. But for these families, that internal struggle will be greatly expanded. How does a parent even begin to comprehend why another human would steal away their child in such a way?

With a dead child and a son now living with Down syndrome I have lived through experiences I despise. Even so, I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and raw fear that these people are now forced to endure. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

I have learned something of grief, and the long, slow process it takes. Fortunately, there were many dear friends, family, and professionals to help me steer my way through it. Grief may be delayed somewhat, but it never can be avoided. And it is a bitch.

In the immediate madness after my daughter’s death I had little hope, and thoughts of drastic actions filled my mind. A counselor with special expertise in grieving was quite stern with me. Under no circumstances was I to make any major changes in my life for at least a year. Simply, there was no way I, or anyone in my situation, could see reality clearly enough and calmly enough to weigh important decisions.

I wasn’t to kill myself, quit my job, move away, squander my savings, start doing drugs, or anything for at least a year. And I so desperately wanted to do all those things at different times. She insisted I wasn’t to allow the pain and madness drive a decision that would be hard or impossible to undo if it was wrong.

Grieve first, then make decisions — not the other way around.

This advice not to make decisions during such pain is echoing through my body today as strongly as it did when I wanted to take all those insane actions myself. If I had gone down even one of those paths, it would have been a massive mistake. I see that now. My counselor was right. I can’t thank her enough.

I fear that we, collectively, are not wise enough to take this advice today. And we so need to. In the immediate pain and madness of this crime, the desire to do something, something big, something different, is nearly overwhelming, uncontrollable. I know what this feels like all too well. It feels like it makes all the sense in the world to ban certain firearms, throw restrictions on the law-abiding, disarm civilians, turn ourselves against the Bill of Rights, just as my desires made perfect sense to me during my time of pain.

But given my experience, I worry where we will find ourselves years from now if we allow grief and the madness of pain to take us down a path from which we can’t return. Let us grieve. Let us walk through the pain and hurt and fear. Clear thinking will return, in time. Then let us talk clearly and calmly about the serious decisions that might change us forever.

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The Difficult Response

From Charles C.W. Cooke:

After a man walked into a British elementary school in 1996 and killed 17 people, the British government summarily banned handguns. After yesterday’s massacre at Newtown, some in America would that Congress did the same here. The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik wrote yesterday afternoon that “gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.” He concluded with a general call for something to be done and the execrable charge that those who oppose “gun control” were complicit in the crime. This, sadly, is a predictable response.

Arguments over the merits of gun control are made all the more difficult to navigate by the Left’s stubborn denial that we are already having a debate on the issue. Gun control propositions are by no means new, and nor is there a lack of a “national conversation on the subject.” Instead, the national conversation is ongoing, and the Left is losing it badly. Gun control advocates may talk of national soul searching and dialogue, but in truth that already exists; what they mean is that they’d like to win for a change.

The Gopniks of the world don’t tend to win, however, because their arguments are weak and because their thinking is shallow. It is quite literally unfathomable to almost every human being that a man could shoot his mother dead. It is perhaps doubly unfathomable that someone could shoot a group of little children. To have done both on the same day is nothing short of astonishing. Herein lies the essential problem for those who would radically change our constitutional order: Americans know that they could never do such things whether they had no guns or two hundred guns at their disposal. The mind of a man so ill or depraved that he is capable of an atrocity such as we saw at Newtown is not one that can be constrained by law. Nobody refrains from shooting up a school because it is illegal.

There are at least two hundred million privately owned guns in America, and Connecticut regulates access to them more strictly than most. To believe that yesterday’s crime could have been prevented, you have to presume either that a man willing to go to such grievous lengths could have been deterred from doing so by stronger laws, or that those stronger laws could rid America of privately available guns completely — thus making the killer’s task an impossible one. I believe neither thing. To pass a law is not to achieve its aims, and one suspects that any attempt at gun control in America — which outlaws and the deranged will naturally ignore — would be destined to be filed next to Prohibition and the War on Drugs in the annals of man’s folly.

American liberties, including the Second Amendment and the 40-plus state-level guarantees of the right to bear arms, pre-exist the federal government, and are defined and protected in the same document from which the state derives its authority and its structure. In a free republic, the people cannot be disarmed by the government, for they are its employers, and they did not give up their individual rights when they consented to its creation. There is no clause in our charters of liberty that allows for the people to be deprived of their freedom if and when a few individuals abuse theirs. Moreover, contrary to the rhetoric of many, America is not in the middle of a crime epidemic. As laws have been liberalized over the last forty years, crime has dropped significantly. The partial incorporation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court, along with the decline in public support for gun control and the passage of state-level concealed carry laws has done nothing to check this trend.

Contrarily, school shootings, such as the nauseating and heartbreaking spectacle we saw yesterday, are seemingly on the rise — as are other mass shootings, such as that which afflicted Aurora, Colo. earlier in the year. As Ezra Klein has observed, “of the 12 deadliest shootings in U.S. history, six have taken place since 2007.” This is a separate problem. What is causing this is not yet known and probably underinvestigated, but it is certainly not guns. The American republic stood for almost two hundred years before the first school shooting occurred. Something is awry, to be sure; to blame guns is a mistake.

It is often glibly asserted that mine is the “easy” response. On the contrary, it is the difficult response. To shout “do something” or “ban guns” is the facile suggestion, and nonchalantly to content oneself that laws passed in a faraway city will fix society’s problems is the comforting conviction. My judgment, by contrast, is the terrifying one: To realize that there is very little than one could have done to stop yesterday’s abomination is to understand that we are sometimes powerless in the face of evil, however much we shout about it.

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