When a horrific act of unjustifiable violence occurs in which a gun is used, the immediate emotional responses are not only a need to identify the person responsible, but to understand his motive, and even more so, to attach moral judgment. These are three perfectly reasonable and understandable human responses. But the repulsiveness of the deed may be so emotionally strong that reason is overwhelmed by it and logic dismissed so as to satisfy an immediate need for emotional relief and personal catharsis.
When a young man slaughters 20 innocent children and several adults by using a gun, and thereafter kills himself, the first of those immediate responses seems to have been answered. However, the motive for the irrational act often is not immediately understandable. Much time may be needed to uncover the often complex factors that have contributed in bringing about this tragedy.
However, moral judgment, the third response, will not abide delay. The need for moral rectitude, and not logic or reason, demands that “something must be done” so that this tragedy will never be repeated again. “If only some action had been taken this calamity could have been averted, and this failure must be rectified now.”
Here enters again the irrational conclusion that federal legislation is called for to restrict the availability of guns further, and thus greatly reduce such crimes. Nothing could be further from the truth as the repeated comparison of state laws and handgun violence statistics has confirmed.
Connecticut, where this tragedy took place, as well as New York, California and Illinois, have some of the more restrictive gun laws in the country while at the same time experiencing higher incidents of gun-related crimes than in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and New Hampshire, where gun laws are relatively lax. All of which raises another question. Why especially do some politicians react in such a knee-jerk manner by clamoring for more restrictive legislation despite the absence of hard facts to support their fervor for additional limitations on citizens’ freedom?
It could be as simple as their catering to the reaction of horrified constituents so as to enhance their re-election chances. But their reasoning could be even more deeply-seated and devious, namely, as another avenue for furthering their ideological conviction that more governmental expansion and control are required.
This man first shot his mother in the face four times and then savagely destroyed children and teachers in the school where he once attended. The motivational forces, as Charles Krauthammer, psychiatrist and renowned columnist, so deftly points out, is where the focus of the inquiry should be centered in the hopes of fathoming the reason for these unreasonable acts, and perhaps thereby assuage the emotional response for moral rectitude.
The writer lives in Carolina Shores, N.C.