I’ve been out of pocket pretty much since the first sketchy reports this morning about a possible school shooting. A meeting, a luncheon and then 6 hours in the car.
The car ride was enlightening because I followed the details of the Connecticut school shooting exclusively by listening to the radio.
As in all these cases, the facts changed as the day went on. First, it was a mass shooting with a semi-automatic assault rifle, which the news reports noted would put back on the political table the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. The latest reports indicate that an assault weapon was not fired. [See update]
Then it was a shooting with handguns, which the news reports noted would put back on the political table hand gun control. The latest reports indicate the assailant killed his own mother to get her legally licensed and registered handguns, along with a long rifle which was not fired.
Then reports trickled out that the assailant had a history of mental illness and/or personality disorder. Those details are not confirmed as of this writing. If true, it would fit the pattern of Jared Loughner (who shot Gabby Giffords and killed several others) and James Holmes (who killed 12 people at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater), people who were known to suffer from dangerous mental problems which were not reported by professionals and educators out of a concern for patient and student privacy rights and the lack of a specific demonstrable threat.
What did not change was the politics. From the beginning of the day, the shooting has been used for political purposes.
When Obama, in his otherwise good speech, stated:
And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
I knew that the meaningful action would be all about politics.
Will we address mental health and educational privacy laws, which instill fear of legal liability for reporting potentially violent mentally ill people to law enforcement? I doubt it.
Will we address the sensitive civil liberties issue of civil commitment laws? I doubt it.
Will we address the shooting by a frank and honest assessment of whether gun control in the form of a de facto ban on lawful possession of firearms really works, given the level of violence in places like Chicago which have such a de facto ban already? I doubt it.
Banning guns not only is unconstitutional, in a free society it would be no more effective than banning drugs, and truly would leave guns only in the hands of criminals.
Will we address what kind of society we would have to have in order to impose the type of gun control which exists in a place like China, where an attack on school children by a knife-wielding assailant injured 22 students just yesterday, but did not result in any deaths? I doubt it.
What exactly is the “meaningful action” to be taken to prevent an obviously sick person from killing his own mother and then going to a kindergarten to shoot children?
The easy answer of more gun control would not have changed today. Today took place in a state which has gun control and in which all the rules were followed, except by the homicidal killer who would not have cared about any rules.
The seemingly easy answers will be all about the politics.
In the meantime, the other benefit of the long car ride was that I had a lot of time to mourn the loss of the innocents today, to listen to people in the community talk about how they rushed to school to find their children, and to know that there but for fortune may go you or I.
Update: On Saturday the medical examiner said the rifle was used in the shooting, contrary to all prior reports that it was left in the car and the shooting was with handguns.