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Opinion, Columnist, Education

Reflecting On The Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting

Tony Morris, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Tony Morris, Columnist

Posted Dec. 17, 2012, 3:05 am

Tony Morris / Mirror Columnist

I first learned about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut when speaking with a friend in Texas on the morning of Friday, Dec. 14. Upon hearing the details I felt incredibly sad when I learned that 20 young children were victims.

My mind’s eye called up images of my kindergarten class at Plymouth Meeting Friends School near our farm in rural Pennsylvania. A week before the shooting I was looking at a group photo of my kindergarten class. Twenty of us were dressed in costumes for the school’s Christmas play. How happy and innocent we all looked in 1947.

I turned CNN News on in our TV room. Aerial views of the Sandy Hook Elementary School filled the screen. Although the shooter was reported to have taken his life, SWAT squads exited armed vehicles with German Shepherd dogs straining at their leashes.

Bulletins reported the shooter had killed his mother before setting out to kill 20 innocent children at the elementary school. I turned CNN off to gather my thoughts. I wanted to say something to someone. My wife was asleep and I did not want to wake her with the news. I called a long time friend in Winchester, Virginia to ask if we could talk about the shooting.

We talked briefly and for some reason Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist came to mind. I asked my friend what Jung said about danger and the human psyche.

“The world hangs by a thread, and that thread is the psyche of man. We are the great danger. The psyche is the great danger. What if something goes wrong with the psyche? And so it is demonstrated in our day what the power of the psyche is, how important it is to know something about it. But we know nothing about (the psyche).”

I knew nothing about the shooter but I assumed he was mentally ill. CNN News reported he had killed his mother and taken two handguns and an automatic rifle to Sandy Hook Elementary where he broke into the school and started shooting.

Where there any indications from friends and family that the shooter was capable of doing what he did?

After listening to the Sunday morning shows on CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC the subject of “gun control” emerged. There needs to be a way to prevent mentally ill individuals from owning guns. Apparently a national database which could provide information on mentally ill individuals capable of using guns of all kinds to kill American is woefully inadequate.

Reporters talked about the killing of the 20 innocent Newtown Connecticut children as being a “the tipping point” in the national dialog about guns and gun control in the country. There were some reporters and columnists less willing to accept that this tragedy is a “tipping point.” In their opinion the Congress is unwilling to face the tragedy and enact meaningful “gun control.” In fact no members of Congress supporting the NRA would appear on the Sunday talk shows.

Last week CNN’s Piers Morgan, a British national, was visibly alarmed comparing the statistics of his countrymen murdered by guns last year. Morgan made the point that British homicide deaths are a fraction of gun homicide deaths in the U.S. Morgan was so upset by the discussion that he changed the subject. He clearly cares about the lack of effective gun control in the U.S. and is likely to revisit the subject on his future programs.

CNN reporter Don Lemon, reporting from Sandy Hook Elementary School, was interviewing a clergyman about the tragedy and became upset on camera when there was no mention of guns. Lemon, one of CNN’s most articulate news reporters, clearly showed his concern about the proliferation of guns in this country. I trust that CNN will produce an in-depth documentary on a re-institution of the ban on automatic weapons, gun violence, and access to guns by those who are mentally ill.

I remember a classmate at a prep school I attended in 1960 who wanted me to take a used pistol in my suitcase to London. This was 1961 – no TSA, no special searches of baggage. I told my classmate I could not do what he wanted as I knew I could get into real trouble if U.S. Customs found the pistol in my luggage. I would be arrested by the British police for attempting to bring a pistol into England.

The Second Amendment will stand but the Congress needs to enact legislation to ban automatic weapons and work toward a way to keep guns out of the hands of those who are mentally ill. Clearly these individuals have demonstrated that they are capable of killing innocent Americans. We need to start the national dialog without delay before there is another headline grabbing slaughter. It is the least we can do for the dozens of victims who are our fellow Americans and did not stand a chance of defending themselves.

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Dec. 17, 2012, 5:53:33 am

M.Hollies said...

Dear Mr. Morris. Yes, I think the psyche is the great danger now. What prompts young males to go on psychopathic sprees? The perception of glamor in, and desensitization to violence, a lack of sound role models, an esteem of celebrity or notoriety, rage ? We were happy and innocent kids. Cowboy shootouts, snowball fights and football were the limits of violence and we inevitably acquired our fathers' traits of decency and hard work. In those years, only maniacs could contemplate slaughtering innocents. Now derelict psyches seek solace in planning, arming, donning black, and avenging. One ..a ..time. Personal revulsion to killing has diminished. And that is madness. Madness. Wouldn't you agree? Regards, M.Hollies

Dec. 17, 2012, 6:05:42 am

Will Geedee said...

The mother was a so-called gun enthusiast who had an arsenal of automatic weapons. For family fun, she'd take the boys to the shooting range. What's alarming is not that this gun nut was exposing her kids to this but that most everyone around would probably just shrug their shoulders at the knowledge. What too many Americans don't seem to realize is that in most civilized countries, a person with this sort of deadly stockpile in their home would be labelled a crazy kook, and no way would you ever let your kids go anywhere near that home. It's time, folks ... it really is time.

Dec. 17, 2012, 6:59:27 am

Ken S said...

The "mental illness" angle is a red herring. Unless the U.S. faces the fact that the NRA has hijacked the debate over gun control through intense and well-funded lobbying, and contrary to the wishes of the majority of Americans who want strict gun control, these tragedies will continue. As long as guns are readily available, the mentally ill and the non-mentally ill who perpetrate these acts of evil will be able to get them all too easily.

Dec. 17, 2012, 8:26:17 am

stewart said...

Respectfully, perhaps an editorial on the local shootings might be in order?

Dec. 19, 2012, 3:32:55 am

wolflen said...

In those years, only maniacs could contemplate slaughtering innocents....IT STILL DOES>!!!! remember..the guns in the mothers house were LEGAL. as for the "easy to obtain"..CA has a 10 day wait period and a small proficiency test and general gun knowledge quiz before you can obtain a handgun..not sure it applies to shotguns..but "assult weapons" im sure you have to wait the 10 days..and do the testing.. now the mental health database...that will be a hard battle on many fronts...has nothing to do with guns..

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