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Nation shouldn’t just talk about guns in Connecticut tragedy, but also media and politics

Brass knuckles and switchblade knives were intercepted by U.S. Customs officers at the Port of New York/Newark in 2010. The weapons originated in China, packaged as “hats.” (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection)When there’s gun violence, you can pretty much count on a debate on gun rights. The shootings that led to widespread tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut immediately ignited that familiar debate.

We should be talking about more than guns right now.

Adam Lanza, 20, was a loner who as a child appeared to be unable to connect with others. A former babysitter told the Associated Press that at the age of 9 or 10 Lanza was introverted:

"His mom Nancy had always instructed me to keep an eye on him at all times, never turn my back or even go to the bathroom or anything like that. Which I found odd but I really didn't ask; it wasn't any of my business," said Kraft, who lives in Hermosa Beach. "But looking back at it now, I guess there was something else going on."

Other anecdotal information suggested Lanza liked violent video games, but blaming games is a bit like blaming guns. The exception to the influence of games would rest on the troublesome aspect of a loner already isolated from the outside world, spending hours engaged in imitating violent acts.

There’s another factor no one has mentioned, and that is media’s obsession. You’d expect the Connecticut massacre to dominate headlines, but technology now puts the news in front of us 24/7. Coverage goes way beyond who, what, when, where and why, with pundits bringing in experts who never laid eyes on the gunman speculating about what made him do it. Surf the channels today and you’ll see coverage on every one of them, not just details about the gunmen, but softer stories about anything related directly or indirectly to the tragedy.

Media and politicians exploit such tragedies, and it’s logical to ask whether the excessive attention given people like Lanza doesn’t encourage such individuals to seek the limelight by any means, at least when you’re a person who can’t seem to connect with others.

Immediately after news of the shootings broke, politicians from top to bottom of the pecking order were already positioning to exploit this tragedy for political purposes.

Another matter we should discuss is access to mental health services. By most accounts, Lanza’s family was well-heeled. If you have a 9-year-old you can’t turn your back on, wouldn’t you think that warrants some sort of expert help? That type of help is often hard to find, even in a country like America, and in the scheme of science, psychology is still a fairly young discipline. What, exactly, do you do when you have a child whose illness is mental rather than physical? Talk to any family with such a child and you will see it is extremely difficult to find real help.

As a parent, I also wondered about access to guns for such a troubled young man obviously grappling with mental instability. If Lanza’s mother who owned the guns had kept them under lock and key, would he have found it so easy to commit the crimes he did? Would you give a troubled young man access to guns and ammunition in the home? Isn't there a level of personal responsibility when you keep guns and ammunition in your home?

This was a young man who murdered children and shot his own mother in the head multiple times, according to a legacy TV network. That act suggests a well of rage so deep we have to ask ourselves where it came from and why it festered to a point where Lanza transgressed on moral law in the manner he did.

As the debate about guns continues, largely driven by politics, we should be talking about all aspects of this crime.

I grew up around guns, and my family members have owned them for generations. There’s never been a report of anyone on either side committing murder with a handgun. What makes us different to the family whose son had such a lack of empathy that he could shoot children multiple times?

Perhaps we should also ask ourselves why we are raising children without a profound respect for the sanctity of life. Even the loss of one innocent is a profound tragedy. Why don’t we talk about that more often?

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Dec. 17, 2012)


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