From 12/22/12

What happened in Sandy Hook two weeks ago is a huge tragedy. First and foremost to the people who lost their lives, then to their families, to the Newtown community, and to America.

I am partial to children. I believe in their innocence. I believe the world and we, as adults, are a better place for them. My heart cries out for an innocent child’s death; more so for a senseless murder. Twenty times so for the loss of twenty innocent lives in one senseless act of evil.

Having said that, I find the reaction of politicians and pundits deplorable and hypocritical in their attempt to exploit this terrible tragedy for their own agenda.

Let’s start with school security advocates—really? Is that the answer? To make our schools more secure? Do they want them surrounded by barbed wire and mine fields? Hire security guards they say. There was a case in Minnesota few years ago of a school with a security guard. Great you say? The determined gunman came, shot the security guard, went through the metal detector with his guns, and killed the people he wanted to kill. We live in a world of limited means and anything we spend money on needs to be prioritized. When we spend money on some things, we deny our ability to spend it on other things. Therefore, spending tens of billions of dollars on school security must be considered in comparison to the results it provides. One needs to do a cost-benefit analysis even though the benefits and costs are in lives. Those billions could have been spent saving lives in other ways. On the face of it, given the results, school security is one of the least successful cost-benefit investments. Certainly spending more is not the answer.

Mental health lobby—great. According to some pundits it is all the fault of the health insurance companies, as they are not providing a good enough mental health coverage. Seriously? So we now have two choices: either we all report every person who we think is “dangerous” to the authorities or we all go through a mental screening every, well every what? Every day? How can we find the one person who is about to have a mental breakdown and do a horrible thing? Is the inference that today we do not report people who we believe have a high degree of risk to commit violence? Of course we do. Maybe there is an improvement in mental health treatments that can be done but it has nothing to do with what happened in Sandy Hook.

Then there are the culture warriors—do away with violence in movies and/or video games etc. Right, sure, that is very practical. I do not dispute that it has an effect but there is no way to restrict that without hurting many other issues (such as free speech, censorship, etc.). It is just not possible to change this by way of a law.

Finally (and mostly, of course) are the gun control advocates—playing on our most sensitive and raw emotions to achieve their own aims in spite of the lack of any proof that it will help one iota. Let me be clear before I gain the scorn of many: I am IN FAVOR of some restrictions on guns that can be sold. It makes NO SENSE to sell these high-powered weapons to every-day men. I know how sensitive this is for many Americans but I believe there is a consensus that one cannot walk into Lockheed Martin and ask to buy an F-16 fighter plane, or into Martin Marietta and ask for a nuclear sub, so why is it OK to own guns that are so powerful as to be akin to weapons of mass-destruction? HOWEVER, this will resolve NOTHING. Let there be no doubt, if this man did not have the AR-15 he may have ended up killing 10 not 20 kids, maybe many more would have been wounded. And yes, for the few families whose children would have been saved, that is a world of difference. But in the big scheme of things, there will be no change.

That is what annoys me about all these politicians and pundits who wear this holier-than-thou cloth and say, “oh, we have to change” and all that. They have absolutely zero data or evidence to show that such a change will make any significant dent in gun violence. Indeed it is the other side, the gun rights advocates who can show a lot of data that proves that these restrictions will not bring change. After all, we were there before.

For ten years, there was a ban on assault weapons and there is not one study that shows that gun violence has reduced as a result. The proponents of curbs on guns are remarkably lacking in data, studies, or anything to prove their point. They still abuse the raw emotions of everyone to try and get their agenda through. In the process, they create hopes and implications that things will change. Unfortunately they will not. One could say let’s ban all guns. Let’s be like the UK. But that is not feasible. The US is not the UK and such a major change to the constitution is simply not in the cards. All the other proposals are empty and simply abuse the voters’ confidence. I repeat that I am still in favor of some restrictions but let’s be honest about the outcome.

It is this hypocrisy that I find astounding, ESPECIALLY in the circumstances.

I am here to tell you the painful truth—there is nothing we can do to change this horrific situation that claims the lives of so many over any given year, and at times involves such mass shooting incidents that grab our emotions and put them through a ringer. This is part of our modern society. Approximately 50,000, I repeat FIFTY THOUSAND, people die in car accidents in this country EVERY YEAR. Should we stop driving? Should we insist that everyone drives in large SUVs that have been shown to save fatalities in accidents (not wounded but deaths)? I do not think so. We simply accept that as part of modern society.

Ultimately we are making progress in society. Less people are killed today than were killed 100 years ago, and 100 years ago, less were killed than 500 years ago, etc. The trend is positive. The media’s focus on these tragedies seem to show a different effect, but the pure numbers show otherwise.

Recently the BBC in mournful tones announced a “disturbing development”: more people die of over nutrition (obesity) than die of mull-nutrition in the world. This is perverse maybe but this IS progress. The fact that society was able to make significant inroads into combating hunger in the world and thus reduced deaths from mull nutrition so much so that obesity is now a bigger cause of deaths is progress. We need to continue to strive to make life better, yet the fact is that we are on a positive trend.

We need to make rational and objective decisions where to deploy the limited resources that we do have. Media hysteria cross fertilized by political hypocrisy is NOT the recipe for doing that. So, leave the greedy, dishonest politicians out of this equation and shut off the ignorant and disingenuous pundits. Leave the families to grieve in private.

In the long term, nothing will make any bigger dent in these types of events than society itself.