New Castle News

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December 17, 2012

Mitchel Olszak on Connecticut Shooting: Will another rampage matter?

NEW CASTLE — It’s my expectation that last week’s deadly school shooting in Connecticut will produce a series of predictable results.

We’ll see the outpourings of grief and expressions of outrage. Less visible will be the struggles of families who lost loved ones and are trying to cope with the horror thrust upon them.

The ongoing police investigation will piece much of the story together. It will paint a picture of the killer and perhaps even develop a motive for why he went into an elementary school and took 26 lives before killing himself.

But there is no real motive for such a crime. It is an act of inexplicable insanity, the product of a disturbed mind most likely driven by an inner rage that strives to inflict as much pain as possible before ending it all.

As with any such tragedy, there will be moves across the county to beef up security at schools. Presumably, this will come at a significant expense many school districts can’t afford.

There will be steps taken based on the idea that quick action could prevent the loss of life. For instance, just east of us, school officials in the Butler Area School District have voted to arm their security guards.

This is supposed to provide a measure of comfort, but it doesn’t take much imagination to envision things going wrong once guns are introduced to crowded school buildings, past the metal detectors designed to thwart them.

Yet there have been calls — including from at least one member of Congress — to arm school officials. The idea is that once an intruder shows up with a gun, people trained to diagram sentences or solve geometry problems will quickly convert to Rambos, taking out the bad guys.

Such arguments operate from a fantasy view of the world, based more on myth and movie-making than any grasp of reality. Despite the prevalence of guns in America, these shooters typically take their own lives or else they are captured alive. Armed private citizens don’t save the day.

And that gets us to the topic of gun control, which already has surfaced in the public debate over the Connecticut shooting. It got a push from President Obama, who made an oblique reference to it in his comments following the rampage.

This is the same Obama who studiously avoided the subject of gun control in this year’s presidential campaign.

So there will be demands for tough action to control ownership of guns, or at least some guns or their accessories with some people. On the other side will be those who say it’s unfair to law-abiding citizens to restrict their constitutional access to firearms because of the actions of the emotionally deranged.

The practical result of any debates over gun control these days appears to be no legislative action, just a big rush to buy more guns. Calls for added gun restrictions seem to be the best advertising possible for manufacturers and marketers.

Maybe there will be discussion about identifying and treating the mentally ill. Yet the track record here is minimal talk and no real action.

In the end, I suspect things won’t change much as a result of these shootings. More money will be spent on security, which may indeed stop attacks in some places.

But the people determined to act out in this manner have plenty of soft targets to choose from. If it’s not a school, it will be somewhere else. Security is a feel-good measure of limited value. Against a determined madman with lots of firepower, it provides no solution.

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