Newtown CT massacre: foreseeable and preventable

Astonishment at the recent massacre is misplaced: it was foreseeable, and preventable.

It is easier to obtain lethal weaponry in our society now than any any previous time in history. Massacres like that at Newtown and elsewhere are the result. We don’t have more homicidal maniacs now than in the past, but we have magnified their power by granting them access to advanced military technology. State of the art flintlock muskets in 1789, when the constitution was written, shot a maximum of four rounds per minute and required the full attention of the operator during that period. Bushmaster’s AR-15, the weapon used to kill 20 six-year olds and their teachers, can shoot 45 rounds per minute: as fast as one can pull the trigger (Bushmaster, for reference, is owned by Cerebrus Capital, 875 Third Avenue in New York, give them a call at 212.891.1558 or send them an email at if you are so inclined: here is the executive team).

It is also no mystery who commits atrocities like this: all of the massacres from Tuscon to Connecticut were committed by the same person — a man with a gun.

Conclusion: our children, our leaders, even you yourself, darling reader, are at risk — random chance is all that protects us or, realistically, ever can protect us given the speed with which this technology can be deployed — until we remove devices like those used Friday, semi-automatic rifles and handguns, and special ammunition, from private ownership.

As long as this technology is in general circulation, there will be more killings like this, as sure as shooting.

For a gripping commentary on the related issue of mental illness see ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America published yesterday in HuffPo.

In England, “on 13 March 1996 Thomas Hamilton walked into the gym at Dunblane primary school and killed 16 young children and their teacher. He also injured 13 other children and three teachers. Hamilton, a former scout master, then shot himself,” the BBC reports. Sound familiar? In November 1997, handguns were banned in the United Kingdom. A fine example.

Sign a petition by Mayors Against Illegal Guns here.

Recommended by somervilletom.


20 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Not just "a man with a gun" but an attention-seeking man with a gun

    The main stream media handling of these events is also a problem. The desire for attention, and the uptick of copy-cats demonstrates that these killers are literally dying for attention and have no compunction about taking others with them. Changing how these events are covered so that the killers receive no name recognition, and that a media circus does not ensure could also make a difference. I never name the individual who goes rogue in a desperate bid for attention and a legacy in this fashion.

    • There already was at least on copycat

      A man with a minor arsenal was arrested somewhere in the midwest after threatening to shoot people at the elementary school in his town. At least he called first.

    • Mayors Against Illegal Guns

      It’s easy to be against illegal guns.

      It’s harder, and mandatory, to make entire categories of guns illegal. Until this happens, there will be no progress.

    • OK

      But don’t forget we live in an age where anyone with an internet connection is now a reporter. Sure, maybe the networks and cable channels can agree, but what about TMZ? What about Twitter, Facebook, Google are they going to censor their users? These things get out and the more you try to suppress them, the more likely they are to go viral.

      Also, I would say that knowing about the motivations of the killer is important for the public in a democracy where we might like to make policy aimed at preventing such acts.

      I agree to an extent that the media coverage of these events can be problematic, but maybe, just maybe the bigger problem is that some maniac shot up a school and not just that the media told us about it. If we focus on having fewer incidences of this kind, the problem of media reporting on them will kind of solve itself.

  2. Amberpaw is correct about not naming the person. Things must change and if this horrible tragedy does not finally cause people to stop and realize that, then we are truly lost. We spend billions trying to stop terrorist attacks from outsiders but do little to stop the terror from our own citizens. Bob is right, it was foreseeable and was preventable.

    • Agreed

      If the Presdent and Congressional democrats want to get serious about this I would pass a law, similar to the band the UK an Australia passed, that ban automatic and semi automatic weapons, limit ammonia types, limit how often you buy a gun, and force two people to vouch for you before you buy one. Regulating it like driving a car will reduce these incidents. Australia and the UK have had ZERO mass shootings since their laws were passed in the 90s and Australia’s is a better example since a conservative government passed that ban in a country with a similar gun culture as ours.

      Call these new laws the National Security Terrorism Prevention Act and see how many Republicans vote against it. The sad question to ask is why the media refuses to call these men terrorists and these massacres acts of terrorism. The sad fact is the media and the GOP would be outraged and demanding action of Adam Lanza was carrying a Koran with his ammo and there would be no debate or controversy about limiting liberty in the name of security or tightening our laws.

  3. great post Bob

    Bushmaster AR-15 was also used in Aurora CO shootings as well as by Washington DC Sniper.

  4. I have been very uncomfortable with both of Bob's posts

    The post from last Friday made me especially uncomfortable, but this one does as well. I wasn’t quite sure why at first. Maybe because the tragedy was still unfolding. Maybe because this hit a little too close to home (I’ve worked and lived in Connecticut and my own son is approaching elementary school age at what seems like warp speed – the entire world seems to speed up once you become a parent).

    But after reading this post and thinking about it a little, the reason they’re making me uncomfortable is because they show no empathy whatsoever for the specific victims here. Both posts could have been written weeks, months, or years ago with a space for [insert tragedy here]. Both posts are the very definition of politicizing a tragedy. Barely a passing mention of the actual victims with no specifics, but lots of specific political complaints about Scott Brown, the NRA, the Supreme Court, etc. Nothing about the heroic acts of many of the teachers, administrators, and first responders. Or empathy with the victims, the families of the victims, the other students, the entire Newtown community.

    I spent last Friday thinking about getting home from work and hugging my son. I thought about the Newtown parents frantically driving to their kid’s school and hoping that their children were OK. I spent most of the weekend thinking about the victims, their families, and the Newtown community. But I just couldn’t get to the point of thinking about greater policy or political implications. I agree with President Obama and Gov. Malloy – that time comes later, the first response to a tragedy should be empathy with the victims and reflection on your own priorities.

    A few days have now passed, so I can begin to think about it. I am someone who is very uncomfortable with guns. I’ve never touched a gun. I’ve never seen a gun fired other than in a military style salute at a parade or event. I’m not a part of the gun culture. I read the second amendment as a conditional phrase where the dependent clause is no longer true so the independent clause need no longer be true. And I would unconditionally support measures to ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons and impose stricter measures on who is allowed to purchase guns.

    But I’m still uncomfortable at posts that jump straight into politics with barely a passing mention of the victims.

    • I'm uncomfortable as well

      The mainstream media is already providing more than enough focus on the victims for my tastes. We’ve watched the list of terrorist sites get longer and longer, while a river of our children’s blood flows over us, and yet we do nothing. Nothing whatsoever.

      This is the time to politicize it. This is a political problem. I’m sorry to sound heartless, but it is. A large majority of Americans support gun control. A majority of Americans agree that there is no defensible reason for private individuals to own or possess combat weapons. A majority of Americans agree that there is no defensible reason for private individuals to have access to large-capacity clips, drums, and magazines. Virtually every man, woman, and child is appalled and grief-stricken by the slaughter of young children.

      Yet the carnage continues — continues in a nation allegedly governed by majority rule, continues in a nation that just finished a high-profile high-turnout election in which NEITHER SIDE MENTIONED GUN CONTROL.

      I get that you’re uncomfortable. I would hope that ALL OF US are uncomfortable. We ought to be uncomfortable. If it helps you to mention the victims, or to pray for them, or to read media and blog descriptions of others doing that, then by all means do so. In the meantime, I suggest that we must “jump straight into politics”, because this is a political problem and therefore demands a political solution.

      The carnage must stop.

    • "Both posts could have been written weeks, months, or years ago"

      And that is exactly the problem. These shooting events are happening so frequently that there is no time between them where we can have this conversation lest it be ‘too soon’. We couldn’t talk about guns last week because it was ‘too soon’ after Kassandra Perkins was murdered by the father of her child just before he shot himself in front of his coaches. It was ‘too soon’ after the Oregon mall shootings, too soon after Oak Creek, too soon after Aurora, and dozens of others.

      THAT is what makes me uncomfortable! There’s never a lull in this horrible gun violence where it wouldn’t be too soon. At some point you just have to say enough. If the death of 20 first graders and their teachers isn’t that point then it never will be.

    • That seems off

      Barely a passing mention of the actual victims with no specifics, but lots of specific political complaints about Scott Brown, the NRA, the Supreme Court, etc. Nothing about the heroic acts of many of the teachers, administrators, and first responders. Or empathy with the victims, the families of the victims, the other students, the entire Newtown community.

      The point is that these victims might very well not have been victims with a sane gun policy in this nation. To ask “How we can prevent this kind of thing from happening again?” (which in my view is the best way to honor the victims) requires talking about the NRA, Scott Brown and the rest of the Congressional GOP, and the Supreme Court.

      We are horrified about the specific victims. And the ones last week, last month and last year. But there will be more, next week, next month, and next year if we only speak about the victims on a personal level, and fail to address that these things happen with this frequency because of our political and legal structure. These kinds of shootings are quite rare in the EU, for a reason.

      If we don’t recognize this as a political issue now, when? There are many people speaking about the victims in a personal way. I can’t do that; I didn’t know them. But I believe it recognizes their value, as precious human beings, to recognize this act as not acceptable and to have a serious discussion about how to prevent the next massacre. This is not to score cheap points, it’s to change the extremely troubling direction of this country.

  5. Keep Walking Ernie, Keep Walking

    Don’t involve yourself in this one ernie. Just walk on by.

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Mon 17 Dec 11:35 AM
  6. Gun Valley

    It’s always struck me as strange that many of the largest gun manufacturers in the US are based in New England, which is not the most fertile gun rights area. It’s a historical thing, I know, but it still seems odd that “Gun Valley” has remained so strong given the political climate of these states and the general trend of moving South and West for cheaper labor.

    For me, these are the types of jobs I am ok with seeing leave because I think too many of these companies are not responsible with the products they make or the ease with which they can be tracked.

    Below are a few of the local makers:

    Smith and Wesson, which makes a line of “modern sporting rifles” (AKA assault rifles – I admit that these may not fit the exact definition of assault rifles, but a semi-automatic, large capacity rifle should be an assault rifle under any reasonable definition), is based in Springfield.

    Yankee Hill Machine Co. makes assault rifles in Florence, MA.
    Savage Arms is in Westfield, MA.
    Kahr Arms is a “manufacturer of high-quality concealed carry pistols” in Worcester, MA.

    Charter Arms is in CT.
    L.W. Seecamp is in CT.
    Mossberg is in CT.
    Marlin is in CT.

    Stag is in CT (makes AR15s) – their website has an odd note about how due to overwhelming interest for their products, they will not be taking any orders, except through a dealer, as of 12/17.

    Colt is in CT. Their website boasts “Colt’s rifles are the only rifles available to sportsmen, hunters and other shooters that are manufactured in the Colt factory and based on the same military standards and specifications as the United States issue Colt M16 rifle and M4 carbine.” WTF.

    Ruger is in NH (makes assault rifles).

    Bushmaster was a Maine-based company until it was sold to Cerberus a few years ago. Bushmaster’s former owner created Windham Weaponry that is now in the old Bushmaster factory, and it still produces AR15s and other assault rifles.

    ZM Weapons in VT boasts “The LR-300 is a light, compact and accurate weapon system to give the operator the surgical accuracy and power needed for high security situations.” I suspect this assault rifle isn’t for police and military only, though.

    • This insanity must stop

      The producers of these obscene weapons are just as immoral as producers of child pornography. Those who profit from these companies are just as immoral as those who profit from the exploitation of children They continue to exist because we willfully ignore the reality of what their product is for.

      We must change both our laws and our culture so that those who create and profit from these obscene murder machines are made pariahs, rejected from society and recognized as the miscreants they are.

      We’ve done much of this for big tobacco, we’ve done this for drug lords and underworld kingpins, it’s time we do the same for these should-be criminals.

      I’m not sure whether the best path is executive action, legislative action, or both. I acknowledge that a limited number of manufacturing capacity must be maintained in order to provision the legitimate needs of the military and law enforcement.

      NO PRODUCTION beyond that should be permitted. While we address ownership and possession, surely we can put a stop to the continued manufacture of this obscene technology.

      • I am there, too

        From Bushmaster’s lovely website:

        Home Defense
        With a Bushmaster for security and home defense, you can sleep tight knowing that your loved ones are protected. Bushmaster offers everything you need to ensure the safety of you and your family. Our high-quality pistols, carbines, and rifles are extremely reliable, easy to shoot, and include lightweight carbon models that are perfect for women. And with their intimidating looks, all Bushmasters make a serious impression. Any gun will make an intruder think. A Bushmaster will make them think twice.

  7. It's politicized already

    I get that power-wheels, as a parent and someone with friends and family in the region affected feels shocked at Bobs comments. I would argue that he and the other editors have shown compassion and tenderness toward the victims along with a more than appropriate and needed sense of outrage. Last week Bob Costas, a middle of the road sportscaster, was pilloried as threatened with calls for his resignation for even suggesting that one unstable individual killing one person and himself was cause for tighter gun laws. He was chastised left and right (let’s be honest from the right) for “politicizing a tragedy” for even discussing it. The problem power wheels is that this insistence on not politicizing a tragedy is in effect a muzzle from the gun lobby that prevents tragedies like these from getting addressed by easy and proven policy solutions.

    We had massacres in the 80s, Clinton passed the Brady Bill and we had just one between the time of its passage and its repeal in 2004. Australia had the same problem we did, but as Kristoff and even Rupert Murdoch have pointed out they ceased the moment their conservative government passed sensible regulations. From five high casualty events to none. The UK had a mass shooting at a school and responded with tougher laws and have had zero since. We lose 50,000 people or ten Iraqs and twenty 9/11s a year to gun violence. Bringing that number down to the 10,000 we lose in auto accidents is moral and feasible.

    We just lack the will to do it and muzzling these conversations stops progress. Did we wait after 9/11 or did we start bombing Afghanistan and suspending liberties left and right to stop
    Another one from happening? It shouldn’t be harder to get on a plane than it is to bring military weapons into schools. It shouldn’t be harder to own and operate a car than a weapon of mass destruction that can kill hundreds in minutes. But it is, and until that changes we won’t be muzzled anymore. I ensure those victims and my grandfather died in vain if I shut up.

  8. Some hyperbole here

    I completely agree that major restrictions on manufacture, purchase, and ownership of high-volume firearms are necessary. Stating falsehoods as facts, however, does not advance the cause. For instance, the first sentence of this post is false. “It is easier to obtain lethal weaponry in our society now than any any previous time in history.” It is not. In the 1920s, literally anyone with $175 dollars could walk out of a hardware store with a Thompson submachine gun that fired 600+ rounds per minute. No waiting period, no background checks, no FID card, no having to wait for a gun show. Restrictions on ownership did not appear until 1934; before that, anyone could buy any gun, if they had the money.

    Let’s not rewrite history, even in pursuit of noble goals. We’ve been making progress in the restriction of proliferating lethal weaponry. We are now in a period where we’ve fallen back a step or two, but we’re still ahead of where we were 80 years ago. By all means, let’s continue to progress, but don’t rhetorically erase the gains we’ve made.

  9. Call them what they are. They are not "Assault Rifles," they are "Homicide Rifles."


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