The Newtown tragedy and an insensitive anti-gun lobby

Thank-you to President Obama for visiting Newtown to express condolences to the families of the victims on behalf of all Americans. Now he faces a huge challenge to find solutions to end mass shootings. Photo: (AP Photo)

DOTHAN, AL, December 17, 2012 — The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has shown a very bright light on the social society that we live in. Within hours of learning that twenty children and six adults had been eradicated from their families, the usual suspects surfaced. There was not time to be wasted in fanning the flames of the gun control debate. The liberal channels couldn’t resist the chance to go on the attack.

Social media sites on the Internet quickly filled with hateful messages and snarky posts attacking conservative opinions that hadn’t even been expressed. Twitter hummed with a steady flow of angry anti-conservative tweets, and mainstream media like the NY Times ran front-page articles on guns nearly every day.

Associated Press

Associated Press

President Obama visits Newtown to express condolences to the families of the victims on behalf of all Americans. The entire nation is grieving with them and, as the President said, they are not alone. It was unfortunate that the major networks did not see fit to televise the prayer vigil, as CNN did in its entirety, only broadcasting the President’s speech.

But then they are not noted for interrupting reality shows and sports for trivial matters like prayer and national mourning.

The President shows frustration and exhaustions when he says this kind of thing has to stop. Pointing out that this was the fourth mass shooting since he has taken office, the strain evident in his face. As critical as any of us may be about our leaders, they are still human and this kind of tragedy tears at our very souls.

President Obama did not make a political statement, avoiding knee-jerk reactions to the situation, yet some major media outlets, including the highly rated BBC, were wrong in reporting that he was calling for more gun control in his speech.

He may in fact take that up in the future, but he was very cautious to keep his words non-political. 

This is a problem that transcends politics to reflect who we are and what our tolerance is. And that tolerance can be seen in how our popular media has changed. 

There is an age-old debate on whether the arts reflect society or influence it. Many of us remember when Rob and Laura had separate beds.

How far has that changed when we can now see various collections of people having sex on “cable” at almost any time day or night? The same Hollywood crowd that will call for more gun laws are the same people who release film after film with gory, close-up special effects of bullets whizzing into soft tissue.

Video games masquerading as entertainment encourage our youth to win through stealing, fighting, and mass killing.

Hip-hop artists pretending to be musicians have sanctified gang violence with lyrics about shooting, murder, and rape. Some modern artists have gained notoriety using feces or urine. The top bestselling novels are about sadomasochism, murdering children for sport and necrophilia.

Popular TV shows are heavily laced with murder, mayhem, bad language, and sexual innuendo even during family prime time. The list goes on and on.

Are these pop culture sensibilities a reflection of our society or an influence on our society? That is the first question we need to answer before we declare that we’ve discovered a silver bullet, pun intended, to solve our problem with guns.

It goes deeper than the arts however. America has a problem with its core value system and defining the limits of freedom.

Very recently an atheist group in New Jersey paid some serious money to have a building-sized poster put up in Times Square in the heart of New York City. It depicts a picture of Santa that says, “Keep the merry,” and a picture of Christ that says, “Dump the myth.” Their hope is that visitors, tourists, and shoppers — including children — will take note of it and presumably forget Christmas. 

That is similar to saying keep the apples, get rid of the tree.

The group members have a first amendment right to express themselves as they want and we, as adults, have the right to simply ignore it.

But children can’t ignore it, so what about their rights? How do you explain our society to a child? 

Former Governor Mike Huckabee came under scathing attack for a monologue in which he suggested that the continual erosion of religion and the removal of God from all aspects of our society was a contributing cause to violence. Huckabee is not exactly a shock jock and is perhaps a bit too homespun and preachy for some, but why were the leftist responders so agitated they used vicious threats and vulgarity to respond to him?

Questioning whether America is abandoning traditional values seems to make a lot of people on the left really uncomfortable, especially those who claim the intellectual high ground. The educated liberal elite should be better equipped than anyone to understand that when you remove something from a space it creates a vacuum, and that makes people want to know what is going to fill the void.

If we don’t want to teach, “thou shalt not kill” because it has religious overtones, then what lesson will replace it? That’s not a call to war that is just a question about what we can expect for our children.

With the far left screaming in one ear and the far right in the other, President Obama is facing a hugely difficult challenge to end tragedies like Aurora (July 20, 12 killed), Oak Creek, WI (Aug 5, 6 killed), Happy Valley, OR (Dec 11, 2 killed), and now Newtown.  

Lest we forget, there are also the killing in Norcross, GA (Feb 21, 4 killed), Chardon, Ohio (Feb 27, 3 killed), Oakland, CA (April 2, 7 killed), Tulsa (Apr 6, 3 killed), Seattle (May 30, 5 killed), College Station, TX (Aug 13, 2 killed), Minneapolis, (Sept 27, 6 killed) and Brookfield, WI (Oct 21, 3 killed). That is nearly 50 Americans dead from a multiple homicide shooter not associated with any crime. 

What is at stake is more than the issue of the shootings; it is the fact that Second Amendment rights are yet another issue tearing this nation apart.

We are divided into camps of pro-this or anti-that, political parties are at a virtual impasse on every major issue, and average Americans are quickly losing the ability to speak to each other in civil tones.

It’s about time for American citizens to live up to their civic responsibility because we are ALL to blame for the massacre of innocents, and for the loss of innocence in this nation.

That responsibility starts with a long hard look at who we are and how we got here, then deciding what we want for our young while we still have a constitutional right to do so. We have truly reached a watershed moment.

The best way to ensure that our children have a chance to see the future is to stop the war on each other.


(Be sure to get The Backstory and more on Rick’s blog site, It’s About Time.)



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Rick Townley

Rick Townley was a bookseller before switching to electronic publishing with The New York Times, Reuters, Grolier and others. He is the author of a humor book, For Boomers Only – Exploring Life in the New Millennium, a supernatural novel, Stepping Out of Time, and numerous short stories. In addition to contributing to the Washington Times Communities, Rick is working on a fiction series called Stigma and resides in southern Alabama with his 7-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.


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