Events of the past week — yes, I’m talking about the shootings in Oregon — have made me, in one of my oft-used phrases, “sad and mad.” And it seems as if it is no longer possible to have a civilized public discourse about these horrible public events. So — can I talk? I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about gun ownership. I grew up with guns, my father owned at least a dozen, I know how to shoot, and I honestly do not see any good reason why gun safety and ownership cannot be reasonably regulated in ways similar to cars, for safety reasons. So that’s my POV. But I want to talk — politely — about something else.
I have family in Connecticut, including a close relative who was a public elementary schoolteacher not far from Newtown, home of Sandy Hook Elementary AND the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a leading gun industry lobbyist. And yes, since then she and her young students have taken part in many “lockdown drills”, in case an active shooter comes to their classrooms. I find that obscene. Another obscenity? Among many stomach-churning news items in the aftermath of the murders of 20 little children and their teachers at Sandy Hook was this: that some people began to circulate statements that the news was a hoax; that no one was killed; that the bereaved parents of those murdered little ones were actually actors, pretending to grieve, in government-funded propaganda. How disgusting. How inhumane. How merciless to families whose little children and loved ones were slaughtered.
One of those people, it turns out, was Sheriff John Hanlin of Douglas County, Oregon — home of Umpqua Community College, where another angry, isolated young man just murdered and maimed dozens of innocent students and teachers. Like the shooter in Newtown, this shooter had obvious mental problems. Like the shooter in Newtown, he had been unable to handle independent adult life and lived with his mother, who was also divorced from his father. Apparently also like Newtown, this young man had been enabled by his mother to own not one but several high-powered weapons and she had taken him to shooting ranges, in spite of his known mental health issues: New York Daily News.
I wonder how Sheriff Hanlin feels now about the false and cruel conspiracy theories he helped spread about Newtown? I wonder how he will feel if/when conspiracy theorists start describing the bloody massacre scene he has seen with his own two eyes as a faked movie set? If/when they accuse his grieving, traumatized constituents of being paid actors in a propaganda campaign? Shame on him. Shame. He owes the whole town of Newtown, and the bereaved families of Sandy Hook, a heartfelt apology. He owes the rest of us a public recantation of his former statements. Can we agree that such cruelty to victims is not okay?
To me and to many, none of this seems rational, reasonable or civilized.