New York: YES!

While the Congress of the United States prepares for what the NRA calls “the battle of the century” over gun control, the legislatures in the “blue” states try to do the right thing on their own. The “red” states, of course, are passing bills to allow teachers to carry guns to class with them, but the blue states are taking the high road. New York recently passed a tough gun control bill as the following article attests:

New York (CNN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo beefed up New York’s gun-control laws on Tuesday by signing into law a new package of firearm and mental health regulations that mark the nation’s first since last month’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Cuomo, a self-described gun owner, said the December 14 tragedy spurred lawmakers to action and called it a “common sense” measure before enacting what are widely seen as America’s toughest gun laws.

“You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and common sense,” he said before inking the deal in Albany.

There are two things about this signing that I find particularly interesting. For one, Cuomo is a gun owner and yet he sees the wisdom in taking a restrained approach to gun purchase. After all, gun control is about control, not elimination. The bloat and rhetoric that comes from the political right on this issue is positively galling, especially the NRA’s most recent personal attack against the President and any who would have the audacity to try to interfere with our “Second Amendment rights.” I have never heard anyone talk about taking guns away from people — especially hunting and target weapons. The movement here is to eliminate the purchase of weapons of mass destruction, if you will, assault weapons that fire off hundreds of rounds a minute and are designed to kill people, not deer or pheasants.

The second interesting thing is that Cuomo’s appeal is to “intelligence and common sense,” and he is spot on. There is so much heat and so little light in the “debate” over tougher gun control it is refreshing to read that a group has sat down and put together a bill that is designed to introduce sanity into a situation that borders on the insane. Clearly gun control will not solve the problem of violence in this country, but it is a necessary first step.

As you may have read, while Cuomo was signing this bill conspiracy theorists were harassing good Samaritans in Connecticut whose hearts went out to the children who survived the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut as we are told in the following story:

A man who found six children in his driveway in Newtown, Conn., after their teacher had been shot and killed in last month’s school massacre has become the target of conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were staged.

One wonders what makes people like this tick when they write hate notes and repeatedly phone and then hang up on a 69 year-old retired man whose crime was that he reached out to help a group of youngsters who were traumatized by the shooting in their school. The very idea that the shooting itself was somehow “staged” in order to allow the government to take steps to restrict future purchase of assault weapons is over the edge and would require Freud working together with Adler and Jung to figure out how on earth those minds came so badly unhinged. One can only hope that the number of these nutters is very small and is dwarfed by the numbers of people whose hearts went out to those children and their families. I expect that is the case.

In any event, despite the fact that the Congress seems unable to enact legislation that would offend the NRA, states like New York have shown how it could be done. It won’t be nearly as effective as a Federal policy, but it is a step in the right direction.

More Madness

When I was seven years old we moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Dodgingtown, Connecticut — midway between Bethel and Newtown. My sister and I went to Sandy Hook Elementary School. I was a member of Troop 70 Boy Scouts in Newtown, caddied at the Newtown golf course, walked with a friend of mine every Saturday afternoon to the movie house in Newtown to watch the latest cowboy thriller, and my mother ran a shop in Newtown called “Presents Unlimited.” Newtown, Connecticut is a place I once knew very well.

So when I read about the latest shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, I was touched on a very deep level. I have so many childhood memories of that region. Now those memories are mixed with mayhem. It leaves the stomach unsettled and the mind in a whirl.

The President of the United States fought back tears as he pledged to rise above politics and make sure something is done to stop this carnage. He has said this before, but this time he seems to mean it. Easier said than done: the NRA will be geared up for battle and they are one of the most powerful and effective lobbying groups in Washington. We can expect little in the way of serious gun control to come out of this Congress. But gun control is not the whole answer. To be sure, it is a step in the right direction, but it is not sufficient to stop the craziness that seems to be growing in our population. We need to probe for deeper causes.

Let’s take a close look at the youth in this culture who spend hours each day playing violent games on their Xboxes and watch even more hours of violence on TV and in the movies (which make my cowboy thrillers look like Sunday School stories). Humans are animals and young animals learn from imitation. There can be no question the constant immersion in violence plants seeds in the young. Add to this a weakening reality principle, a thin thread separating these kids from the fantasy world of their games where they rule and the real world where (as things now stand) they also rule: they are told they can do no wrong and they are entitled to accolades and applause for every breath they take. Their sense of self grows as their sense of the world they live in shrinks. They crave fame and glory, like the heroes they play in their games. They learn to expect applause for their every effort no matter how impotent. Their ability to connect with other humans weakens as they become more and more isolated.

These speculations are not far-fetched; they are based on solid data, studies that show our culture is becoming increasingly narcissistic and self-absorbed. Combine these factors with the ready availability of guns and one can easily imagine a young Adam Lanza strapping on a bullet-proof vest, grabbing his automatic weapons, and storming into a school pulling the triggers on both weapons as he shoots his “enemies” and emerges a “hero” to the applause of thousands.

Granted, this scenario is a bit of a stretch, but what I say is based on solid evidence and there is a disturbing sense of truth to what I have supposed here. How else do we explain this madness? How else do we explain how a young man can shoot innocent children and their teachers? Only in a world where people get cut off from reality, where the thin thread connecting them to the real world suddenly snaps and their fantasy world takes over. What happened in Newtown, Connecticut cannot be real: it must be a video game — except it isn’t.