Friday 22 November 2019

Allison Pearson: We must do more than just weep for the victims of Sandy Hook massacre

Allison Pearson

After the Connecticut massacre, it's hard not to conclude that Americans are half in love with violent death.

For those of us who count the US among our favourite places and have American friends, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School poses a bleak, but unavoidable question: what kind of country loves its guns more than its children?

You would have thought the causal relationship between unrestricted gun ownership and the bodies of 20 little kids, barely over the threshold of their lives, had now been established beyond all reasonable doubt.

Yet, as I write, there are still people – alright, maniacs – arguing online that the problem is not too many guns. It's too few.

Apparently, the real tragedy is that the teachers of the murdered infants did not have access to something called "school defence weapons".

The advocates of guns in places of play and learning do not specify where such weapons should be stored. An assault rifle in the reading corner, perhaps? A 12-gauge shotgun under the gerbil's cage?

Madness

It is a symptom of the prevailing madness that not one of the self-defence evangelists mentions that Nancy Lanza kept five guns in her charming, suburban home for protection and introduced her son Adam to them "to teach him a sense of responsibility". Well, we all know how that worked out.

Why did a keen gardener and mahjong player, herself a former teacher, keep semi-automatic weapons near her mentally unstable 20-year-old? Nancy Lanza did not just possess a cache of guns; she had high-capacity magazines, which can fire off 30 to 100 bullets in rapid succession.

A nation where a sweet, well-educated woman thinks it's a good idea to keep such an arsenal near her 'Call of Duty'-obsessed, tinder-box of a son – and is legally allowed to do so – needs to go and lie down on a psychiatrist's couch.

Violence is in the cultural air that Americans breathe.

Tuesday night's premiere of Quentin Tarantino's new film, 'Django Unchained', a brutal western, was cancelled out of respect for the grieving families in Newtown. My resident film critic, who has seen the movie, says that it ends in a delirium of violence, with blood spraying everywhere.

At a press junket, an unrepentant Tarantino rejected the idea that murderous mayhem on screen has any connection to real massacres: "I just think, y'know, there's violence in the world, tragedies happen, blame the playmakers." And his movie? "It's a western. Give me a break."

I would like to see the complacent Tarantino explain his theory to Arielle Pozner. Arielle is the six-year-old twin of Noah, whose funeral was held last Monday.

Arielle was in a different part of Sandy Hook school from the brother who called her his best friend. Make no mistake, Noah Pozner died in a Tarantino-like delirium of violence.

That school became a slaughterhouse. Imagine the terror of the six- and seven-year-olds, who must have known what was coming as they witnessed Lanza fire multiple bullets into their classmates, and waited their turn.

Killer

Nor can I get out of my head the teacher who shut her 13 young charges in a cupboard and told the killer that they were in another part of the building.

Six of the kids were so scared they ran out from their hiding place and were shot. Police arriving later at the scene opened the cupboard door and found the surviving seven, silent and still in a game of statues they will play over and over in their minds.

The average teenager who sups full of video-game horrors on a daily basis can have absolutely no concept of the scene in those schoolrooms where 20 children were put to death. If he did, could he still play his games?

In an excoriating blog on the 'New Yorker' website, the writer Jon Lee Anderson asks: "What does it take for a society to be sickened by its own behaviour and to change its attitudes ... ?

"When will we Americans realise that our society is an unacceptably violent one and that much of that violence is associated with guns?"

After the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, when 35 Australians were killed, newly elected premier John Howard went against conservative forces in his own party and states adopted a ban on all semi-automatic weapons.

Australia became a much safer place. Something similar happened with handguns in the UK after the tragedy of Dunblane.

Now Barack Obama has the chance to embark on a course that could relieve the US of its shameful record as child-massacre capital of the world. Friends of that great nation will hope he seizes it.

The president should use the tide of revulsion. When a senator who is an "A" rated member of the National Rifle Association questions the availability of assault weapons, then the time may be right for an outbreak of sanity.

I make no apology for dwelling here on the suffering and carnage in that elementary school. The most dangerous mistake is to turn away and pay tearful tribute, however well meant, to the "little angels now in heaven". If a disturbed youth had not been able to get his hands on combat weapons, in accordance with the laws of his country, the little angels would not be in heaven. They would be waiting for Santa Claus. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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