It is the morning after the gruesome killing of twenty school children and six adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut (December 14, 2012) by a deranged individual carrying an array of very deadly weapons. There are not enough tears to assuage the terrifying grief of those directly impacted by this senseless tragedy.
The identity of the individual responsible for this slaughter may serve some cathartic purpose, and may help those directly impacted by the tragedy and the nation try to understand the particulars of this horrific event, but it does nothing to embrace the underlying pathology of our culture. There will always be individuals cursed with a fire in the brains that fashions a personal reality that drives them to such extremes – this, in my mind, is a matter of brain chemistry. We no longer live within the Dark Ages – the scientific discipline embraced by Neurobiology and Neuroscience has made and continues to make great strides in understanding brain structure and function. Yet, as a society we allow many individuals plagued with madness to go about their lives untreated and unattended to. We do so for many reasons, but essentially because we place profit before service to community.
Events like the one that occurred yesterday are not uncommon and are quickly becoming the norm in this country. In no other country, with the exception of so-called "Failed States," are murderous weapons so readily available to the entire population and especially to those who suffer from severe mental imbalance. The question we need to ask ourselves is, why?
There resides within the popular imagination a mythology surrounding gun ownership. This mythology embraces the troubling notion that owning guns is a fundamental right. The second amendment to the constitution has been used to substantiate this right – this interpretation, however, is highly controversial. This does not answer the fundamental question of why we choose to validate the reality of universal gun ownership in this way.
There are many who claim that denying everyone rights to ownership of certain kinds of extremely dangerous weapons or concealed weapons is a denial of personal freedom. This argument assumes that in a so-called "free society," everyone has the right to do grievous harm to others under the appropriate circumstances. Within such a worldview, gun ownership has become tantamount to the right to vote or assembly, or free speech. Guns, however, are weapons of death; guns allow an individual or groups of individuals to inflict deadly harm upon many people as we have seen only too often. Guns, in fact, represent not a symbol for personal freedom, but rather a deadly means towards violence and aggression.
As a people, we can either continue to embrace this dangerous mythology, or deal rationally with a problem that is quickly running out of control. The purpose of a vibrant and sustainable culture is to curtail the more destructive emotions, focus the profound capabilities embodied in intellect for the common good and work towards a viable future. We are failing in all of these. As in all other problematic issues, it is within our hands to do what is necessary to promote and sustain our collective sanity.