26 people died when a maniac shot up this school. It is tragic - and of course, the government-monopoly-on-guns folks are calling for bans on personal ownership of weapons. Although 70 million Americans own guns, it is human nature that some of the 240 million who don't feel entitled to impose their will (with guns wielded by the government) on those who do. It is also human nature to ignore the experience and desires of others when making such dictatorial demands. It is also human nature for those who own weapons to ignore their responsibilities to learn the ample history of the value of private weapon ownership, and patiently explain it to their neighbors. Lazy little tyrants, we are.
Like all tragedies of this sort, the vast majority are told what to think by television. That THIS tragedy is important, and others are not, is shaped by the demands of the media. Millions of children die worldwide every year from starvation and preventable disease, but this happens one at a time, slowly, in places and languages far from the TV cameras.
Millions of people die every year from diseases caused by sedentary television watching and advertising-driven consumption, but this behavior is so rooted in our culture and tied to the survival of television itself, that even questioning it brings on a storm of self-justification, denial, and mockery. And at the rate 1 death per 700,000 hours of television watching, 200 million people watching half an hour of Sandy Hook "news" will suffer 143 additional deaths, more than 5 times the death toll of the massacre itself.
Does television contribute to the social isolation and mental illness that drives these psychopaths to their deeds? Does it validate their acts by giving them a national audience? Does the time we spend watching television reduce economic productivity and the funds available for treatment? Does the diversion of hours result in fewer people training in the mental health professions, or doing the research that enables better treatment?
Weapons (guns in the US, knives and explosives elsewhere) are part of the complex weave of contributors to these tragedies. But as we increase our technological power, we create many new tools to express psychopathic rage. From the mass bombings of the Indochina war, to the airliners-converted-to-missiles of 9/11, to the radio-orchestrated machete killings in Rwanda, gun tragedies are dwarfed by new forms of technologically-enhanced mass mayhem, often organized by the governments some would give a weapons monopoly to. Perhaps we should focus on healing or sequestering the psychopaths, and learning to recognize them among ourselves, taking time away from television and investing it in community connections instead. And someday, when we've learned to recognize neighbors needing mental help, we will also learn to recognize our own sociopathic weaknesses, and stop electing governments that cater to them.