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Friday, December 14, 2012

Shots Fired, Nothing Changed

After Columbine, things were supposed to change. After Virginia Tech, things were supposed to change. After Aurora, things were supposed to change. After Gabby Giffords, things were supposed to change. After every mass shooting, things were supposed to change.

Nothing has changed.

What makes anyone think things will change after the horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut, today? There's already talk about gun control, just as there was after those incidents, as well as the mall shooting in Portland, and the murder of a woman by a Kansas City Chief who then committed suicide. Someone always wants to start a discussion about guns, and someone else always says it's too early, we're still grieving. So the discussion never begins, or never continues, or when it does, it's always the same old points made by the same old parties.

And nothing changes.

I'm not a gun guy. I've never fired any weapon more lethal than a water pistol. I plan on going my entire life without shooting anything. I don't believe people need as many guns as they have, and wish there were a rational way to reduce the number of victims who die from gun violence (34 Americans every day!).  But I've yet to hear anyone elucidate what changes in the law would have kept today's murders from taking place, since the guns were purchased legally by the killer's mother (who became one of his victims) and they weren't assault weapons (so any ban on those wouldn't have saved a single life today).

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun-control advocate, issued a statement today, urging action from President Obama, but he wasn't specific in what he wants either the White House or Congress to do:

The country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for "meaningful action" is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership – not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama said in his own emotional statement today:
We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
Forget about fighting the NRA and minions on Capitol Hill. What explicit solutions can government undertake to change our crazy gun culture? What non-rhetorical answers would these leaders enact?

I can't imagine the horror of having a small child killed while at school, or even having my daughter live through the horror at her school and have to deal with the psychological trauma afterwards. While the overwhelming majority of schools in the US are safe, there have been far too many pins added to our national of school shootings map.

But I also can't understand why any parents allowed their little kids to be interviewed on TV and radio today. On ABC, Chris Cuomo made a girl essentially re-live the nightmare by asking her to describe everything that happened in her classroom in great detail. Shame on him and every other reporter who stuck a microphone in a kid's face in the wake of the worst day of their life. We live in a society that shares far too much, that doesn't hesitate to open up to the media or post on Twitter and Facebook. It's bad enough when adults do that, but children (as young as five!) should be shielded from that and considered as off-limits as the crime scene inside the school.

Today was shameful in other ways for the media. In their rush to report, accuracy went out the window again. Three decades after Frank Reynolds implored his colleagues to "nail it down," being first (and putting up a "BREAKING NEWS!" graphic) still matters more than getting it right. That's why the shooter's name was reported incorrectly. That's why several websites posted pictures of people who shared the shooter's name but hadn't murdered any children today. That's why they told us the shooter's mother was a teacher who was killed at the school, when it turns out she didn't work there and was killed at her home.

Over time, errors are corrected, but not before our instant-information-distribution system repeats the mistaken details over and over again -- on multiple platforms. The horse gets out of the barn so fast these days that no one even bothers to see if the door is open.

And that's not going to change anytime soon, either.