What We Can Do and What We Cannot Do

Paul Jacob

12/16/2012 12:00:33 AM - Paul Jacob

December 16, 2012

When 20 kindergartners and first-graders and six adults are senselessly slaughtered at a small town elementary school by a heavily armed lunatic, it’s normal to want to do something — anything — to help make certain such a horrific event never happens again.

But “never again” has proven a very difficult, if not impossible, standard to achieve.

Pass any number of new laws — the problem will remain that Adam Lanza, and other killers like him, don’t obey such laws.

We might force a background check or establish a more thorough one before a person may buy a gun. But Lanza had no criminal record; he likely would have been approved. In fact, even if Adam had a criminal record or other loud, flashing warning signs, it would not have altered this terrible outcome, since he reportedly stole these guns from his mother — before fatally shooting her in the face as the morning’s start of his rampage.

I figure the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, would have passed a background check.

Some will call for greater regulation of the psychiatrists and psychologists who treat the mentally ill, perhaps, or for a loss of gun rights for people suffering from some forms of mental disorder. Still, in this case, such heightened regulations or restrictions would have been circumvented as previously noted. Moreover, a system of restraints on those who seek mental help would almost surely reduce the likelihood that those suffering such ailments seek help.

Of course, most people suffering mental illness do not shoot anyone, much less open fire on classrooms of young school children. It’s not difficult to see how any new clampdown on mental health patients could be seriously counterproductive in preventing future mass shootings.

A number of pundits argue we can fine-tune the weaponry used by the madmen who unleash their madness upon others. Some are calling for a new “assault weapons” ban and President Obama hinted at such a policy response, saying in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, “we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

But enacting new rules designed to force killers to re-load more often, to fire less deadly bullets or to use machetes or poison or bombs instead of bullets, will hardly vanquish evil from our future reality. Nor would outlawing all private gun ownership, which presents its own unacceptable dangers.

There is little governments can do to prevent violence of this sort. It is impossible to predict. SWAT teams cannot be everywhere. Requiring metal detectors and heavy police presence at every kindergarten or grammar school in the land not only seems out of place in a free society, it also has little prospect of providing perfect protection from such extraordinary evil.

The fact is that so-called “gun violence” is dropping. This is no statistical burp, but a long-term trend of 25 years. If America is a “violent society,” it is less so today than in years past. If repealing the assault weapons ban has been a mistake, the numbers don’t show it. We see the carnage in living color on the TV, but the people not attacked receive no fanfare at all.

Too often in the wake of a horrific event, our government acts in the passion of the moment, rather than letting emotions calm and legislating on the basis of all relevant data. Politicians hate to let a good crisis go to waste.

So, expect the Connecticut mass shooting to generate politicians to act, even though there is little if anything they can do — falling all over themselves where they have no wisdom to impart and no role to play.

Meanwhile, our political leaders ignore a far less sensational crisis — one they have created and, indeed, exacerbated exponentially.

The United States of America is $16,378,189,870,912 in debt. By the time you read this, we’ll have piled up millions more.

Much debt is of recent vintage. When George W. Bush became president in 2000, the national red ink totaled $5.7 trillion. In eight years, Dubya nearly doubled it to $10.6 trillion. Since his 2008 election, President Obama has far outpaced Bush, sinking us another $5.3 trillion in debt in just half Bush’s time.

And, by continuing to run yearly deficits of over $1 trillion, we’re digging the hole deeper at top speed.

For all the hoopla over draconian cuts, forced at the so-called fiscal cliff, those somewhat slippery savings would at best amount to about 10 percent of our yearly deficit, leaving us spending 9/10ths of a trillion dollars we don’t have.

In the “other cuts” department, the Obama Administration had been supporting paltry reductions to federal Medicaid spending of $17.6 billion over ten years (that’s less than $2 billion a year), but just flipped its position. Why? State governors are deciding if they can afford to take part in Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion.

Not content to spend recklessly alone, the Feds pick up the entire tab of new Medicare recipients’ first three years. But once states are hooked on the money, Washington pays 90 percent and the states pay 10.

States are wondering how they’ll come up with that additional 10 percent — seven governors have already declined to join in the spending program. No one in Washington has given a second thought to paying the 90 percent.

Politicians cannot save us from every evil or relieve all our pain and suffering. They shouldn’t try. Instead, let us care for each other, emotionally and spiritually. And let politicians concentrate on solving the biggest problems they themselves have created.     (references)