Thoughts on the Sandy Hook tragedy and its aftermath

I’ve said I’m going to weigh in on the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting (and the Lone Star College-North Harris shooting which received additional press as a result of its timing), and I am. Instead of citing a news article like I usually do, I’m going to cite Wikipedia’s article about the Sandy Hook shooting since I’m pretty sure it’ll be around long after whatever link rot usually hits the online news articles I cite.

In summary, where we are at two months later: a ban on so-called “assault weapons” has been proposed. For a while, it was impossible to avoid news coverage relating to proposed changes to firearms regulations. Meanwhile, the coverage related to what we’re going to do about mental health issues as a society is near zero.

First, just to be sure we are clear: I vehemently condemn this senseless act of violence. I don’t know what the shooter was thinking, and none of us probably ever will. But I don’t want the Sandy Hook kids to have died in vain, thus the rest of this post.

I believe gun control in general to be a dubious concept. “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” is more true than most people would like to think. There are certainly ways for the next Sandy Hook shooter intent upon causing death and destruction, from my old favorite the potato cannon all the way down to domestic improvised explosive devices (IEDs) made with chemicals purchased at hardware stores and model rocketry supply stores.

Really, you can background check, fingerprint, retina scan, DNA sample, urine sample, and psychologically examine all you want, but in the end, those who want to will still find ways to buy either pre-assembled tools of terror or the components to assemble such a device of disturbance. The hobbyist horticulturists in our society will certainly take a dim view of requiring a background check and another license to buy fertilizer.

I’m also against more ridiculous regulations on the video game industry. Getting rid of violent video games completely wouldn’t stop this (not that anyone is advocating this, of course). If nothing else, violent games can always be released as free software for computers over the Internet, and there are huge First Amendment issues from trying to stop such a release. Other attempts to restrict video games by content have already been ruled as against the First Amendment. (This is another reason I really don’t do proprietary console games anymore, as game console makers such as Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft use Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) in an attempt to maintain control over what games can play on their respective consoles. It is impossible today to release a game to play on an unmodified game console without having it appoved by that console’s manufacturer, and usually “mod chipping” a console voids the warranty at minimum and can cause problems playing legitimate games.)

Mental health shouldn’t have the stigma that it does. This is part of the problem and getting rid of the stigma behind a diagnosis and/or getting help for mental illness needs to be part of the solution. We also need to re-examine mental health care and make sure those who need help can get it.

(I’m sorry this took so long to get written and posted, but I feel the issue is still timely as the debate is still ongoing.)