Plenty of Blame to Go Around
There is nothing good about the Newtown, Connecticut shootings. President Obama said what I thought my President should have said and the way I wanted my president to have said it in his remarks there last night.
I am no longer worried about my son. But my son is worried about his two little girls. They are not yet old enough for school, but sending a seven-year-old to school should not be a cause to worry all day that he or she will come home safely.
Unfortunately, the level of untimely deaths in America may lead those who are, at a minimum misguided, and at a maximum mentally unstable, to believe that violence is an acceptable way to show one's unhappiness.
First, there are the gun laws. I am a member of the NRA but I am not an expert in gun laws. I do know that gun laws already in place are unevenly enforced, if they are enforced at all.
Maybe we need new laws. If so, I hope someone will show how Newtown would have been prevented had those new laws been in force.
A Congressman said on Friday night that 9,000 people in America were killed last year from gunshot wounds. I have no idea whether that is true or not, but if it were half that number; or one-tenth of that number it would still be too many.
There are also too many unnecessary deaths in America from other causes.
In 2010 almost 33,000 people were killed in car accidents; about a third of those involved drunk drivers. Half of that number; or one-tenth of that number would be too many.
I understand that very few drivers - drunk or sober - set out to use their vehicle to purposely maim or kill someone, so I am not making the impossible claim of equivalence to Newtown. What I am saying is that even with an entire generation of intense focus on wiping out drunk driving, 10,000 Americans died in one year due to the actions of impaired drivers.
Far too many of those impaired drivers are teenagers who got their hands on alcohol or drugs illegally.
Want more? According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 443,000 deaths per year are the direct result of cigarette smoking. About 44,000 die from the effects of second-hand smoke.
The CDC says that every day about "3,800 people younger than 18 smoke their first cigarette," so just under 1.4 million new smokers are headed into that statistic every year.
Nobody walks into a grammar school and blows cigarette smoke into classrooms to kill children, so I am not claiming equivalence there, either.
Getting back to outright violence when will Hollywood step up and take some responsibility for desensitizing children to the horrors of brutality. Many of the most popular dramas on TV are gruesome murder programs.
You can't watch an NCIS episode without seeing a shot, stabbed, dismembered, and/or burned victim laying on Dr. Mallard's autopsy table.
The USA schedule for today shows 10 straight hours of Law & Order episodes (4 AM - 2 PM) followed by five hours of NCIS reruns (3 PM - 8 PM. After that your kids can watch the manufactured mayhem of professional wrestling for three hours while they're doing their homework.
I'm not picking on the USA network. I know a lot about it, because I watch it so much.
What's the most popular sport in America? Football, where slamming into an opponent so hard you knock his brain against the inside of the opposite side of his scull might get you fined by the NFL, but will certainly get you on the highlight show Sunday night.
What's the lesson for young boys and girls who are urged to come out and cheer for their team from Pop Warner to the Washington Redskins?
Of the top 10 video games as ranked by the Washington Post earlier this fall, four were sports-based (two hockey/two football) five were war-based and one - Super Mario Brothers - was whatever Super Mario Brothers is.
None of this excuses what happened in Connecticut on Friday morning. I'm not at all certain it even begins to explain it.
I do think that if anything good comes out of Newtown it will not be a discussion solely focused on gun laws; it will be a broader discussion about how to how to stop glorifying violence in American culture and how to stop killing ourselves prematurely through totally preventable behaviors.
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to pages dealing with auto and smoking deaths, as well as the Washington Post's list of top 10 video games. Also a really interesting license plate Mullfoto.