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Sandy Hook two years on: Does Social Media have a Social Conscience?


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December 14 marks is the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. Not surprisingly, there is a considerable amount of metaphorical and physical ink being spilled on the opinion pages of newspapers, magazines and blogs, regarding the never-ending cascade of school and other mass shootings in America, along with the daily drip of bloody gun violence deaths, many of them associated with domestic violence and many more involving the “accidental” use of guns in the home (all too often by otherwise innocent children), all coupled with the seeming inability and/or unwillingness of Congress to do anything meaningful to address this scourge.

That we have to mourn this Anniversary the same month as we confront the institutional racism that allows our police forces to kill unarmed black people with apparent immunity, and the same month that the Government – to its credit, in doing so – releases a report on unapproved/concealed and seemingly ineffective CIA torture would, one might expect in a reasonable world, cause the nation to seriously reflect upon itself and its failings, all the more so given that we are in the holiday season of supposed peace and understanding.

And let me be clear, most of the people I know personally would go along with the above, and seek a more peaceful path. Unfortunately, their voices are frequently and deliberately drowned out by those of hostility, racism, aggression and outright violence. Example. On Saturday, I read an excellent piece in the Baltimore Sun, entitled “Two years after Sandy Hook, schools aren’t safer.” And across two tweets, I quoted this pertinent observation:

Among modern democracies, only the U.S. hastens to make its schools more fortress-like, more impregnable, more intimidating instead of controlling the abundant guns that make our society so very dangerous.

I then gave it the hashtag gunsense. I did so consciously, knowing that a hashtag initially promoted by those who would like to see common sense gun laws had been co-opted by those who believe that the only common sense gun laws are, effectively, to have no laws whatsoever and allow guns everywhere, all the time. If I was expecting a virulent response, I was not disappointed. If I was expecting a compassionate response, I certainly was. Within seconds, the replies started pouring it, at such a rate that it was evident that few of the gun-huggers who follow that gunsense hashtag, ready and waiting at the keyboard to fire back, had possibly had time to even read the story.

I was immediately informed that

Guns make our society safer. More guns, less crime”

and that

“all violent crime is down, including gun violence yet, there is record gun ownership.

I shouldn’t have to point out to my own readers that this “record gun ownership” in the USA actually translates to more guns in less hands. The number of families owning guns has dropped in half in recent decades to approximately one-third, yet that one-third owns at least 300,000,000 guns. Are we to consider that that one-third, with their stockpile of deadly weaponry, are supposedly the cause of reduced violent crime – or would it be more accurate to suggest they are the cause of continued violent crime? And why does any of this make the figure of 30,000 deaths by guns a year somehow justifiable or excusable? A murder rate 4-5 times that of leading western nations and a gun murder rate 30 times higher?

I was also hammered with the equally tired tirade that

“in Chicago with nations tightest guncontrol laws – shootings are out of control.”

Anyone who has remotely studied the basics of this issue knows (or just employs common sense) knows that strict gun laws are ineffective in Chicago when it is so easy to buy guns right outside the city and within the state of Illinois, when there are gun show loopholes ad a lack of background checks nationwide, when you can buy guns online, and when there is a strong trade and therefore profit in illegal gun trafficking from other States. Besides, as has been consistently been proven, strong State-wide gun laws, which are easier to police than mere city-wide laws,  have proven results:

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The gun-huggers love to goad you. They love to move the goalposts, and insist you answer an entirely different question than the one you perhaps posed in the link you originally posted. When I therefore suggested that

“As ever, gun hugger shows no sympathy for victims nor acknowledgement that western nation w/ most guns has most gun deaths”

I was informed:

“what do you expect? gunsense requires victims. Gun rights fosters survivors.”

…Which is a pretty tough message to sell to the families of the Sandy Hook victims.

As this all makes clear, there is no dialogue here. There is only ranting. And the threat of violence, or at least the suggestion that those who have armed themselves to the teeth are perhaps not the sort of people we would most trust to be armed to the teeth, is never far away. I was called “a gun-grabber asshole,” informed that “gungrabbers are paranoid nutcases” and that my opinion reflected the “typical “only dead white people” matter.” There was also some swearing, which I never engage in on Twitter, because… you know, it sometimes comes across as rude. Rather than further engage these people, because there is no way to win them over or appeal to reason, sadly, I closed out by tweeting:

“The lack of empathy shown by gun huggers for victims of gun violence is truly astonishing. And abhorrent. But perhaps not surprising. #peace”

Of course, these people don’t follow a hash-tag with the word peace. I did not hear from them again. At least for now. And so, on this awful December 14, I repeat. #Peace.

 those who have armed themselves to the teeth are perhaps not the sort of people we would most trust to be armed to the teeth

“Those who have armed themselves to the teeth are perhaps not the sort of people we would most trust to be armed to the teeth.”

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