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COMMENTARY · 16th December 2012
Merv Ritchie
One of my more frequented websites, 'OpEd News', screamed a reactionary headline yesterday, “Every NRA supporter has children’s blood on his/her hands.” This statement is ridiculously simplistic, owning guns has nothing to do with this crime.

One might claim the tragedy would be less if these large capacity semi automatic assault rifles were banned completely yet that suggests the death of one 6 year old at the hands of a psycho would somehow be less tragic. In China another reported psycho, at virtually the same time, assaulted a children’s classroom with a knife, injuring 23 before he was stopped. Although it is reported none died, he could easily have slit every child’s throat had he determined to kill them. It is not the weapon, it is the person. We must address the reality not get sidetracked by knee jerk reactionary blame.

The problem, the reason for this incident, is very simple to address, the solution is very difficult. In fact, the solution will challenge society so greatly we will all likely avoid the truth, as we generally do when solutions take effort, and watch this same situation, another Columbine, another Gifford, another Polytechnic, happen again.

I cannot take credit for this analysis of the problem/solution scenario. In the fall of 1999 I was hitch hiking to work as my truck had broken down. A social service worker picked me up at Tappen on his way to his office in Salmon Arm. We engaged in a conversation about the tragic death of another child. A young couple having difficulties ended up injuring the child so badly she died. The other dwellers in the apartment complex did nothing to prevent this easily foreseeable consequence.

I couldn’t understand how this could happen and Robert explained it in very simple terms, an answer which has stuck with me ever since.

Years ago neighbours worked together and shared the events of their daily lives. And it was not so very long ago when everyone knew everything about every person who lived on their street or in their complex. In smaller communities, everyone knew everyone. But it was due to people requiring the assistance of their neighbours, not just because of the size of the community.

As a society we used to share and borrow. Not everyone could own every implement required to do a job. One might use the neighbours lawnmower and let the neighbour use his chainsaw. Farmers used to use one seeder and assist all farmers in seeding their crops, same for harvesting. Mothers would walk over to the neighbours to borrow a cup of sugar, or get some eggs if they were out and groups of women would gather to can goods or clean a harvest of 60 hens. Then they would gather at another’s place to do the same. When a home or garage was being built the men would all work together, helping each other. And to complete any of these tasks, the people would share the tools and implements they each owned, with each other.

Commercialism has taught us sharing is a bad thing. We are told by advertisers in not so subtle ways, borrowing is the best way to ruin a friendship. You must own your own implements. Why is it that a street of twenty houses has twenty lawnmowers? If we only cut our lawns once every couple weeks, two lawn mowers would certainly be sufficient. Commercials along with the TV shows have demonstrated how the neighbour always breaks it before he returns it, how it comes back worn out, or how it is maybe never returned. We are taught how to mistrust our neighbours and how to refer to the police forces whenever there is any trouble.

Even the telephone services got into the game with the caller ID service. “Oh, it’s your brother in law, he probably just wants to borrow money.” exclaims the woman as they ignore the call. Today we all lock our doors and live in fear of everything and everyone outdoors.

Robert explained the entire structure behind this was the need for the product producers to sell more products. If they could discourage the sharing they could vastly increase their sales. In their efforts they broke down the trust and compassion between the citizens of the community. Two generations of television “programming” taught us to mistrust each other and we now have a social structure which no longer allows for one to simply walk into the neighbours house without a direct invitation.

Only 50 years ago a locked door was considered an affront to decency. If my mother walked to her friends next door and found the door locked she would be worried something was wrong rather than the other way around as it is today. “What’s the door locked for Mrs Ross?”

In those days almost everyone had a loaded gun. It wasn’t something special or deviant. It was just another implement.

The difference was everyone knew everyone else’s business. No one was an island unto themselves. We didn’t call the police every time the neighbour had their music up too loud, we were either at the party or we understood why the party was happening.

And if there was a disturbed person in the community, a psycho we couldn’t trust, everyone knew. If a young woman was having trouble with her child, the other mothers knew and were there to help. If a young man couldn’t keep his temper and began acting out aggressively, the other men were there to keep him in check.

Today we have succumbed to the message of the TV and entertainment mediums. And the outward expression of our compliance to the programming is how we all behave, dress and purchase items to meet the social standing the commercialism has taught us provides our value.

That is the problem. Easy to understand. The solution is much more difficult.

Turning off all the mindless entertainment mediums, including sitcom (situation comedy) TV shows as well as the gaming systems. Stop purchasing beautiful new shiny goods in an effort to prove you are worthwhile, and take the example of the lawnmower to find a way to meet and get to intimately know every single person in your neighbourhood. Then get completely immersed in their lives so much so that when they have a cold, you know about it so you can bring them a bowl of chicken noodle soup. It is the way our society used to function. That was before greed and money became the masters of everything.

Guns have nothing to do with the tragedy in Connecticut. It is not the NRA’s fault. If anyone has blood on their hands it is everyone. We have all conformed to that which we were “Programmed” to conform too. How well do you think it’s working?
Tragedy does trigger awareness
Comment by Amy on 18th December 2012
It is challenging for me to explain exactly how I feel reguarding this most important topic.

I wouldn't say that any of us is to blame, no blame is due imo. I also wouldn't agree that any of us are guilty of anything nor are we spineless.

I would agree that thoughts and spines have been molded by almost inescapable memes that keep us mostly making a living as we are, as that way benefits some quite well. I believe that good intentions were in place with the dawning of our culture and still are. The early people of this culture really felt like everyone should live this way and that it is the right way to live, a better and a more noble way to exist. Many still believe that everyone should live this way.

While it seems like there has been kind of a turning point, where we are witnessing a lot more negative happenings, and anxiety building.
I think that focusing on the positive and all the great things that have been accomplished is a must to help turn the tables again and relieve some of the guilt and anxiety that people feel... then we can get on with understanding and repairing.

In the present, it is extremely difficult to loosen thoughts and bodies to accept a way and a comfort that still feels unaligned, unsure, unimaginable, unsafe...
however you want to call it.

Everyday people are trying to relax and live in more ways their hearts advise... or to protect a heartfelt living.

We only continue the anxiety and judgements in hopes to either bring about choices... or to crush choices.

Anxiety and judgements go with believing we are an authority or that someone else is. Single authority only appears when we are not believing in the heart as the mind takes over and recites the same old memes that have been taught to us for thousands of years.

Some people are impeccable and quite well suited to live this way, but definitely not all 7 billion of us are.

As people feel with their heart that the same old way isn't working that well anymore, the cogs start turning.

When the ones who don't enjoy it feel that they have no choice but to help the ones that do in getting more of what they want, it causes resentment, powerlessness, hate, and a whole range of negative emotions and action. - shootings to the emotional extreme

To resolve, I would say that demonizing and blaming people or certain ways of living takes up way to much energy and is folly. Though, through folly we always learn something. See the aspect of beauty and marvel at what diversity brings, see how many truely enjoy their ways and would not want to give them up for anything. It is within range of intelligence and inventiveness to come up with many more diverse ways to make a living and still fit in to the neighbourhood and surroundings.

Understanding; That action simultaneously relieves any negative feelings, it is empowering. When that happens to people who do enjoy this way of life, instantly a purpose and heartfelt reason arises to start helping the ones who don't to find some ways to get more of what they want too. And when understanding happens to the ones that want to do things differently, things begin to be done differently.

On a side note: I saw in the online dictionary today that the word 'nice' used to mean ignorant. lol!
We are definitely a nice bunch of people who could all really use each others help and understanding. :D

Guns DO kill people
Comment by C. Arnold on 17th December 2012
Sorry but I'm really tired of hearing the NRA propoganda that Americans have the right to bear arms... it's a load of garbage. Also, Merv it sounds like your long remorseful sad story about the downfall of western civilization should just have us all giving up! Times change and we still have to be able to treat each other respectfully and not shoot up schools.

I don't know what the answer is but I do know that guns kill people. Why did this kid's mom have to have a house full of guns including a high powered rifle? Because it was her right and she enjoyed shooting as a hobby! Ok, well now she is dead, was it worth the enjoyment of the hobby? Good for her and her civil rights.

People don't need guns in most cases. Certainly not to the degree that they have them in the USA. How about the rights of everyone else who doesn't want to own guns?
Facilities Safety
Comment by Allan on 17th December 2012
Since Columbine there have been changes to entry/exit security to institutions and workplaces, but even these would be hard pressed to stop the high energy impact of Adam Lancey's semi auto. Sandy Hook Elem. had a basic tempered glass double enclosure foyer monitored by CCTV. You had to be buzzed in through the metal/glass doors. If the foyer had been built with high energy impact resistant materials, he would have to find another way in. This would take time... lifesaving time. All of those classrooms would have been equipped with metal exterior, locking doors with no handles outside. Another hurdle for this man. He could take out windows at ground level, but by that time the first responders/police would be there and lives would be spared. My point in this is that safety codes and the officers who enforce them need to change the requirements for entry/exit security. High energy impact resistant materials for doors, windows, fire escapes, skylights, knee wall enclosures, full wall enclosures already exist. The use of panic rooms in schools and public institutions already exist. Awareness of surroundings needs to be expanded to parking lots, foyers, fields, nearby roads.
It is about assault rifles and who can or cannot own them as well. There really is no good reason to have a high energy assault rifle unless you are a soldier in a war! Just my two cents as well.
So the world talks about guns when it has nothing to do them
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 17th December 2012
What was it? Two hundred years ago? When Henry David Thoreau spoke about the stupid citizens of our society. We teach his writings in University but no one takes the time to implement the teaching.

If I wear a clean suit and tie, shave my face and cut my hair to look like you, all of a sudden you think of me differently. If I live in a home with a nicely trimmed yard and drive a clean relatively new car, I am okay.

Thoreau spent years revealing the foolish value system of our society.

It is as obvious as the citizens of Terrace electing David Pernarowski as their Mayor. He is a relative newcomer to the region, was fired from his Bank Managers Job for mismanagement and the Chamber of Commerce pushed him forward and the Casino funded him.

Why didn’t a man or woman who was born here and knew the region run and win.

More importantly, why didn’t seventy five percent of the citizens of Terrace vote?

Because most everyone has resigned their moral obligations to society.

It is not a guns fault or a knifes fault it is everyone’s fault for refusing to attend to the needs of their community.

Lazy, lazy, lazy.

We all get outraged when this occurs. In a week or two we will all be back to flipping the remote control looking for something else to get excited over.

Generally we all support the decadence of society. We all want more more more, bigger faster better. And if we own it personally we are suddenly somehow a better person.

The missing women’s report released today is no different. Hundreds of women killed and we all casually talk about it without doing something about it. I personally suspect the Police have a lot more to do with it than most know. But this goes against our own psychotic assumption that they serve us in our best interests.

The police are a club. They protect each other, just like the doctors, lawyers and trade unions do. Belonging to these clubs is like the base reptiles we are. We refuse to expose those within our own clubs for our own protection.

And the same goes for the political and Chamber of Commerce circle. Exposing one of our own, alienates ourselves.

And that is exactly what Henry David Thoreau spoke about, that which we thought we were teaching our students about, that which we refuse to honestly accept and honestly address.

We will remain in this state of stupidity until we accept our social status has nothing to do with our possessions, who we dress or how we look. When we retake our authority to look after our communities from the police and the politicians. Each and everyone of us are wholly responsible.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 17th December 2012
I think I said, "It is both." It is not a gun crime but is a crime with a gun. Not just any gun but a semi automatic. The debate must be about both issues, the societal as well as the access to the means of destruction. I'm not shifting blame just expanding the net.
Good points
Comment by Manion Denise on 17th December 2012
I agree with Helmut...who is easier to stop, a deranged person with a gun or a knife?

I know these heinous crimes have happened here as well, not as many people were victimized, but it still happened and neither is better or worse. But in this particular situation in Connecticut, I can't help but wonder, would those guns have been there, in her house, if they had been extremely difficult to obtain or even illegal in the first place? Probably not. I just think it's something for the US to consider. Just my $0.02, good points though from everyone.
It is the same blind refusal as with the bully issue
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 16th December 2012
We as a society will always take the easy way out, shift blame to some other direction and avoid the hard reality. As with the bullying issue which provoked such angst against my writing when I pointed out the source of the problem.

A man beheads another on a greyhound bus, no one stopped him. Lucas Magnotta produces a video of dismembering another. People actually watched it!

The gun is not the problem.

Remember Tabor, Alberta? This was not gun toting America, how about the idiot that killed all the women in Montreal? This is not a gun crime it is a societal crime. We are all equally guilty by supporting the system that admires possessions above character.

As a kid in the 1960's we all played around with rifles, all the time, walked down the street with them; even pretended shooting each other with blanks in the middle of a subdivision, in the middle of Saskatoon. Stupid yes, but no cops ever showed up.

We all knew each other, the parents and the kids.

It is different today because we have all rejected any sense of personal responsibility to; the RCMP, the government, anyone that pretends to be authoritative. We are all (99% of us) a bunch of spineless cowards. It is like we abdicated being a responsible part of each of our communities!

The number of times people write in to this web forum from Terrace who plead that we do not use their name for fear of local retribution is more than just astounding, it is downright embarrassing.

I lower my head in shame for our western society.

We are doomed to repeat the genocidal days of Hitler’s fascist Germany. The brown shirts have been here for years already exerting their sinister insidious powers over our weak spineless spirits. We all know about Harpers stolen majority yet we wait for someone else to tell us, as an authority, that the election was a fraud. If we had any character we would each be attending the Conservative MP offices in each of our communities and making citizens arrests of each and everyone of them.

We cower, expecting the RCMP will help while they shoot our children. How stupidly do we have to display our character?

Our children observe our cowardice. How do we think it affects their developing character?

This is not a gun crime and you can count on it happening again and again until we all take back our individual power - our Response Ability.
I will take issue with you
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 16th December 2012
I will take issue with you on the line, " It is not the weapon, it is the person. " It is both. Imagine a deranged person in a situation with all things being equal. One has a knife and the other a semi-automatic firearm with 100 rounds of ammunition. Which person can create the most carnage? Which person is easier to stop? Which person is easier to disarm by the crowd

The point is that no civilian needs a semi-automatic firearm for any reason let alone be able to own or have easy access to one. If that is what the NRA insists is a "constitutional right, then I for one won't get to upset with a headline that offends them.

The statistics on per capita deaths from guns are higher in the U.S. than in Canada or the U.K.. It is not that much of a leap in logic to suggest that the "rules" that govern ownership of restricted weapons might have something to do with it.

Other than that I share your views on this tragedy.
Another simplistic explaination
Comment by Karen Dedosenco on 16th December 2012
So far I have heard this tragedy, and other mass shootings, explained by:
- condemning the NRA
- the huge number of guns available due to America's "right to bear arms"
- a lack of mental health services
- the amplification by the media leading to copycat shootings
- increasing stresses in our daily lives
- an inability to conform to social norms
- a lack of God in classrooms
- bullying
- a growing consumerism mentality
- a lack of empathy in society

In my opinion the answer is not in just one of these but a combination of some or all of them. And in that way Merv is right, we are all at fault.

Well said!!
Comment by Eric Roy on 16th December 2012
Excellent article!