What’s wrong with this picture?

Sandy Hook Memorial

Sandy Hook Memorial
Photo by Bbjeter, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

On the one hand:

  • Under our beautiful for spacious skies, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, on December 14, 2012—a horrifying number for one time and one place but apparently not horrifying enough.
  • Guns continue to be among the leading causes of death in the lives of American children and a large number of gun deaths go unreported.
  • From sea to shining sea, there were 23 more mass killings in the year after the massacre at Sandy Hook
  • In our land where purple mountains are majesties, daily and weekend reports of gun deaths of innocent people including children are available to all.  Read and weep.

On the other hand:

  • Although “America the Beautiful” urges Americans to “confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law!” liberty seems to have bamboozled law in Georgia’s new Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 (also known as the “guns everywhere bill”), which will come into effect on July 1, 2014.

This bill, cloaked in the euphemistic language of “defending ourselves,” allows citizens with concealed carry permits , even if they have committed previous gun crimes, to take guns into some bars, churches, school zones, government buildings, and certain parts of airports. Will this make you feel more secure if you live in or travel to Georgia?

The NRA, thrilled with the law, will not be crowning our good with brotherhood; there’s too much innocent blood on their hands.

For further consideration:

Check out this horror story: Just one weekend’s worth of gun shootings.

Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology

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9 Responses to What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    I read the Weekend Gun Report with difficulty because both of my eyes were bugging out in horror over the ghastly number of shootings, most of them from legally owned firearms. How do you put this evil Genie back in its bottle? One way is the slow way: through voting for candidates who believe in gun control. I’m afraid there is no fast way, but I wish more people would speak out against the reckless promotion of gun availability. How can anyone believe that the best way to reduce gun deaths is to make more guns available???

  2. Barbara says:

    Add the hundreds of thousands of grieving family members, and the shooting death statistics become even more sickening.

  3. Erin says:

    The recent events involving the shooting in Isla Vista led me to return to this post. It has been over a year later and these tragic events are still continuing to happen far too often. Similarly to many tragic experiences, gun enthusiast and certain government officials claim that the problem lies in these individuals rather than the institutions that allow the power of guns to be abused. These excuses reminded me of the discussion presented in an article written by Soldz (2011), “Fighting torture and psychological complicity”. In this article Soldz comments on the tendency of the APA and other government institutions to blame the horrific events at Abu Ghraib on what they referred to as a “few bad apples” (p. 4). Today, institutions and organizations such as the NRA are using these same excuses to prevent change and simply blame individuals. Often times in these shootings, the first thing researched is whether or not the shooter was mentally unstable. Often times the media and gun enthusiasts are able to find some sort of mental instability that allows them to place the individual entirely at fault. However, the high consistency of these shootings are making this explanation less and less acceptable. The second thing investigators look for the most is what sort of justification the shooter may have had for committing the horrid crime. Even a year later, the motive and reasons behind the Sandy Hook shooting are still questioned and discussed. People have this incessant need to understand the justification behind every action even if there may not be one. In an article written by Trosky, Malley-Morrison, and Cantrell,(2013) the concept of justification is discussed as a method of not only helping others to understand motives but to help the individual themselves avoid internal conflict (p. 2). The recent shooting at UCSB is a prime example of justification as the shooter left a document and a video explaining the reasoning behind his actions. In his mind, he left this evidence in hopes of helping people to see that his actions may have been justified because of the treatment he received from girls. The shooter describes girls as horrible beings that have mistreated him his whole life by rejecting him and not having sex with him. Albert Bandura states that these mechanisms such as dehumanization and blaming the victim when combined with justification leads to harmful behavior (Trosky, Malley-Morrison, Cantrell, 2013, p. 2). It is not just a “few bad apples” that are capable of abusing power given to them through different institutions, but it is anyone capable of blaming a victim and justifying their horrific actions. Allowing more people to carry guns as a means of self-defense may only lead to more situations where people feel justified in hurting themselves or others.

    Soldz, S. (2011). Fighting torture and psychological complicity. Peace Review: A journal of Social Justice.

    Trosky, A., Malley-Morrison, K., & Cantrell, C. (2013). Justification. In (T. Teo, Ed.) Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, SpringerReference.

  4. Sarah Noyes says:

    “A massacre is defined here, following the dictionary definition, as the indiscriminate, merciless killing of a number of human beings (Neufeldt & Guralnik, 1997).” This definition was quoted in Sternberg’s piece “A Duplex Theory of Hate: Development and Application to Terrorism, Massacres, and Genocide”. I thought about this blog post while reading the Sternberg article. It talks about motive and reason for doing evil and I thought about how people automatically assume a person who did evil had some type of mental disorder or something along those lines. I thought about this concerning the recent mass killings. “Her conclusion was that what was fright- ening about Eichmann was not how unusual or how monstrous he was, but rather how ordinary he was” quoted in the Sternberg article, Arendt said about Eichmann and his actions in World War II. Obviously actions taken in war and in random mass shootings are very different, but I think there is some room for comparison.
    There are so many things we blame for the reason these horrifying events such as mass killings keep happening and Sternberg explores some of these reasons. He went into great detail about the roles and theories of hate on Terrorism, Massacres, and Genocides. He also mentioned the role of the moral imperative and the role of evil. What I found interesting was when he spoke of the role of evil. He talked about the Milgram obedience experiments and how that may not be completely valid in situations like World War II. I got to thinking; can this experiment help explain events such as the Massacre at Sandy Hook? He mentions Staub and Baumeister and their work, I think that some of what Staub has to say is relevant and important. Staub suggested that “-people are particularly susceptible to mass kill- ing when they experience difficult life condi- tions and when bystanders passively watch in the wings” and “-at the extreme, they may engage in a kind of ‘moral exclusion’.” The thought of “moral exclusion” seems to be extremely relevant in situations such as these.
    Sternberg also talked about all the different types of “storys”, and in the case of the Sandy Hook Massacre I think of the Thwarter-destroyer-of-destiny story; “a group may be massacred because they are blocking a goal of an individual or group.” I do not think we can say for certain what the goal Adam Lanza had that day, but I do believe he didn’t intend to kill specific children.
    The major question I have is why do these horrible events keep happening? Although this blog post mostly talks about gun violence and laws which are major contributors to my question, we have found that those are just some of the aspects. There are so many contributions and Sternberg does a great job exploring explanations in a more psychological way.

  5. Celeste H. says:

    We are in the midst of a war on our soil. It is shocking that the Sandy Hook Massacre in addition to the 23 mass killings to follow did not bring enough bloodshed to convince Americans to make changes about our gun and weapon laws. Instead, it appears that we have seen more and more support for our individual liberties, our right to carry, and even hide deadly weapons. What will it take to show Americans the consequences of our culture immersed in guns and violence? Are we really willing to sacrifice the lives of our children in order to support our gun habits?
    Yet, it seems that we are use to violence with our children. Sometimes this violence is even perpetrated by children themselves. Our culture of violence has seemed to find its way into the lives of our children as well. Sibling abuse, and child maltreatment of parents is a serious problem in the United States, though under researched. In fact, one of the most common forms of physical violence in families is sibling maltreatment. The 1975 National Family Violence Survey found that 80% of children had committed an act of violence against their siblings in the previous year. In addition, teenagers are the most likely to inflict injuries on their parents, the NFVS found that 10% of teenagers committed a violent act towards their children. These behavior bring with it huge consequences besides just the physical damage, it can cause constant fear and stress in parents and anxiety. In addition, child maltreatment of parents can cause financial and social issues within a family. Perhaps by bringing these issues to the public eye, we can see increased support for decreasing violence in our families and not excuse abusive behaviors just because they take place within a family or are perpetrated by a child.

  6. Michaela Buckley says:

    The presence of guns in society as it is scares me, so the thought of citizens, especially citizens who have committed previous gun crimes, carrying around concealed weapons in public terrifies me. The scariest part of the Safe Carry Protection Act for me is that our country is violent enough already; I can not imagine how adding more guns into public domains could help solve anything. I especially do not see how increased gun allowance could help cases of domestic violence. Violence perpetrated by children, for example, is not all that uncommon in America. Severe violence among siblings occurs at a rate of about 53% of children. Siblings killing siblings actually account for a full 5.9% of murders between family members.

    Additionally, a 1975 study showed that 90 out of every 1000 children aged 3-9 committed a severely violent act towards their parents, meaning an act with a high likelihood of causing injury. If children’s parents continue to access guns so easily, it would not take much for those guns to find their way into the hands of children. If these guns end up in the hands of already abusive children, the results could be deadly. As it is, there are few services available for children who are violent towards their parents. Victims of sibling abuse also lack adequate services, since the issue is not widely recognized. If these children access guns, it may be too late to help.

    Adult perpetrated abuse is also far too common within the home. When guns are introduced into these domestic fights, the results are often deadly. Millions of children are being maltreated each year without receiving any help or recognition, meaning that outsiders may see no risk for harm within these families and yet the risk is enormous. Are we okay trusting these families with easy access to guns? As it is, about 2.34 per every 100,000 children die as a result of maltreatment. We shouldn’t let it be any more. Understandably, children who are physically maltreated tend to grow up to be much more violent. With American families displaying these unnaturally high rates of family violence, it just does not make sense increase gun access. If anything, we should be scaling back currently leniencies with weapon accessibility.

  7. Jyothi Nair says:

    Sandy Hook was a terrible, terrible tragedy and was the one event that really opened America’s eyes to our culture of violence. The movie theater shooting in Colorado further confirmed our country’s growing acceptance of violence and lack of proper gun control. I am shocked that the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 was passed and that no one saw the potential awful consequences that could come of it. Churches, school zones, government buildings, and airports are supposed to be some of the safest places in our society and introducing guns into these environments is unbelievable. Furthermore, taking a gun into a bar does not seem like the safest idea to me for obvious reasons. Everyone, adults and children, commit violence and I think that the passage of this act will only make it worse.

    It starts at home. Corporal punishment has been the “norm” for quite some time now. Decades ago, it was not only acceptable, but encouraged, for the male of the household to administer corporal punishment in order to discipline his children. While the numbers have certainly gone down in recent times it is still considered okay to do by over half of the country. However, it’s been said that corporal punishment is not an effective strategy because it doesn’t teach children new behavior or what to do in place of the problem behavior (H&MM, 7). And when corporal punishment is present, it can easily escalate into more severe forms of maltreatment; two thirds of cases of physical abuse began as corporal punishment (H&MM, 6). In 2010, there were a reported 121,380 children physically abused by their parents (H&MM, 37).

    Our culture of violence has even gone as far as children are now perpetrating abuse against their own parents. In 1975, 180 out of every 1,000 children aged 3-17 committed a violent act towards their parents in the previous year and 90 out of every 1,000 children aged 3-17 committed a severely violent act (H&MM, 341). If children and parents are able to wield guns casually in society, this might enable them to do more harm to those around them.

  8. Se June Han says:

    The whole country is shocked to tears and action when we hear about mass killings, but when it involves the children more so. There has been so many shootings in schools that it is no surprise that people are shouting for reform and change. The people closest to children in age and able to speak up to make a formidable force of change are college students. Students are directly linked with these young abuse victims and are abused themselves so in a perfect place to do something about it.
    College students are as abused as the children in the mass shootings that we see in the news. The children who were abused grow up to be the college students as 50% experience some form of sexual assault in childhood. Then, furthermore, they are put in college environments that promote heavy drinking and sexual activity while drinking with peer groups that approve of rape. These students go through the very troubles that children had gone through and understand the situation the most. They understand the hypermasculinity, anger and hostility that students go through and how to control it to make a safer place to live. The college environment encourages concealment of assault and abuse but maltreatment for college students and children have to be brought to light.
    The ones that can represent the children the most are not parents but college students who live in the similar generation and understand the troubles and situation the best. They are also the ones who have power to make a meaningful change and must act.

  9. Christine C. says:

    The tragedy at Sandy Hook and the numerous mass killings that followed are few of many incomprehensible acts of violence that tear through our nation. The loss of so many children really shook Americans to their cores. Although we live in such a violent and gun based society, seeing children who were in school rather than in trouble on the streets struck a chord. Yet, states continue to pass acts like the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 to further promote and enable citizens to be armed and dangerous in places that we consider to be safe.

    The fascination with violence and the power men derive from owning and wielding guns is similar to men who gain power over their partners. A man who feels insecure or powerless may just need to go to the local gun store to buy power that fits in the palm of his hand. It is the men who feel powerless who use psychological, physical, and sexual violence to gain power over their intimate partners. A reason that some men seek power is because they are poor, have a low occupational status, or have a low educational status. Rather than coming to terms with personal inequities or looking for a positive way to change, men fall back on violence as a way to cope. These men overpower their partners with multiple forms of violence, such as a combination of physical and sexual, instead. If a woman leaves a man who is abusing her, this is the time she is most vulnerable of being hurt or killed. So, imagine a situation where a man felt powerless, was violent towards his partner, bought a gun, and his partner told him she was leaving…do you anticipate a happy ending to that story? Gun violence is a serious issue in our country and every life taken by a gun is a tragedy. All statistics and Information from Family Violence in the United States Defining, Understanding, and Combating Abuse.

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