Monday, December 17, 2012

Can Evil Be Contained?

Can you stop a lone gunman? Can you stop a sole terrorist? After evil has been released, can you put it back into Pandora’s box?

Some people ask, how could anyone kill innocent children? The truth is, such depraved behavior should not surprise us. Brutality, senseless and premeditated, is universal. It’s been with us since Biblical times (read the story of Dinah and the slaughter her brothers wrought on the helpless, infirm males of Sechem—Genesis 34). Or Pharaoh’s dictate to slay the first born of the Hebrews. Think we’re more humane in our “enlightened” age? Not if you’re familiar with our treatment of Native Americans. Or Africans brought here into slavery. Or if you’ve followed the individual and collective torments afflicted by Hitler, Stalin, Mao and their legions, by Lon Pol, Slobodan Milošević, Yasser Arafat, by drug cartels, Muslim extremists, African warlords who, terrifyingly, arm children only slightly older than those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School, to kill others. 

It’s not an exhaustive list, just an exhausting one as we contemplate how in the name of religion or nationalism or some –ism that is meaningless to most everyone else, carnage is condoned and, given technological advances, made more efficient with weaponry available to almost anyone, a “modern convenience” unimaginable just decades ago. 

Adam Lanza, by increasing accounts, was a troubled young man who should not have had access to guns, let alone the firepower his mother stored in their home. Adam was not able to conquer our most basic instinct to harm, to inflict superiority over another. Restrictive gun laws won’t prevent another tragedy, though the frequency of incidents might be diminished. They will happen. Too many guns already are out there. Too many unstable males (have you noticed these shootings are never perpetrated by females?) are not supervised and can easily get their hands on guns. It’s ironic that 17 years ago the State of Connecticut shut down a mental health facility, Fairfield Hills State Hospital, that might have housed Adam Lanza in the very community he has shaken to its core, Newtown. 

Israel has shown that while all terrorist action cannot be eradicated a pro-active approach to security can shield citizens from most danger in public places. Perhaps an answer for our school systems, at least for grades K-12, is to have single-entry facilities monitored by an armed guard. Yes, it would be costly (my guess is $50,000 per school building). But would it be more onerous than having to live through another massacre? Are we saying we are prepared to live by an actuary’s calculations that it’s more cost efficient to endure another mass murder than staff a security guard who most likely will never have to engage his protective skills?

The solution is not foolproof. Several times a week I walk into our local high school on my way to instruct students in the English as Second Language study hall. There’s a security desk outside the administrative offices. Once, maybe twice, I have been stopped by the guards. We’re just too trusting a society; 99.99% of the time, it makes no difference. But all it takes for disaster to strike is for the .01% to sneak through carrying a semi-automatic gun stocked with an oversized ammunition clip. 

The gun lobby believes armed deterrence is an answer. It believes all adults should carry weapons, even concealed guns, even on school grounds. I prefer letting trained professionals handle security. It should be a service we are all prepared to fund.