Recently at the Christmas party at the Executive Residence in Hartford, Governor Malloy’s chief of staff, Mark Ojakian, carelessly greeted a newspaper editor with the always provocative “How are you?”
The editor replied, “Well, at least I’m not autistic” — a dig at the Malloy administration’s proposal to close the state budget deficit not by asking state employees to give up some of their silly paid holidays, like Columbus Day, but by reducing services to the autistic and mentally ill.
Ojakian cordially accepted the ribbing, but 36 hours later the humor drained out of it and everything else in Connecticut as an autistic young madman committed the horrifying atrocity in Newtown.
The governor now notes a bit apologetically that those social-service cuts were only a suggestion.
Presumably that’s because of growing recognition that the clamor for more “gun control” is short on relevance to what happened in Newtown and to violence generally. While “assault weapons” — rifles that machine-fire bullets with a single pull of the trigger — could be outlawed without impairing gun rights, the rifle used in Newtown was not one of those but a semi-automatic, automatically loading cartridges but requiring a trigger pull for each shot.
And outlawing high-capacity ammunition clips for rifles, such as the clips used by the rifle in Newtown, would diminish firing time by only a couple of seconds, since clips slide in and out easily, as they do for handguns.
That is, whatever adjustments might have been made to the laws on guns and clips, the Newtown killer still would have been carrying an arsenal and been capable of rapid firing.
That pushes the argument toward mental illness, but even some proposals there are ridiculous, like the legislation proposed in Connecticut to empower courts to order mental patients to take medicine. The Newtown killer apparently was not under any medical treatment, and is the state really prepared to assign a court marshal and nurse to the medication of every mentally ill person, or to make untreated mental illness a crime punishable by imprisonment? If so, the Second Amendment is not the only one at risk.
Making mental illness treatment more available might diminish mass murders in general, most being committed by madmen. Background checks and waiting periods for gun purchasers might help too, though they would have made no difference in Newtown, the guns having been obtained with due process and then stolen.
But Connecticut is already the state fourth most restrictive with guns, and it is silly to denounce the “gun lobby” for weakness in gun laws when, with an estimated 300 million firearms in private hands throughout the country, an average of three guns per household, the “gun lobby” is, like it or not, a huge part of the population.
The indignation lately directed at gun manufacturers might better be directed at the glorifiers and profiteers of violence. For as the Newtown killer plotted his crime, television was advertising another Quentin Tarantino movie with commercials showing people being blown apart by guns.
Also being aired were commercials for similarly gory video games. And a popular TV program depicts a post-apocalypse world inhabited mainly by zombies who must be mowed down by the few normal survivors.
While there may be no telling if the Newtown killer’s sickness was fed by such stuff, it can give people sick ideas — and it has been going on for decades.
“We are drowning our youngsters in violence, cynicism, and sadism piped into the living room and even the nursery,” the Oklahoma newspaper publisher Jenkin Lloyd Jones warned 50 years ago. “The grandchildren of the kids who used to weep because the Little Match Girl froze to death now feel cheated if she isn’t slugged, raped, and thrown into a Bessemer converter.”
The country is not going to get many guns back. Could it at least try to get its mind back?
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.