Sandy Hook Shootings: the Un-Reality of Violence

Edna Buchanan, crime reporter retired, journalist, author, Pulitzer Prise winner.

In one of the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Edna Buchanan‘s books she (The Corpse had a Familiar Face, Vice, et al) wrote about a shootout at one of Miami‘s larger shopping malls in the 80’s. “The only people who screamed and ducked for cover were the cops. Everyone else thought that an episode of Miami Vice was being filmed.”

Therein lays the problem with violence in real life versus violence in “reel” life. Despite the bleeding hearts of the world who still scream to the rafters that television and films are too violent and that Mr and Mrs Joe Citizen and their offspring are becoming anesthetized to the effects of violence, I argue that the reverse is true.

Very few directors in this day and age have the cojones to show just how sickening, and let’s face shocking, real violence is. Real violence is painful, bloody, sudden, and sometimes, final. In real life no one is blasted off their feet by being shot or hurled backward (or forward) by the force of the  bullet striking their body. Buckets of blood do not flow when they are stabbed unless the person doing the stabbing has twisted the blade when withdrawing it.

Real violence takes modern men, women and children aback. It throws them off-balance and they do not know how to react. In this modern-day and age of “civilised” society where everyone is given benefit of the doubt and bad guys/gals are dealt with by the legal system, people have become sheep (aka victims) of a great lie.

That someone else will protect you.

My daughter and I were discussing the Sandy Hook shootings. It is not often that we both, Meg and I, share pretty much the same epiphany but this was one of those moments.

Looking at me over her scrambled eggs and toast she said, “It looks like only one person tried to stop the kid from shooting.” I thought about this and while trying to come up with a suitable response, she finished with, “And there is nothing in the news about the shooter except a name, Adam Lanza. No one seems to know anything about him. Don’t you find that odd?”

I do and I don’t.

The world is full of people who have fallen through the cracks of everyday society. Home schooling, the internet, the “new” version of the nuclear family all make insulation an easy lifestyle to maintain. What is odd is that this 20 year-old nut did not have a traceable history (there wasn’t even a photo of the guy in his yearbook) and he doesn’t appear on any social networks either.

What we do know is Mom was a gun enthusiast and she regularly took her boys to the shooting range to improve their aim. These trips proved to have fatal consequences for not only the adults and children Adam killed, but for her as well as it appears she was his first victim on the 14th of December 2012.

But my post is not about Adam Lanza so much as it is about the adult’s reaction to him. This skinny social inept – he allegedly had Aspergers syndrome – who, despite his guns, was not physically threatening. This was no Rambo-like warrior. This was an almost anorexic looking kid in combat fatigues who was armed.

*I would just like to point out here that the guns used by Lanza and the one found in his car all belonged to Momma Lanza and not Adam. He tried to unsuccessfully buy a gun and was denied the privilege. The point being that folks that want to use guns to kill don’t have to own them, they just have to have them; legally or illegally. So gun control lobbyist’s just chew on this fact for a while.*

What concerns me is that only one person tried to stop Lanza, the vice principal if I remember correctly, but it doesn’t matter who it was. What matters is it appears that only one individual realised that this was real. Real enough to be acted against and not just reacted to.

I have worked for the last ten years as a prison officer in the United Kingdom. I have seen violence first hand over that time. Nothing lethal, thank God, but pretty gruesome. Prison officers react quickly to threat and to violent action. We have to, it’s part of our job. What is not part of our job is recognising that a threat exists and keeping an eye on it. We try to intervene as quickly as possible to prevent more people getting hurt.

Policemen and women do the same thing, but in the civilian environment and with a lot more lethal results and weapons. The worst “weapon” I’ve seen in action was batteries in a sock that could possibly kill someone and definitely gave someone a concussion.

But the point I am trying to make is that your average person has no “awareness” of threat nor do they have the presence of mind to react assertively in the face of that threat. People now rely too much on having someone else act for them. After all, that’s what the police are for, right?

Wrong.

Police, as they themselves will tell you, are an after the fact organisation. The police will gladly tell you that there is no way in hell (my emphasis not theirs) that they are able to protect everyone. But people want to believe that in this civilised modern world that we live in, the police can and do “protect and serve.”

But we need to face the facts that unless the cops are right there when the threat presents itself, they will not be able to respond quickly enough to save anyone.

I am not saying that the answer lay with more firearms being available to more people or even that folks should start strapping gun belts on before they leave the house.

I am saying that people need to be more aware and less “politically sensitive” to others. The question everyone should be asking is this, “How in the world did this skinny 20 year-old madman get into the school to begin with?” I am not pointing a finger of blame at anyone here. The point is that no one apparently felt that something was wrong until the young man began shooting.

No one, apparently, noticed that this guy did not belong. No one was aware.

I raised my daughter to always be aware of her surroundings. Not only that but to be aware of people who did not “feel” right; that person that you pass on the sidewalk or hallway who is giving off “bad” or “not normal” vibes. The place where bushes or trees are too close to the road or path you are on; a place just perfect to get mugged or worse.

I am not saying be paranoid, but be aware. I’ve lived for over 54 years and a good portion of those I was aware of what was going on around me. I have been in strange cities all over the world and walked alone through a lot of dodgy places and not once have I had something bad happen as a result.

I have been lucky, I know that, but I have also been aware. I would also, I like to think, have tried to stop the young man.

I was trained, along with other prison officers, how to disarm someone with a knife or a gun (although the instructors always went to great pains to explain that no one is faster than a bullet) so that other people, and of course yourself, would not be hurt. I’ve never had to do either and probably never will.

But with modern societies focus on law and order and the breeding of a generation of sheep leads me to believe that the reason that more of these mass shootings (mass murders) are happening more often is because of the lack of response by those being threatened or killed. I am not talking about children here I am talking about responsible adults.

Have we lost the ability to recognise real violence and death? Like the citizenry that Edna Buchanan talks about at the Miami mall shootings, do we view all violence as a film scenario? When we hear a gunshot (providing we even realise a gun has been fired) do we automatically look for the cameras and the film crew?

Have we become so “cowed” by the sight of blood and death that we cannot react to stop the violence? I don’t mean to imply that everyone needs to have a “have-a-go-hero” attitude and be a John McClane. Sandy Hook elementary had heroes, one of which quickly hid her charges in a closet and lied to the gunman about where they were.

It would be nice to think that everyone could or would be so quick-witted. But most people when interviewed after the fact all say that the violence and death did not feel real. Sadly due to the cinematic style of violence in the movies real violence, that is still painful and bloody, is not cinematic. It is harder to recognise because it is, compared to its celluloid cousin, quite low-key and not put through a Dolby sound system.

But we must not let ourselves believe the lie that others will protect us and our families. We are just as responsible and more importantly we are probably closer to the violence when it is happening.

I know that gun control will rear its ugly head again and the NRA and the anti-gun crowd will go to battle stations once again. On Twitter some idiot from the UK said, “We outlawed handguns after our school massacre and have had no more mass shootings since.” Besides sounding like a pompous prig, this fine chap also forgot to mention the several victims in Cumbria, Wales (part of the United Kingdom) shot to death in 2010 or injured by a 52 year-old taxi driver who shot innocents with a legal shotgun.

A bit of news for you mate, a shotgun is not a handgun, all right?

The lesson that could be learned is that we need to be not only more aware, but to be more active in trying to stop the violence. I know that before I trained and worked as a prison officer, I always had the attitude that if someone was trying to hurt or kill me or someone around me, I would try to stop them. Failing that? I’d at least have slowed ’em down a bit and given someone else a chance to get away.

I pray that I never have a chance to find out if I really would or could react quickly enough to try. Of course I also pray that people start realizing that they themselves are the first person responsible for stopping the violence and for protecting themselves.

And like the NRA like to say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” True enough, but guns (besides being a damned good deterrent) are made to kill. But if someone wants to kill badly enough, they don’t need a gun. Hell a golf club can be used to kill someone and you’ll need to “get up close and personal” to do it.

Let’s leave the gun issue out of it, shall we? Let’s concentrate on being more aware.

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