Tragedy in Connecticut

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 | 23 Comments

As we settled in to write today’s post—a lively item about workplace distractions—the news hit: More than two dozen people, including 20 children, had been shot to death at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Suddenly, the topic we were contemplating seemed frivolous and inappropriate. So we turn instead to one that, even while we sit in shock and our hearts are heavy, clearly needs to be discussed: What can we do as a society to stop such senseless gun violence?

Photo credit: Dennis Mojado

Photo credit: Dennis Mojado

Peter Drucker well understood the inherent power of firearms. “The one compelling argument against guns is, of course, that they hurt people,” he wrote.

At the same time, Drucker also understood the immense power of the gun lobby. “The single-cause mass movement does not trade votes,” he noted. “That its cause does not enjoy wide popular support is of no concern to the single-cause pressure group—something neither politicians nor journalists understand as a rule. Polls showing that the great majority of Americans are in favor of gun control . . .  are irrelevant. The candidate who promises to support their cause gets their vote; the candidate who either does not promise to do so or hedges is being opposed. Nothing else counts.”

In the face of this political reality, what can we do? What will we do?

Some fear we might simply bury our heads—yet again. “This is the way that we deal with such incidents in the U.S.—we acknowledge them; we are briefly shocked by them; then we term it impolite to discuss their implications, and to argue about them,” Alex Koppelman wrote in The New Yorker in the immediate aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy, in a piece headlined “The Right Day to Talk About Guns.”

“At some point,” Koppelman added, “we will have to stop putting it off, stop pretending that doing so is the proper, respectful thing. It’s not either. It’s cowardice.”

Drucker, for his part, likewise worried about the all-too-human tendency to avoid confronting the most fraught subjects. “The hard shell of moral callousness may be necessary to survival. Without it we might yield to paralyzing despair,” Drucker observed. “But moral numbness is also a terrible disease of mind and soul, and a terrible danger.” 

What do you think could have prevented today’s mass shooting—or could prevent future ones?

23 Comments

  1. RL Mitchell
    December 14, 2012

    Awareness and capacity to work with anyone suffering mental illness, labeled or not. We need to be able to recognize mental illness when it presents itself in our families and friendships and have effective ways to deal with the person displaying it.

    We need to understand the impact of watching violence on the psyche… post traumatic syndrome may be more prevalent amongst our youth that we imagine, prompted by the violent video games and movies with which they engage. We understand that watching extreme violence, will make us violently ill, the first time… the repetition numbs us. This could be happening to our youth… while we’re ignoring what we know about these issues.

    Reply
    • R Smith
      December 15, 2012

      Well said. As one who has tried to get a family member suffering with mental health issues help, I can say with firsthand knowledge that our legal system is fraught with obstacles. America needs to have the testicular fortitude to address both mental health and gun laws in order to change the path we are on. For those who think taking action on either topic impedes an individual’s rights, what about the rights of those who will continued to be impacted by inaction?

      Reply
  2. Jim Queen
    December 14, 2012

    I simply cannot believe that Peter Drucker would attempt to politicize a tragedy like what’s unfolding in Connecticut and I don’t believe he would want anyone to use his name to that end in the face of grieving parents, friends and relatives.

    Lets grieve with those families, show our respect for their loss and in due time you can lynch the gun manufacturers.

    Reply
    • Andy
      December 14, 2012

      It is not about politics – there are many countries in the world where citizens does not need guns to defend themselves – being a global citizen, I believe gun manufacturers are sharing a similar stage with tobacco manufacturers – both hurts people.
      The fundamental problem is the false sense of security and power when one has a gun in his possession. The tradegy would have been averted or toned down to a lesser degree if gun control would have in place in US.

      Reply
  3. Jim
    December 14, 2012

    I am disgusted by your politicizing this tragedy. You are also misguided and your thinly-veiled assumptions are just plain wrong. The second amendment was written by men far wiser than you, who properly feared the propensity for those in power to seize even more through force. They also recognized the right for people to protect themselves. The facts are that the best deterrent to gun violence against the innocent is for the innocent to own and have access to guns to protect themselves.

    And you say that “some fear that we may bury our heads – once again.” I am not burying my head, I am facing a tragedy like this with clear eyes. You and the writer from the New Yorker are the ones with your heads buried. Why don’t you do some research on Washington DC and the success of their strict gun control laws and get back to us?

    Mexico has extremely tight gun control laws. How is the level of violence there? The only people with guns are the criminals, and they gun down innocent people every day who are unable to protect themselves due to government edict. Oh, and the recent shooting at a high school – do you know how the shooter was stopped? By a teacher who ran out to his car, got his gun, and ran back in to the school to stop the shooter and the killing. Criminals and people with bad intentions have always, and will always get guns to do evil if that is what they are determined to do.

    Reply
  4. Maverick18
    December 14, 2012

    The problem is not guns per se. In a free society of 300 million there are undoubtedly a significant number of unstable and criminally dangerous individuals on the edge of creating tragedies at any time. The ability to identify and do something about them before the tragedy occurs is almost non-existant. Although Peter Drucker never wrote anything about gun control, he was born in Europe when European police forces were trained to spot congenital criminals by means which would violate every US law against profiling. A good question is to what extent ar we willing to relinquish civil rights to facilitate crime prevention? If the Government could monitor everyones e-mail traffic without a warrant (which can by done by automated means) and act on suspicious cases, some tragedies might be averted. But isn’t that exactly the totalitarian environment the Drucker fled?

    Reply
  5. Mike Grayson
    December 14, 2012

    My prayers are with the parents and families of those who were lost in this evil deed. I know that their hearts have been crushed and their lives are forever changed.

    Reply
  6. Mike Grayson
    December 14, 2012

    I dislike the politicizing of this tragedy, but I will answer your question. Gun control laws would not have prevented a tragedy like we saw today. If people in countries with very strong gun control laws want guns, they still get them.

    The only thing that could prevent a tragedy like we had today would be to train our teachers how to protect our children, and use deadly force if necessary. That is the only thing that is guaranteed to work. I’ve trained every member of my family how to use a firearm to protect themselves because the tragedy is nearly always over by the time the police arrive. Sadly, people have to be equipped and trained to protect those in their custody.

    Reply
  7. Rasih
    December 15, 2012

    Being a Drucker Alumni from Germany, who loves America and travels back frequently to visit friends, I am more and more irritated on how more and more irrational this whole “gun-control” discussion in the US becomes.

    Yes, it’s not guns who kill – it’s people. But isn’t the easy access to guns something which opens opportunities to use guns? I see, that since nearly everyone has a gun in the US you have to get one too to protect yourself and your family. America is in a vicious circle – lots of guns provocate more guns. I don’t have an answer what the US society/politics should decide. But in Germany, and all Eurpoean countries, citizens don’t need out and get a gun to protect himself. It’s just not an issue here (yes, we also had some shootings in schools here in Germany and we are very concerned about getting “American conditions” here, too)

    Those, who always refer to the second amendment – that might have been the right decision back then. But times are changing and changing times requiere to re-think attitudes/actions. The question you might ask is “how many more shootings and innocent dead people does America need ?” Well, my answer would be NONE!

    I just can’t imagine how America will continue to live as a free society when parents have to be afraid to send their children to elementary school and ask themselves “will my child be back home safe today?” I just hope that this incident will bring all political parties together and find a joint solution – for the sake of the American children. And the American society.

    P.S. just heard in the German news that the gunmen had “mental problems”. Hope that will not be an excuse to continue and postpone requiered actions.

    Reply
  8. Robert Lang
    December 15, 2012

    Tough call here. I am close to Newtown and have been there many times so I certainly understand the pain and am hoping against hope I do not know anyone involved. But I also remember my late friend Vic Miller who was county commissioner in Blaine County Montana describe Blaine as a county of about 7000+ people with a geographic area almost the size of New Hampshire. If you can imagine that, imagine living there without a gun and calling the sheriff because someone was trying to break into your house and being told help was hours away – who would live there without a gun? Or how about the girl I once dated whose 69 year old mother lived on a small farm in southern Georgia and had a shotgun loaded on the mantle to kill the rattlesnakes that often came right up on the front porch? She always had new pictures of recent kills. We may well be too big for a one size fits all solution. I wish I had an answer to suggest.

    Reply
  9. Mike Harmanos
    December 15, 2012

    Before the crime is committed, before there is the weapon, before there is a shooter committing the act, there is malicious intent. This is driven by emotional anger or mental illness. Either way, we can all agree that is the root cause of senseless violence.

    We can all agree that senseless violence – even on a scale of greater than one person – happens everywhere on Earth.

    Defense of property and person is an inherent right held by the citizen, not by the state, here in the US and is sacrosanct, both by the supremacy of the Constitution and in public opinion. How that is defended is certainly up for analysis and debate, knowing that lawful citizen, criminal, and the state will always find ways to more effectively defend their property and themselves.

    The beauty of our federal system is that the grandmother in southern Georgia will have a set of laws that help her defend against rattlesnakes and that the grandmother in midtown Manhattan will have a different set of laws that do not take into consideration such varmints. (Rats, perhaps?)

    Our society must focus on the nexus between two considerations:
    1. Why, when, and how are weapons of all kinds are used for offensive or attacking purposes? This is somewhat easy because motive is a pillar of modern American jurisprudence (along with means and opportunity)

    2. What is the standard of mental illness that deems certain citizens are ineligible to own firearms? This is not easy at all. Are mild sufferers of depression or low scorers on the autism spectrum ineligible for ownership of all guns? Some guns? What does the science of depression tell us?

    These are not easy answers, but entirely worth the resources of all governments.

    Reply
  10. George L. Williams
    December 15, 2012

    Please Read: ” 20 Little Angels… ” at:
    willigl.blogspot.com (The OWL)

    Reply
  11. Sally Fairman
    December 15, 2012

    We will never agree. That much is clear. Personally, to me, the idea that more guns in more places will solve the problem is counterintuitive. However, if I stop and listen, I can understand the impulse to want to make sure that your loved ones are protected. (I will say that it’s confusing to me though to use this argument against gun control since I don’t think gun control laws would stop credible people from owning guns.) I do not own a gun, and it has never occurred to me to own a gun. Maybe this is because I grew up in a sleepy suburban town in the mid-west during the 60′s and 70′s. Now, I work with young people and families suffering from post traumatic stress because they live in high-crime areas of Los Angeles, such as South LA, and have seen family members and friends killed. Still, it has never occurred to me to buy a gun. As I read the different opinions on this page, I wonder why I have never considered it? Why is it anathema to one person, and the most logical thing in the world to the next? Perhaps if we were a little more curious about each other and tried listen and understand, we would find solutions to this and to many other problems.

    Reply
  12. Alba Patricia Valencia
    December 16, 2012

    I have two observations about this issue. First, we are product our television. The student did not give to opportunity any our heroes to avoid this tragedy. Second, this is one consequence of American Dream. So longed freedom has limit and need more control. I am referring to weapons handling.

    Yo tengo dos observaciones acerca de este asunto. Primero, somos producto de nuestra televisión. El estudiante no le dio oportunidad a ninguno de nuestros héroes de evitar esta tragedia. Segundo, esta es una de las consecuencias del sueño americano. La tan anhelada libertad tiene límites y necesita más control. Estoy haciendo referencia al manejo de armas.

    Reply
  13. Linda Fishman
    December 17, 2012

    As a retired health and public health professional, a few facts and statistics should be noted to understand that mass shootings are a small part of the problem of gun violence in the U.S.

    Rasih, thank you for your view of how Europeans see us. It is true that with a population of 310 million, there are approximately 300 million firearms owned by individuals; however, only 45% of U.S. households own guns at all. I am among the 55% who do not.

    Jim, Robert, there are approximaely 30,000 gun related deaths every year in the U.S. every year. Most of those are not mass murders, they are individual deaths from suicide, murder (most of which are individual ones and the majority within a family or situations where both the shooter and the victim know each other, and accidents). A lot of those deaths happen only because a loaded gun is handy in the home. And guns when used in moments of rage are easier to use and cause more lethal damage than any other weapon. There is a high cost to society of medical care for those who are injured but do not die–some of whom suffer spinal cord or brain injuries and can never work again.

    A suicide happens 4.8 times as often in a household with a gun than in a household without a gun. A homicide happens 2.7 times more often. Those are extremely statistically significant numbers that also can be expressed as 480% and 270% differences.

    Situations where someone anywhere in U.S. effectively uses a gun to protect themselves are exceeedinly rare. Way back around the mid-1970s, I attended a Neighborhood Watch meeting in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles presented by two LAPD officers with combined experience of 35 years. People asked about owning a gun for protection, and the officers advised that anyone considering that should take a course in safety and know how to use the weapn. I then asked them to speak from their combined 35 years of experience and tell us approximately how many times they had encountered suicidie/homicide/accidental death or injury because of a gun in the home versus how many times they had seen an instance of someone successfully protecting him/herself with a gun. They could not even begin to count the former, and the latter was zero.

    The Second Amendment allows any U.S. citizen to legally own and keep a gun in one’s home for use in sport or protection. Sally did not even consider ever buying a gun for protection. Statistically it would put her and her family at risk. If there are children in the home, then the gun should be kept locked away and have saftey locks on it. In order to protect one in an emergency, it needs to be readily available and loaded. It could be taken from her by criminals who are unarmed but then use it against her and her family.
    And the biggest question of all is whether she would be able to use it in a situation of high stress to kill or injure another human being. We have to train young soldiers in the military to do that.

    Quite simply, the U.S. has loses 30,000 people every year to gun deaths because we have too many guns in private hands. The answer also surely is not to have a lot more people able to carry concealed weapons on our streets or in our schools or other public places. We are in the 21st century and not in the 18th or 19th century of the OK corral.

    And just to set the record straight, when I was a child, I went to summer camp for 3-4 years. Riflery was one of the activiities at which I excelled. I still have all my NRA sharpshooter medals. I have never been a member of the NRA, and it is time that their political influence opposing sane and reasonable regulation of firearms be overwhelmed by the majority who take a more scientific approach to these issues.

    Reply
  14. Mark Schilling
    December 17, 2012

    Linda, for a scientific approach I would recommend the work of John Lott. His research shows something in the neighborhood of 2 million times a year when firearms in the hands of private citizens are used to prevent crimes. Most times without shots being fired as just showing the potential perpetrator that you are armed is enough to prevent his criminal behavior. Most of these instances are not reported to police which is why the LAPD you referenced couldn’t speak to that type of gun use. Also, the data from states with more restrictive gun laws are also the states with the highest crime levels. States that allow discrete carry of a handgun, see crime rates drop and do not see a return to the wild west.
    Secondly, no one would be talking of the instrument of these attacks had the murderer at Sandy Hook used a knife, as the individual in China did when slashing 33 kids at a school recently or had he driven them all off a cliff in a school bus. We would all be rightly talking about identifying these individuals and then stopping their behavior as soon as possible as opposed to limiting access to the tool he happened to use. Guns laws, as are all laws, are only obeyed by the law abiding. Criminals or those bent on mayhem do not pay attention to them. As in this case, Connecticut already has a law against owning assault type weapons and agains people under 21 from being able to buy handguns. That didn’t stop this guy. He also tried to buy a rifle a few days before his assault but was turned down so we can say that the system worked until he took/stole the weapons from his Mom.
    It has been suggested that we initiate a type of NTSB analysis of all mass murder incidents in order to pattern the behavior in an effort to prevent repeat events much like every aircraft incident is studied to make some improvement for a better safety record.
    Lastly, the politicians who speak of reasonable gun legislation really seek the means to ban them from civilian society. Sen. Feinstein has said exactly that during past debates in 1994 about the assault weapons ban. That’s why you have the knee jerk reaction to this incident from the liberal press and politicians before the bodies are even removed from the crime scene.
    Let’s have the discussion and let’s work toward a solution that prevents recurrence without penalizing the law abiding, but let’s first let the parents mourn their loss.

    Reply
  15. Linda Fishman
    December 17, 2012

    Mark,

    We are not going to agree except perhaps that citizens have a right to own a firearm and keep it in their home for protection and understand gun safety and the risks when making that decision.

    Statistics don’t lie–just the people who use them, and that could be you or could be me. We each can use and manipulate our statistics to support our positions.

    I have seen personally among people I know who are educated, middle and upper middle class, suicides, attempted murders, accidental death of a child–all almost 40 years ago–not in my own household but close enough–all were gun-related–all responsible people to whom such things don’t happen–just as they aren’t supposed to happen in a small town in CT. I don’t think all three could have been prevented, but I’m pretty sure 2 of the 3 could have if there weren’t a gun in those households.

    I don’t think anyone armed with knives would have killed or injuried very many people before being subdued in any of the recent mass murders in the U.S

    I think we are safer with fewer guns but don’t want to take them away from any responsible person. I do not think anyone except law enforcement or military should have assualt weapons or large magazines., and with 100% background checks and funds to enforce them and keep up the databases. I think those are just sensible and resonponsibe nonpartisan first steps to making us all safer. That is the position of the majority of U.S. citizens.

    No one is preventing any of the families in CT from mourning their losses. My guess is that once they have healed more, some or all of them will speak out for reasonable gun control legislation just as Sarah and Jim Brady have.

    Reply
  16. Mark Schilling
    December 17, 2012

    Linda,

    You are right that numbers can be manipulated to prove a certain point, that’s why you need to delve behind the headline to see the source data, which I do. And you are right in that we will probably not agree on this subject, especially since you refer to the Bradys and suggest that their proposals are “reasonable”.
    Just remember that the school in CT was declared a “gun free zone” and that didn’t make those kids safe. Another way must be found to prevent these crimes besides adding to the estimated 20,000 gun laws already on the books at the local, state and federal level.
    That said, I hope you have a great Holiday Season!

    Reply
  17. Linda Fishman
    December 17, 2012

    Happy Holidays to you too, Mark and to everyone. Public health safety isn’t all about gun deaths and traffic deaths but also about fire prevention. So everybody be careful around candles, fireplaces, and other open flames and about overloading electric circuits and preventing falls from people tripping over extension cords.

    Reply
  18. What Peter Drucker Would Be Reading | The Drucker Exchange | Daily Blog by The Drucker Institute
    December 18, 2012

    [...] of topics, but the most impassioned and contentious (albeit entirely civil) thread concerned our question posed in the wake of last Friday’s horrors: What could have prevented the Newtown shooting? If you haven’t read through the debate, we [...]

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  19. Chris Munshaw-Rodriguez
    December 18, 2012

    In reference to the 22-year old mall shooter in Oregon and the 20-year old shooter at Newton, I have a strong opinion about this and I think there is something to be said about the mental health of guys between 18-24 in America. I’m not trying to downplay the arguments above of gun control or the like, yet I argue there are core elements not being addressed in this demographic that often go ignored. More specifically the guys without any direction, mentors, or father figures in their lives. There are many factors, yet testosterone is naturally increasing at that age, which I believe further compounds the cognitive dissonance of guys seeking sex, money, and social status – of course the main motivators of many men, but the pressure is much greater amongst this subset of guys.

    With that being said… I feel we are quick to assert that keeping guns from getting into the hands of people with mental illness would help solve the problem of gun homicides. The majority of Americans with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. The ones who do stand at only 4 percent (see mental illness and violent crime: http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=96905). According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s E.C.A. study: “drugs and alcohol are more likely to result in violent behavior than mental illness,” yet still we are horrible at predicting who will be violent in the future.

    I argue that a significant cause of young men flying off the handle stems from a lack of purpose and direction in their lives. These are very intelligent men, who if given the opportunity, will move mountains for the simplicity of praise by a man they look up to and a community they admire. There is a reason rites of passages were instilled in traditional cultures. There is something about our makeup as men that we need to have the approval of our peers and elders, along with a culminating challenge that allows it to prove the accomplishment to ourselves. The only rites of passages we have left in the US can be argued: the military, getting married, having a child, religious missions, and graduating from college. I argue these are not true rites of passages. Men no longer have a staging ground to prove our worth that is accepted by society. And we no longer have grandfathers coaching the fathers as they raise their sons.

    I fear that if this demographic isn’t addressed, these violent spillovers will begin to happen not only in distance communities, but also our own local places of work, worship, and play.

    I hope I’m wrong about my assessment, however, I just don’t see it getting better anytime soon.
    I am passionate about this demographic and I welcome any critiques, suggestions, or opinions.

    Respectfully,

    Chris
    [email protected]

    Reply
  20. Eteinne
    December 24, 2012

    @Chris Munshaw-Rodriguez; you have just hit the nail on the head. It is an indictment on us as Fathers that our young adults have emerged out of a youth without direction and purpose. I am an African who recognises that on our continent we too have not provided adequately within the normal bounds of family and community. Instead of politics and policy we should look at repentants and renewal. Lets get accountable for our nations.

    Reply
  21. This Gun’s Not For Hire | The Drucker Exchange | Daily Blog by The Drucker Institute
    April 26, 2013

    [...] Street Journal reported this week that the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, (a tragedy that we wrote about as the event broke last December) were an important factor in this shift. GE is based in [...]

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