The killings in Connecticut affected me deeply. And considering it I realize why.
First, I am friends with a colleague who was directly affected. Her grief and that of her family is real.
Second, I dealt with a young man who failed but (seemed?) tried to do something similar. And this young man was very ordinary. Just a typical young man who had access to high powered weapons and who one day started shooting people. One died but many more could have.
Was he evil incarnate? Was this original sin or some possession by a demon? Was this ordinary young man in fact somehow extraordinary?
No, or at least if Satan was at work it was more indirect than simple possession. As for the young man being extraordinary I suppose in a sense he was - the number of those who kill is vanishingly small. But in another, more significant, sense he was not - and that made me think about today's killings.
The young man who killed so many today was likely very ordinary. I doubt he was obviously odd or creepy or radically different from other young men of his time and place. He probably did nothing out of the ordinary until today - and so could not have been stopped because there was no sign he needed to be stopped.
Some killers are obviously and visibly wicked. Robert Pickton springs to mind. But Paul Bernardo was just another guy - and apparently his wife has become a rather ordinary mother to children who know nothing of her past. One thinks of the Nazi death camp guards who came to North America and were auto workers and decent fathers and grandfathers. Ordinary people who did wicked things - evil, brutal and inexplicable things.
This is not to excuse murder. But to prevent it we must come to understand it. And we cannot pretend that killers are always "other". They are the Ordinary Men of Reserve Police Battalion 101. There is some circumstance that allows ordinary people, nay not allows but impels, ordinary people to kill.
And I do not know what that is. I do not understand it. Nor do I know how to control it. That does not justify or excuse the killing - but it does mean we cannot say 'it can't happen here' or even 'it could never be me'. SS Officer Menke was the exception and not the rule - which of us would have stood with the White Rose?
But to practical steps.
My liberal inclination tends to support gun control - but as a twitter reader pointed out Canadian gun laws would not have stopped today's slaughter. The young man I spoke to acted as he did in Canada. And gun massacres have happened in the UK with far stricter gun controls (remember the dreadful Dunblane teddy bear picnic with 16 children shot to death? which did lead to even stricter gun laws in 1997). Still, I cannot see why semi-automatic weapons are lawful - at least slowing down a shooter is worth trying and hunters can manually cycle a weapon. (And why, if media reports are true, the shooter's mother had no less than four guns, including two handguns, is beyond me - maybe if she had been barred from so many she would be alive now?).
But gun control will not eliminate these massacres; at most gun control will limit the scope and frequency (which is valuable). And I am certain stricter laws won't help - generally the shooters want to die, and do die, in a Götterdämmerung.
I wish I knew what would work. I do know we need to try to prevent these abominations - and while perfecting the world is futile trying to make things on earth as they are in heaven (that is fair right and just) is our duty.