The horror of the massacre in Newtown, Conn. is still fresh, and yet already, there are people out making fools of themselves in its wake.
It’s not particularly surprising that gun fetishists would be resisting calls to consider — just consider — some reasonable changes in gun safety policies. But that’s not what elevates a reaction to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to truly reprehensible. No, the men and women who make this list reached it trough a combination of bigotry, cluelessness and an almost pure lack of empathy for those people grieving sons and daughters and parents in Newtown. Here, without further ado, are the six worst reactions to the killings in Newtown.
6. “My friend Jim Riley posted: ‘Wasn’t the Connecticut killer just doing what abortionists do every day?’” –Former Comic Victoria Jackson
Victoria Jackson, like some other SNL cast members from the mid-80s, has gone full metal wingnut. Still, her anti-abortion post on Facebook was only the start of a series of disturbing, odd and downright disgusting remarks from the formerly famous actor.
Jackson said that Barack Obama was personally responsible for every abortion, and mocked him for shedding a tear when reacting to the news. She also blamed the teaching of evolution, saying, “TV News can’t figure out why all these 20 year olds are murdering. The school system taught them they are animals (evolution) [sic] for the last 20 years. Survival of the fittest. They’re just acting like animals.”
The pièce de résistance, however, was Jackson posting an image of Timothy McVeigh that explained helpfully that domestic terrorist “Timothy McVeigh didn’t use a gun.” So because there are bombs, guns should always be legal, no matter how many people are shot and killed. Well. Okay then!
5. Westboro Baptist Church to Protest
If there’s a tragedy, you can count on the Westboro Baptist “Church” to exploit it in an effort to cash in. The grifting operation that purports to be about rabid and offensive opposition to homosexuality has never met a disaster so awful that they wouldn’t try to get attention by protesting angrily about how it was all caused by our nation’s unwillingness to put gay people to death.
These awful human beings are now, unsurprisingly, going to Newtown to picket the funerals of little kids, in hopes that they’ll be able to sue someone and earn a paycheck. They are protected by the first amendment, which allows them to spew bile and hatred unencumbered by regulations.
This has finally drawn the interest of the anarchist hacker group Anonymous, who have begun hacking and releasing the personal information of Westboro members.
Now, I certainly don’t condone vigilantism. And I think it’s awful when someone’s right to live in privacy is breached. As poetic justice goes, however, I do think it’s pretty clear that Westboro is beginning to reap the whirlwind. Unfortunately, they’ll probably use this as an opportunity to sue someone and make a bit of money.
4. “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should be be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?” –Mike Huckabee
If, like Mike Huckabee, you are a Christian, you may believe that God is everywhere — omnipotent and omniscient, knowing and seeing all that happens on this world. This, however, is not something Mike Huckabee believes. Huckabee evidently believes that if we don’t specifically allow teachers to lead children in Christian prayer in our public schools that God will petulantly stay out of the schools. “Fine,” Huckabee envisions God saying. “If you don’t want me, I won’t come. You’ll be sorry when I don’t stop someone from killing 20 first graders, though.”
Huckabee posits a very small God, one who is willing to let children die because of an insult that has not, in fact, kept God out of schools. Any student is free to pray in school, as long as it doesn’t interfere with class; students can and do set up after-school Bible study groups. Schools simply have to be neutral on such things — they can’t tell a kid praying the rosary that the Pope is a minion of the devil, or tell a kid praying to Jesus that actually, the Muslims are right, or an atheist kid that they’re going to Hell.
Not content merely to stop at the ridiculousness of his original premise, Huckabee expanded the blame to include pretty much anyone left of Michele Bachmann, adding that the shooting was also because of homosexuals and “tax-funded abortion pills,” which don’t actually exist.
Huckabee’s statements echoed one of the worst things ever said by Jerry Falwell. After the 2001 terror attacks, you may recall that Falwell declared that the attacks were due to our nation “throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools,” and allowing abortion to be legal.
“I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America…I point the finger in their face and say you helped this happen,” Falwell said.
Huckabee’s statements are essentially the same as those of Falwell, down to the insistence that God would allow mass killings simply because America, as a nation, isn’t showing God enough respect. Falwell was ultimately forced to apologize for his callous words; time will tell if Huckabee will face the same opprobrium.
3. Gun Sales Rise after Newtown
There is perhaps no sadder response to the Newtown massacre than that of a sizable chunk of gun owners. Most people watching the disaster unfold would be taken aback by the use of weapons. Add to that the fact that the shooter’s late mother was a gun collector and disaster prepper, and you’d think that even people who love guns would wait over the weekend to run out and buy more.
Alas, the opposite is true; gun sales spiked nationwide after the shooting. Why? Because there are signs that this horrible act has galvanized support for a tightening of gun safety laws — and therefore it’s time to go get some assault rifles while the gettin’s good.
This isn’t new — gun sales also rose after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. and the attempted assassination of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
In some ways, it’s understandable, but in others, it’s chilling. Mass shootings represent the worst of what guns can do; while guns are a tool designed to inflict violence, mass killings take that and amplify it to eleven, randomly and horrifically destroying innocent lives simply because someone can. One would think that even gun aficionados would recognize that maybe you don’t really need an assault rifle or an extended magazine. Sadly, it’s very clear that one would be wrong.
2. “I wish to God [the school principal] had had an M4 in her office locked up. So, when she heard gunfire she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas
Of all the bad ideas for how to deal with this catastrophe, putting loaded weapons into schools has to be at the top of the list. As anyone who’s had children, been in a school or interacted with humans knows, kids have a knack for getting into things. When it’s just the construction paper and glue, that’s not a big deal. When it’s a loaded weapon, it can be tragic.
Sure, Gohmert specifies that the gun would be “locked up,” but humans are imperfect, and one slip-up could allow kids access to a deadly weapon. Moreover, the fact that the gun would quite obviously have to be locked up securely would make it less effective as a deterrent than one would hope.
Yes, it’s possible that if Dawn Hochsprung had been armed, she could have taken out the shooter. It’s also possible that she could have taken out a kid by mistake. Surprisingly, most educators do not get into the business to shoot guns. Needless to say, adding an inexperienced shooter with an assault rifle to a situation is unlikely to make it safer for anyone at all.
There’s strong evidence that simply carrying a gun makes you more likely to be shot and killed. Guns rarely result in a deescalation of a situation. Arming the schools isn’t going to make spree shooters go away. It’s just going to add another weapon firing and increase the chance of someone else getting hit in the crossfire.
1. “….” –National Rifle Association
There were many inexcusable reactions to the killings in Newtown, but none was as inexcusable as the non-reaction of the National Rifle Association. The nation’s primary gun lobby went silent on Friday, after tweeting about their 10 Days of Holiday Giveaways. Aside from a terse statement saying they would have no comment, the NRA has made no statement since guns killed 26 people on Friday.
It’s understandable why the NRA doesn’t want to defend assault weapons right now. Still, you’d think they could say something. “We think it’s awful that people died,” for example, is kind of obvious.
The NRA usually does this after mass shootings; they just don’t say anything for a while, and wait for the mess to blow over, before coming back and blathering about how guns actually make everyone safer, and how nobody talks about all the first-graders not killed by gun violence.
The NRA’s silence, however, gives the game away. If the NRA was serious about their argument that more guns mean less crime, you’d expect them to take to the airways in the aftermath of disasters, and — like Rep. Gohmert — argue that we need more guns floating around, and this will make everything better.
The NRA knows better, though. They know darn well that more guns mean more crime, that arming teachers is a bad idea, and that guns may not kill people, but they sure do help people kill people. All of these inconvenient truths interfere with the NRA’s core backers, though — the gun manufacturers. And so, like the tobacco companies before them, the NRA insists that guns are just tools, like butcher’s knives or harpoons or alligators. Essentially harmless.
Deep down though, they know. That’s why they’ve gone silent. They’re cowards who know they can’t really defend the proliferation of military-style weapons, so they simply hope that we as a nation will forget about the horror of children feigning death to avoid the fate visited on everyone else in their classroom. They hope that we’ll all assume that gun interests are too entrenched to change anything. They count on our short attention spans to allow them to pick up their microphones again in a week or two, when they can get back to telling everyone that Obama is coming for their guns.
This strategy has worked well for them in the past. The question for them — and for us — is whether it’s going to work again this time, or whether the NRA, like the tobacco lobby before it, will have to finally answer for their lies.
Image Credit: Donkey Hotey