Gun Culture in Israel vs. Our Perceptions of Newtown

The unspeakable, unfathomable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has sparked outrage, spun our nation into mourning, and touched off a national debate. As a parent to a 17-year-old girl, we have discussed many tragedies — those that affected us, our family, and friends, as well as those that affect people we do not know and some we will never meet. 

We recently went on vacation. It was a necessary respite after a wonderfully productive but exhausting year. One morning, we found ourselves looking at old photographs at my mother and father’s home. Baby pictures of my daughter and her late father. Photographs of her life without him, beginning at age 2. Photographs of me as a child and young woman, with my parents. Photographs of life’s milestones, soccer games, school plays, best friends, travels to exotic places, hikes in the mountains, and candid moments with people we love.

In our home, lovingly known as Girl HQ, tragedy is always a discussion. My daughter’s recollections of being 5 years old include watching the September 11th attacks happen and the tears shed as I waited for the news of friends and colleagues to come. We received good and bad news that day, and she remembers it well. My work is focused on ending genocide and sexual and gender based violence against women. Ethnic cleansing, sectarian fighting, mass rapes, violent oppression, graft and corruption, life-saving humanitarian aid, and governments with and without competence and compassion. On Friday,  the world was transfixed by the horror unfolding in Newtown. It was a momentary diversion for me, as I was reviewing a new report on war crimes in Darfur, Sudan, and bombings of innocent civilians in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, as well as the ongoing tragedies in Syria, and the  despair in Congo after M23 rebels terrorized the people of Goma and outlying areas. Tragedy and sadness mark families across the globe, every day.

With my work comes a misery index. The suffering the massacre in Newtown caused more than registers. It is a reminder that while we want to believe that love conquers all, we must work to achieve that reality. Love is what binds us together. Fear and hatred are cowardly actors, and with goodness on our side, we will triumph.

The pain associated with our national consciousness because of the shootings in Newtown must be addressed. But pain won’t magically disappear because of legislation, or confiscating guns, or opening hospitals for the mentally ill predisposed to violence in every town in America. More must be done, to be sure. Reasonable measures that accept the reality we have created for ourselves. Better parenting, better engagement on ethics and morality, more Right and Wrong – less Left and Right, would be an excellent place to start. 

Finding answers will be a challenge. For a perspective you may not have read, please take a few moments to read this piece from Tablet, The U. S. Should Emulate Israel’s Gun Culture

This paragraph gives pause:

How, then, to explain Israel’s relatively low rate of gun-related deaths? For Lior Nedivi, an independent firearms examiner in Jerusalem and the co-author of a comprehensive report comparing Israel’s gun laws and culture to that of the United States, the answer lies far from the law books. “An armed society,” Nedivi wrote, quoting the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, “is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” It may be a bit odd to think of Israeli society as polite, but when it comes to guns it is, and for just the reason articulated by Heinlein: When everyone has a gun, guns are no longer seen as talismans by weak, frightened, and unstable men seeking a sense of self-validation, but as killing machines that are to be handled with the utmost caution and care.

For our readers who celebrate Chanukah, I bid you peace and hope you enjoyed your holidays  To my fellow Catholics and Christians, I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas filled with blessings and good cheer. To all, let us hope for clarity and wisdom in ourselves and for our leaders.

  1. Nanda Panjandrum

    Liz, thanks for your insights, commitment – and for joining us on the Audio Meetup.  A blessed and joyous Christmas Season to you and yours!

  2. Elizabeth Blackney
    C

    And to you as well!

  3. Rawls

    I agree. A gun in everyone’s hands, children included.

  4. Franciscus

    “God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.”

  5. Indaba

    Elizabeth, go well and look forward to reading your insights next year.

  6. Israel P.

    We do not “all have guns.” Not even close.

  7. drlorentz

    Thanks for your post and for the link. I especially liked the picture of the girls dancing with rifles. I bet many Americans would be shocked, shocked I say, to see girls with weapons. We can be such wimps sometimes. I often repeat that Heinlein quote.

    Best wishes to all of you this holiday season.