Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Strategic Thoughts on Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook Victims, 12/14/12

No reasonable person anywhere on the political spectrum can fail to be appalled by the horrendous shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14 of last year.  This insane crime strikes against the conservatives first principle -- the sanctity of human life.  Nor should it really be a partisan issue.  All voices across the political spectrum are demanding that something must be done.  The slaughter of the innocents cannot go on.  This tragedy represents a spiritual crisis for American civilization.  Our response to his tragedy demands that we approach this topic with compassion, seriousness and prayerfulness.

There are gun control extremists on the left who favor a repeal of the second amendment.  There are NRA extremists on the right who apparently think that our schools should be turned into shooting galleries with armed janitors and teachers.

Social media now allows millions to advertize their compassion for the Sandy Hook victims with the click of a mouse.  They can sign a petition to limit assault weapons or, alternatively, re-affirm their faith in the second amendment.  President Obama has recently signed executive orders limiting gun ownership and more gun control bills will soon be headed for congress.  The only certain effect of this legislation has been unpredcedented demand for guns in the stores.

Commander K.'s favorite gun
Holland and Holland
Where does the Commander stand on these highly-charged emotional issues?  First off, let me declare that I am not an NRA member or even a gun owner.  I do have a rusty sword which I once used to chase off some raccoons that were attacking our garbage cans, but that is the extent of my personal armoury!


Guns, it must be acknowledged, have had a privileged place in American history.  It was not a "strongly worded letter to the Times" that kicked off the American Revolution, but rather a group of Massachusetts farmers and merchants who grabbed their muskets in opposition to King George III at Lexington and Concord ("the shot heard round the world").  Guns allowed settlers to defend themselves from the depredations of Indians on the frontier -- quite often subsidized by foreign governments such as that of King George III (see Cherry Valley massacre http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_Valley_massacre).  Guns allowed the pioneers to tame the West and to defend their property rights.  It was the 2nd amendment that gave black Americans the ability to arm themselves to protect their homes and families from the KKK and enjoy the benefits of the 13th amendment (the passage of which was justly celebrated in Spielberg's Lincoln) that abolished slavery.

King John: Sword-control advocate?
Paul Giamatti / Ironclad
During the Second World War the OSS and the SOE sent masses of guns to French civilians in occupied France hoping to subvert the Nazi occupation.  Hitler, on the other hand, explicitly forbade ownership of guns by Jews in legislation from 1938 http://libertarianstandard.com/2013/01/14/was-hitler-really-anti-gun-control/.  This made the work of the SS in liquidating the Warsaw Jews considerably easier (see Schindler's List, www.amzn.com/B00B0U2SFE).  Tyrants have always opposed gun ownership fearing a restive armed populace.  England's Bad King John would, no doubt, have preferred to have introduced rigid sword-control regulations rather than being bludgeoned by the Barons into signing the Magna Carta which limited his powers.

Founding father Thomas Jefferson was explicit in articulating the case for the second amendment...

"No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms."

"When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

"For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well-organized and armed militia is their best security."

This is why conservatives are so touchy about the Second amendment.  They ask regarding gun control, "Are we really safer because we have restricted the rights of our law abiding fellow citizens to exercise their constitutional rights?"

The Economist, on the other hand, takes the pro gun-control position which is held widely in Europe and now in much of the USA.  In their 12/22/12 edition they wrote with all the subtlety of Piers Morgan...

"If America is ever to confront its obsession with guns, that time is now.  America's murder rate is four times higher than Britain's and six times higher than Germany's.  Only an idiot, or an anti-American bigot prepared ti maintain that Americans are four times more murderous than Britons, could possibly pretend that no connection exists between those figures and the fact that 300m guns are "out there" in the United States, more than one for every adult."

Sounds scary, but is it really true?  According to a 1999 reported in the Daily Mail, "3.6 per cent of the population of England and Wales were victims of violent crime in 1999 - second only to Australia, where the figure was 4.1 per cent.  Scotland had a slightly lower rate of violence, at 3.4 per cent.
In the U.S., only 2 per cent of the population suffered an assault or robbery."

According to a 2009 article titled "UK in Violent Capital of Europe" by the Daily Telegraph, "It means there are over 2,000 crimes recorded per 100,000 population in the UK, making it the most violent place in Europe.  By comparison, America has an estimated rate of 466 violent crimes per 100,000 population." (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/5712573/UK-is-violent-crime-capital-of-Europe.html)  Yet we do not read in The Economist about Britons being 4X more violent than their American cousins?  Could it be that the presence of guns in the USA and an armed police force has a deterrent value with regard to violent crime?

London, for example, may not be as safe as it first appears.  In 2011 actor Sean Bean was "shanked" by an attacker with broken glass outside a pub in Camden.  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20071083-10391698/sean-bean-stabbed-in-london-bar-fight/.

Meanwhile, a decorated SAS officer, Danny Nightingale, who had committed no other crime was courtmartialed and sentenced to 18 months merely for possession of a trophy pistol given to him by his Iraqi colleagues.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/nov/14/sas-jailed-sniper-travesty-justice

Strict Gun Control in Norway did not prevent psychopath Anders Breivik (see earlier post, Breivik Tortured in Norway, 4/28/12) from murdering 77 people (about 3X more than Sandy Hook) with an Oslo bomb attack and shooting spree on Utoya Island in Norway in 2011.  In fact, the unarmed status of Norwegian law enforcement led to reduced response time and undoubtedly contributed to raising the body count on Utoya.   According to a BBC report, "a two-man local police team reached the lake shore at Utvika first, but chose to wait for better-trained colleagues rather than find a boat and cross to Utoya themselves." http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19241327

In the USA you are now more likely to be killed by a baseball bat, knife or someone's bare hands than with an assault rifle http://www.woai.com/news/local/story/Americans-more-likely-to-be-killed-with-baseball/y2MF56vrQk6YE1hXMriv8A.cspx.

Statewide assault weapons bans had been in place since 1993 in CT prior to Sandy Hook.  According to the AP, "Connecticut passed its own law in 1993. It defined assault weapons and listed semiautomatic firearms that were illegal to sell, transport or possess in the state. It banned future sales of 63 types of military style weapons." http://ctbythenumbers.info/2012/12/15/looking-back-at-connecticuts-assault-weapon-ban/.  These laws on the books written with the best of intents did nothing to stop Adam Lanza that fateful day in Newtown.

Adam Lanza


The Old Testament tells us that "Cain slew Abel".  Common sense tells us that while few individuals would commit a Sandy Hook atrocity, almost all humans are capable of murder in the right circumstances.  The potential for evil that was in Adam Lanza lies in all our hearts.  Empirical observation tells us that young males are the source of most trouble in this world.

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described life as Bellum omnium contra omens -- a war of all against all.

Sigmund Freud, 1865 -1939
In his work Civilization and its Discontents Freud writes...

"The existence of this inclination to aggression, which we can detect in ourselves and justly assume to be present in others, is the factor which disturbs our relations with our neighbor and which forces civilization into such a high expenditure (of energy).  In consequence of this primary mutual hostility of human beings, civilized society is perpetually threatened with disintegration.  The interest of work in common would not hold it together; instinctual passions are stronger than reasonable interests.  Civilization has to use its utmost efforts in order to set limits to man's aggressive instincts and to hod the manifestations of them in check by psychical reaction-formations.  Hence...the restrictions upon sexual life, and hence, too the...commandment to love one's neighbour as oneself -- a commandment which is really justified by the fact that nothing runs so strongly counter to the original nature of man.  Civilization is a process in the service of Eros, whose purpose is to combine single human individuals, and after that families, then races, peoples and nations, into one great unity, the unity of mankind.  Why this has to happen, we do not know; the work of Eros is precisely this...Men are to be libidinally bound to one another...But man's aggressive instinct, the hostility of each against all and of all against each, opposes this programme of civilization.  This aggressive instinct which we have found alongside of Eros and which shares world-dominion with it.  and now, I think, the meaning of evolution of civilisation is no longer obscure to us.  It must present the struggle between Eros and Death, between the instinct of life and the instinct of destruction, as it works out in the human species.  This struggle is what all life essentially consists of."  Quoted from  Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson, 2011.

War represents, of course, the institutionalisation of the Aggressive/Death instinct in young males.  This is why statesmen must be so circumspect with regard to its use.  In the global fervor for competitive sports we see the sublimation of these same instincts.

In his book Civilization: The West and the Rest the historian Niall Ferguson writes, "For the West's most compelling critics today (not least radical Islamists), the Sixties opened the door to a post Freudian anti-civilization, characterized by a hedonistic celebration of the pleasures of the self, a rejection of theology in favour of pornography and renunciation of the Prince of Peace for grotesquely violent films and video games that are best characterised as 'warnography'. Civilization: The West and the Rest, Niall Ferguson, 2011www.amzn.com/0143122061

Adam Lanza was a child of divorced parents who played violent video games; he destroyed his hard drive before going to Sandy Hook elementary  http://now.msn.com/adam-lanza-destroyed-computer-hard-drive-before-attack.

New School Design?

Given that we as a nation are presently constituted, in part, by the Second amendment, and given the reality of the Aggressive/Death instincts of man and young males in particular, what can be done to keep our kids safe?

Regardless, dear reader, of your personal convictions about gun control (here is one take from the right: http://spectator.org/archives/2013/01/16/off-target-gun-control/print), we can, I hope, agree that tangible measures can and must be taken to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

I wrote in an earlier post on George Armstrong Custer (see earlier post, Custer and Little Big Horn, 1/1/13) as follows...

"Over and over again, we Americans are "surprised" by events.  Lincoln and the Northern states were caught off guard by the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and hopelessly unprepared at the start of the US Civil war.  In 1876, Americans were astonished to learn that Custer and all his men had been slaughtered in Montana by a group of 'savage' Indians.  On February 15, 1898 the USS Maine was blown up in Havana harbor killing over 250 crewmen, probably due to Spanish action, (see earlier post, Remember the Maine, but Forget the War Lovers, 2/20/12) providing the spark that would ignite the Spanish-American War.  We were unprepared for war in 1917 when Wilson led the nation into the First World War in spite of the fact that the war had been raging in Europe for nearly three years..  On December 7, 1941 the Japanese achieved operational and strategic surprise in their attack on Pearl Harbor (see earlier post, FDR in London and Pearl Harbor, 12/10/12).  The Honolulu Star-Bulletin had faithfully reported US naval fleet movements and intelligence operatives in the Japanese consulate in Honolulu duly passed the information along to Tokyo (source: At Dawn We Slept, Gordon W. Prange, 1981, www.amzn.com/0140157344).  On 9/11 2001, Al Qaeda managed to bring down the twin towers in New York City and to attack the Pentagon in Washington DC.  On December 14, 2012 we were all "surprised" to learn about the horrific events of Newtown, CT.

Over and over again, we Americans disdain the vital importance of military intelligence and preparedness and underestimate the dangers which confront us."

Custer underestimated his Native American opposition and refused to bring along Gatling guns as these would slow him down.  Custer, dead let in his class at West Point, had admirable qualities, but high intelligence was not among them.

America has had a fundamental mistrust of the function of the Intelligence services.  All too often we just want to stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best.  Just two months after the end of World War II President Truman dissolved our primary Intelligence service -- the OSS (see earlier post Julia and Paul Child and the Cold War, 8/29/12).  Last summer Mitt Romney said, "I just met with the head of MI-6" after meeting with the head of MI-6.

Commander K. and Trajan, Tower Hill, London
Be Vigilant, Be Prepared!
The Roman historian Vegetius wrote, "Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum"--"If you want peace prepare for war."

After the tragedy at Sandy Hook this could be updated to "If you want safe schools, prepare to defend them against attack."  There are so many measures which could be taken to make schools safer that have nothing to do with gun control -- creating choke points, instituting picture ID for parents, installing metal detectors, taking lunatics off the streets and, of course, the presence of trained security guards.  Ask yourself honestly, "As a parent do you feel safe on the days that "Officer Friendly" visits your kids' schools or less safe?"

CCTV should be installed in all school entrances with live monitoring by local law enforcement.

The frightful experience of Breivik on Utoya Island (cited above) suggests that response time matters and armed response is the only decisive counter-measure.  In an under-reported incident that occurred at Clackamas, OR this December, a shooting spree in a mall crowded with holiday shoppers ended with only two fatalities because the shooter was confronted by a citizen carrying a licensed concealed weapon http://newsbusters.org/blogs/tom-blumer/2012/12/16/virtually-unreported-ccw-holder-likely-prevented-larger-clackamas-mall-d.  Let's also not forget that the Sandy Hook incident was finally brought to a conclusion by the intervention of armed police.  All of this suggests 1) that there should be panic buttons placed in the administration offices of schools and 2) that properly trained armed guards or police (not armed janitors, etc.) can make our schools safer.

Others have suggested the issuance of tasers and ballistic blankets to schools http://spectator.org/archives/2012/12/17/preventing-school-massacres.  All reasonable suggestions should be on the table.

To those who argue that such measures are "too expensive," I would suggest that parsimony with regard to our children, our most treasured possessions, is profoundly misplaced.


The lessons of Custer, Pearl Harbor, 9/11 etc. as applied to Sandy Hook, mean that internal as well as external threats must be accurately identified; those who are mentally disturbed and dangerous must be removed from our streets.  We are experiencing a crisis in terms of mental health and a spiritual well-being in our nation exacerbated by the destruction of family values.  Our debased popular culture is making us spiritually ill.  Making our children safer while maintaining our precious hard won freedoms will be a challenge that our civilization cannot shirk.

You can now purchase Commander Kelly's 
first book, America Invades here...www.americainvades.com or on Amazon...www.amzn.com/1940598427


Steve Bilbrey said...

Chris, A great post! You covered all the aspects and concluded it well.

I just talked to a guy who told me any remodeling in New England costal areas require bullet proof glass as hurricane protection to pass code. Maybe that would help our schools.

Too expensive? They said that about making all areas ADA accessible, but we did that effectively.

PM said...

Hi, read the piece on Sandy Hook and believe it is a very measured account. You also included some data I had not seen before. I feel so conflicted as to this dialogue the nation is having. My friend does not believe any of these new proposals will prevent mad, young, white males from securing weapons if murder is their true intent. I tend to agree. And as I said to you weeks ago, why is it the USA has become a cottage industry in creating these sick individuals. The really sad underside to the killing of these innocent children is the highlighting of black on black gun murder in places like Chicago and my home of Boston. VP Biden stated today that if these individuals could not amass so many ammunition clips then possibly a few children might have been spared at Sandy Hook. I believe this statement showed his hand, that the government realizes the uphill battle on any changes to current law. Yet I am supremely disturbed by the number of assault type weapons being purchased as an over reaction to this national dialogue. I was glad that you noted you are not a gun owner, it gives your words more credence. My friend learned how to shoot in the military and I have to say I enjoyed going out to the desert in AZ target shooting with him. Yet we do not own guns and honestly, I wanted him to get one after September 11th as in the weeks after it made me feel comfort that he could shoot someone if god forbid they got in the cockpit. But he chose not to. There is no easy answer, resolution. Anything I believe we do will largely be symbolic. I work with young children, know what a 6 year old looks like and it still makes me sick to think of what those children's bodies must have looked like.

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