On September 11, 2001, three passenger planes were deliberately flown by Muslim terrorists into crowded buildings with the intent of killing as many people as possible. Of course, two of the buildings were the Twin Towers, and the third was the Pentagon. When the destruction ended, thousands of people had been killed. Passengers on a fourth hijacked plane attacked the terrorists, and in the ensuing battle for control of the plane, it crashed into a Pennsylvania field, killing all aboard.
A few weeks ago on a major road near my home, two motorcyclists, with a passenger on one of the bikes, were approaching a major intersection when suddenly they were struck from behind by a vehicle driven by a drunk driver. All three on the bikers were killed. A small cross with artificial flowers still stands on the snow-covered grass at the location of the accident.
From the perspective of the resulting carnage, one would assume that these two occurrences have nothing in common. But that would be a false assumption. On 9-11, once the government realized the extent of the threat to airline travel, all planes in flight were directed to land as soon as possible, and all planes still on the ground were prohibited from flying. A few days later, when the threat had been contained, the airline industry was back up and running. Many planes continued to fly pattens that took them over or very near the smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers, while hundreds more did the same near or over the Pentagon and that Pennsylvania field.
There was no outcry from the media or the average citizen that somehow the airlines were insensitive to the survivors of all those who had died in the attacks. No one protested outside the corporate headquarters of Boeing or Lockheed Martin. Americans recognized that the cause of the deaths of thousands was the terrorists, not the inanimate planes or their manufacturers.
As for the motorcyclists, less than a quarter of a mile from the accident, there are two car dealerships. While three people lay mangled on the pavement, these dealerships remained open for business. Here, again, neither the media nor the average citizen complained about the “callousness” of the those selling cars. No one protested outside the corporate headquarter of Toyota or General Motors. The culprit in the death of the three bikers was the drunk driver, not the inanimate car he was driving.
In both cases, the public seemed to be quite rational. But when it comes to a mass shooting, like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary, then rationality takes a back seat to raw emotion.
In the wake of that horrible tragedy, several guns shows were canceled in cities that are geographically near Newtown. For example, in White Plains, New York, the county executive said that a planned gun show would be inappropriate now. This is the same county where gun shows were banned for ten years following the massacre at Columbine. Danbury, Connecticut, ten miles west of Newtown, backed out of a planned gun show. Three other shows scheduled in the Hudson Valley were also cancelled. The police chief in Waterbury, Connecticut, will not issue permits for any gun shows because he is concerned that a gun sold at such a show might be used in a mass shooting. In Saratoga Springs, a gun show organizer has agreed not to show AR-15-type weapons. The city’s public safety commissioner said, “The majority of people wanted these guns out of the city. They don’t want them sold in our city, and I agree. Newtown, Connecticut, is not that far away.” Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania said he would consider banning gun sales on public-owned property.
In the wake of Sandy Hook, I am sure there are other examples of communities that have cancelled gun shows or restricted the kinds of guns displayed. My question is, why is it considered the appropriate thing to do? I could understand a cancellation of a particular gun show if the perpetrator of a heinous mass murder was the owner of a gun business or if the business had illegally sold a weapon to the mass murderer. In such a case, there would be clear complicity. But why should the honest owner of a gun company be punished for the deeds of an evil man? Why is the gun the problem, when the planes and car from my above examples were not? Guns are just as inanimate as those vehicles.
Look, the slaughter of the innocent children and adults at Sandy Hook is an unspeakable crime, and I sympathize with those who suffered such heartbreaking losses. But when horrible things happen, cooler heads must prevail. Blaming the innocent is as unproductive as it is unjust.