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Tim Bissell Tim Bissell
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Meaning in Tragedy

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When blame does no good

I live in Maine. Not only do I live here but I also grew up in its rural parts and, as a citizen of the farm town of Corinth for a good chunk of my life, I understand that people around these parts absolutely love the rights the Second Amendment guarantees them. Most of my classmates were hunters, so I understand the culture that revolves around Mainers and the guns they love. These are a passionate, hearty people and I have nothing against them exercising their constitutional right to bear arms.

I also understand that the nature of this piece may upset these well-armed folks, so I'm going to throw out the disclaimer that this has nothing to do with them. Yet it has everything to do with an association some of them belong to, so please don't introduce me to the business end of your birdshot-hucking beauties.

That being said: Screw you, NRA.

There's no doubt that the National Rifle Association would be under the gun, so to speak, after what happened in Newtown quite honestly, I don't blame them when anything terrible like that happens that could jeopardize your livelihood. But when such tragedies occur, it's also a time for carefully measured thoughts and words of caution and comfort.So what did the NRA do? They didn't extol the virtues of better meeting troubled young people's psychological needs. They didn't gently remind teachers and students to be aware of friends that need help. Instead, they took the well-trod path of Joe Lieberman and Leland Yee, and knee-jerked directly toward video games.

Spewing undocumented accusations like an uneducated angry hick, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre made the following statement: 'Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?' You're absolutely right, executive director. If you follow his line of thought, you could argue that when NRA members blow off steam at the gun range after a long day of work, they're mentally crafting thoughts of destroying people. How about police officers and their human-shaped targets? Are those also an aid in preparing our protectors for a massacre? Granted, law enforcement could say it's to prepare them to defend us, but what if one officer in particular gets it in his head that shooting human-like targets aren't enough and wants to cap the real thing?Still, no matter how many times they fire at that target, nothing dies it is part of their training. No matter how many demons I kill in 'Devil May Cry,' no one is hurt. No matter how many slugs enter that fake deer, not a single person sheds a drop of blood it is a game. In the end, most gun-toting, Second Amendment-praising, law-abiding citizens never pull their weapon on another human being, even after hours of perfecting their aim.Why? It's all about the mentality behind the activity.

If you're blind, you shouldn't be given a license to drive. If you have a chronic cough that produces great gobs of phlegm, you shouldn't be making soup at a restaurant. If you have trouble lifting the toilet seat without getting a hernia, you shouldn't enter a strongman competition. It's not hard to see where I'm heading here if you have psychological problems, you should not be handed a gun. And if you have violent tendencies, you should not play violent video games that feed that urge. Parents should look at the ESRB ratings on such games and make the good judgment of not buying your little temper-tantrum machines 'Grand Theft Auto!' Be informed about what's in your kid's entertainment instead of blaming developers for making mature games that are obviously not for children.

And you, Mr. LaPierre, know that I don't despise you. You're more than likely a father, and you reacted in grief that the tool of your favorite hobby was used despicably and in such a cruel manner. You were probably looking for anything to strike. Perhaps you should simply read into what you're saying before you say it in front of a national audience.I cried that day. I read the news and sat in my office and cried. And just when I thought I had it under control, there would be lines of 5- and 6-year-olds getting ready for recess outside my door and I would cry again. The thought that some bastard would outright kill children is so far beyond the boundaries of my reasoning that I can't even process the start of it.

But I don't blame guns. I don't blame video games. I don't blame violent movies. I blame the fact that we as a society refuse to reach out to those that make us uncomfortable and prefer to blame anyone but ourselves for tragedies like this.

Aaron Waite generally writes much happier article than this, I promise.


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