October 15, 2007

Guns Killing People in a Safe Suburban Town With a Mall

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When authorities thwarted 14-year-old Dillon Cossey’s planned massacre at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School, the community of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania—a forgettable Philadelphia suburb best known for its mall—shivered in terror upon realizing its own mortality. The disturbing near-disaster thrust a community who prides itself on proximity (20 minutes from Philadelphia, 90 minutes from both the Pocono Mountains and the Jersey Shore) into active participation in a distant world that previously only existed through their television, observable from the safety of a tender suburban living room. School shootings happen in rural schools filled with buck-hunting evangelists who think psychological issues are for the weak and the sinful, or in city schools filled with the drugged-out, 50 Cent-obsessed descendents of poor rapists and murders, but not in Plymouth Meeting. No, these types of things don’t happen in such a pastoral oasis of sensibility.

But now it seems that unspeakable tragedy was imminent. It appears that if not for Cossey’s inability to keep his mouth shut about his plan, Plymouth Meeting would have transformed from a town with a mall into the contemporary idea of tragedy. It would have become a reference in a litany of essays, a principal example in innumerable arguments.

I ask you now, only days after nearly witnessing my former high school erupt in murder, only days after nearly hearing horror stories of friends dying in the hallways, only days after nearly watching a weepy CNN montage memorializing dead neighbors with images of bloody carnage and crying young girls with tans, should this disturbed young man have been able to bear arms? Along with a cache of pellet guns, swords, and grenades, the kid had a handgun, a rifle, and an assault rifle, all of which were bought for him by his mother. Though the mother is obviously at fault for being crazy enough to buy her son these weapons, the larger issue is whether or not anyone should be able to buy guns in this country.

I can go to a store right now and buy an AK-47; is there not something incredibly disturbing about that?

Allowing people to run around with machine guns in order to maintain the integrity of the Bill of Rights is a sickening display of blind faith. The Second Amendment was drafted in the infancy of our nation and is not just inapplicable to our contemporary nation but detrimental to our contemporary nation. People aren’t keeping muskets in their cupboards in case the government comes and tries to take their land; they are stockpiling assault rifles so they can go out and murder dozens of little kids before anyone can even reach for their cell phone to call 911. Our loyalty to the Constitution is killing thousands of Americans a year.

And for those who want to keep guns legal so that they can fulfill some twisted fetish by murdering defenseless animals, I’m deeply sorry. I know that hunting is a popular hobby in this country but allowing people the pleasure of slaughtering animals at the expense of human lives is unacceptable. Once guns are made illegal, hunters can trap deer and beat them with baseball bats or knife them to death, everyone wins.

The delusional Neanderthals at the National Rifle Association should be charged as accomplices in every gun-related murder since 1871. Their efforts to brainwash millions of people and bully politicians into thinking that anti-gun laws are written by communist traitors have led to hundreds of thousands of murders. The NRA’s motto for demanding widespread firearm availability, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is one of the single dumbest combination of words in the English language. Are you kidding? If I don’t have a gun, the likelihood that I will be able to kill to you is undeniably much lower. Guns kill people. There is no chance that Americans would be killing each other at this high a rate if guns were illegal. You’d have to be crazy to think that there would be the same amount of murders in this country if no one had firearms. Something that can inflict as much damage as a gun has no business being readily available.

I’m all for individual liberty, but giving 300 million people the option to murder each other is not an inalienable right. The idea that not allowing citizens to carry firearms strips them of their rights is vastly overstated. My right to stay alive, my right to not get murdered, supercedes your right to have the option of murdering me. This is a case of putting the right to life behind the right to bear arms. Fewer guns make everyone safer. Banning guns allows for an unfettered pursuit of happiness.

The threat isn’t in the possibility of future massacre; it is in the impossibility of future massacre not occurring under current gun laws. The high volume of deranged adolescents in this country combined with the laughably high availability of guns ensures that it is only a matter of when and where the next massacre will occur.

Our current gun laws assure that no one is safe. No matter if we go to school in an Amish one- room schoolhouse, or an under-funded inner-city school, or a standard suburban school with manicured lawns and high test scores, we live in a constant state of fear. Guns guarantee not just the threat of murder, but murder itself.

I ask you, for what? Why does the government sponsor the slaughter of thousands of its own citizens? Why does the government allow the chilling fear of bloody atrocity to materialize in every corner of the nation it governs?

A high school massacre in suburban Philadelphia, a murderous rampage at a mall in Minnesota, a two- year-old accidentally blowing his head off in Florida, a mother killed by a stray bullet in California—for what?

Tony Manfred is a Sun blogger. He can be contacted at blogs@cornellsun.com.

  • The Author

    I should have said semi-automatic AK-47. I apologize for the lack of specificity.

  • Anonymous

    “I can go to a store right now and buy an AK-47; is there not something incredibly disturbing about that?”

    Nope, in fact the AK is a very nice, quality weapon that is a lot of fun to shoot.

    “People aren’t keeping muskets in their cupboards in case the government comes and tries to take their land; they are stockpiling assault rifles so they can go out and murder dozens of little kids before anyone can even reach for their cell phone to call 911”

    ive never once thought about killing any kid… however i do realize that if someone comes to try to harm my kids, the likelihood is that they can do so long before the cops can get there, so its up to me to defend my family.

    ““Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is one of the single dumbest combination of words in the English language. Are you kidding? If I don’t have a gun, the likelihood that I will be able to kill to you is undeniably much lower. Guns kill people. There is no chance that Americans would be killing each other at this high a rate if guns were illegal.”

    really? its already illegal for felons to own guns and they manage to kill with them just fine… and i state again, my guns have never once killed anyone, let alone even shot at anyone…

    “My right to stay alive, my right to not get murdered, supercedes your right to have the option of murdering me. This is a case of putting the right to life behind the right to bear arms. Fewer guns make everyone safer. Banning guns allows for an unfettered pursuit of happiness.”

    statistics show that you are much more likely to live through a dangerous situation while in the presence of a lawful gun owner than in the presence of other unarmed people… again, my guns have never murdered anyone, but they just might prevent myself or someone else from getting murdered

    “Our current gun laws assure that no one is safe. No matter if we go to school in an Amish one- room schoolhouse, or an under-funded inner-city school, or a standard suburban school with manicured lawns and high test scores, we live in a constant state of fear. Guns guarantee not just the threat of murder, but murder itself.”

    hmmm, so the fact that the people that committed those acts were already prohibited from owning guns, and that those places have big signs out front saying “gun free zone” isnt enough? perhaps having trained, armed people at those places that could defend the kids would work eh?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it can be denied that some of the facts in this article are fantastically erroneous. I would, however, like to point out that a great deal of respect for the constitution went out the window on January 20, 2005. When the vice president makes the claim that he is isn’t part of the executive branch… come on.

  • Anonymous

    So, just to get this straight: You don’t have any problem with the G W Bush administration and the police being the only folks armed? And remember- in the case of the police- they are the folks who set up a display of the kids TOY guns to scare ignorant journalists who don’t know anything about firearms into hysteria.

    Nice job. I’d make different choices, especially about empowering people who blatantly lied to and exploited you.

  • I certainly won’t argue with the assertion that the Constitution has taken a severe beating from the Bush administration, but that does not make Constitution-bashing any more acceptable to me. In fact, the misdeeds of our current administration form a pretty compelling argument for the need to jealously protect our Constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

  • Hemlock

    “The Second Amendment was drafted in the infancy of our nation and is not just inapplicable to our contemporary nation but detrimental to our contemporary nation.”

    Oh really? Well I guess we can just pick our favorite amendments and scrap the rest. Nazi Germany followed this plan in the 30’s and it worked fine for them, didnt it? History not a subject at school anymore?? This is one of the most opinionated(not facts) articles I have ever read. Check facts, then write.

  • RTFA

    Gee, I guess that’s why it’s labeled as a BLOG and not an article. Imagine that!

  • Article or blog, there is nothing wrong with holding the author to some standard of honesty and accuracy. I don’t care if it’s a casual chat among friends–when someone advances blatant falsehoods, he or she should be called on them.

  • Again, RTFA

    What blatant falsehoods did he advance, exactly? He “advanced” his opinion that the right to bear arms in America leads to violent crime. Just because you disagree with something doesn’t give you the right to smear it as a lie.

  • “…giving 300 million people the option to murder each other…”

    That ‘option’ exists whether or not a person owns a gun. Guns, knives, cars, Airliners, swimming pools…just about anything you can imagine can be used to kill someone. Or many someones. A gun is one of the few things that gives a person some self-protection; providing a survival tool when called upon. When calling 9-1-1 is just a bit too slow.

    This child who didn’t do what he wanted to was a victim of Hollywood. Instead of going out of your way, on various limbs and using weak strawman arguments, insulting law-abiding citizens who are as appalled about this near-tragedy as you profess to be (without the hysterically obnoxious writing of course) look to see what got inside this kid’s head and tweaked some settings. You might find our society’s glamorization by Hollywood and video games the true enemy. Remember Columbine? The Matrix Killings? Those two societal losers were glamorized by the Matrix, where every imaginable weapon was used for killing.

    Good cinema? Of course. But these impressionable kids took the wrong impressions.

    So, please, if you must find someone to blame for this near-tragedy (besides the mother and the TV and the Video Games) then take a calm look around you. Start not in my gun-cabinet, but in your own video collection.

  • mjolnir

    This has got to be the single most stupid thing I’ve ever read. It’s not simply that you’re wrong, it’s that you are so unbelievably clueless. You obviously don’t have the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. And your rantings are beyond illogical — they’re irrational to the point of incoherence.

  • I was referring to his repeated statements that an “assault rifle” was involved, when (as has been repeatedly pointed out), the 9mm carbine in the kid’s possession was nothing of the kind.

    He also mentioned that people were using the Second Amendment to buy machine guns (I believe, by the way, that the Second Amendment does guarantee the right for private citizens to buy machine guns, without any bureaucratic hoops, but over seventy years of unconstitutional federal law prevents that)–absolutely untrue.

  • Nomen Nescio

    are you — is the original author, mr. Manfred — of the opinion that if all of america were disarmed, that violent crime would not occur here? that’s an obvious blatant falsehood. it’s so patently obvious that any thinking person capable of operating a computer and composing decent english ought to be able to see why it’s suspect on its face. stating it without some very considerable supporting evidence, when any reasonable adult should realize that supporting evidence is badly needed for an opinion so unusual and strange, could be argued to be either a lie or else intellectual dishonesty on the level of a lie.

    violent crime predates firearms. think back on history; you will find that violent crime predates the invention of any weapon you care to mention, as far back as records have been kept to answer the question. look at societies elsewhere in the world, that are disarmed to a greater or lesser degree than this one is; the levels of violent crime do not rise and fall neatly according to the number of weapons present. poverty seems a better indicator of crime, in fact.

    mr. Manfred does not seem to have thought back on his history, though. he repeatedly implies, does more than imply, that but for guns there would be no murder done in the USA. this position is too childishly naive for me to believe he holds it in earnest; he’s either using deliberate hyperbole, or he must be deluded. people do not work that way, human society does not work that way, and never so far have. don’t misunderstand me, it’d be nice if we could change our nature in this respect. but if there’s any reason at all to believe that uninventing firearms would work that trick, mr. Manfred has not presented it!

    mr. Manfred blatantly implies gun owners wish to, and are preparing to, commit mass slaughter of children. (quote: “they are stockpiling assault rifles so they can go out and murder dozens of little kids before anyone can even reach for their cell phone to call 911”.) that’s not only a lie, it is libelous.

    mr. Manfred also objects to hunting. fair enough; i (though i am not a hunter myself) think that opinion is misguided, but a valid opinion to hold. however, in the next breath Manfred says it would be better if hunters bludgeoned their game to death with baseball bats! i know enough of hunters to know they would all consider this outrageous and insulting, blatantly inhumane, and distressingly violent. if that’s how mr. Manfred really thinks, i must say i’m relieved that he owns no guns.

    in short, there is much in mr. Manfred’s original article that is patently untrue; much that i can’t bring myself to believe Manfred does not know is untrue, or at least that he should have good reason to suspect was untrue if he’d consider it honestly; and several examples of thinking so outlandish and vicious that i must begin to suspect everything else he says. calling the resulting opinion piece a tissue of lies is, frankly, giving mr. Manfred the benefit of the doubt. pretending that he truly, honestly believes such unreasonable things would smear him far worse!

  • KCSteve

    Regarding:
    “Our current gun laws assure that no one is safe. No matter if we go to school in an Amish one- room schoolhouse, or an under-funded inner-city school, or a standard suburban school with manicured lawns and high test scores, we live in a constant state of fear. Guns guarantee not just the threat of murder, but murder itself. (emphasis added)

    Why then, did the incidents you reference take place in Gun Free Zones rather than at, say, The National Matches at Camp Perry, Knob Creek, any gun store in the nation, a police station, military base, or any of the dozens of other places with lots and lots of guns?

    One might almost come to think that the presence of guns in some way deters crime…

  • Molon Labe

    “There is no chance that Americans would be killing each other at this high a rate if guns were illegal.”

    hehehe! Just like there is no drug problem in America, you know, since drugs are illegal and all….

  • Molon Labe

    “There is no chance that Americans would be killing each other at this high a rate if guns were illegal. You’d have to be crazy to think that there would be the same amount of murders in this country if no one had firearms.”

    Right on! Just look at Washington DC. Handguns have been banned there for decades, and rifles and shotguns have to be kept in an inoperable condition when in the home. And look at how safe DC is….oh, wait a minute, it has the highest per capita rate in the Country. Hum……

  • William Levinson, M.Eng. ’82

    The problem is not the Second Amendment, but criminals. The individual in question allegedly broke numerous laws, noting that is illegal for private citizens to own hand grenades. Since these laws did not stop him, why does anyone thing more laws would have done so.

    It is true that you can legally buy an AK-47, but not the machine gun version. It is illegal to purchase any kind of automatic weapon without a special Federal permit that, as I recall, costs $200 and involves a background check. The AK-47 that you can buy is, unlike those carried by many of the world’s armies, capable only of semi-automatic fire.

    While the desirability of allowing private citizens to own grenades and machine guns is indeed arguable, the Second Amendment–as written–was intended to allow citizens to own the most advanced military weapons. The muskets you mention were state of the art weapons, and individuals could even own cannons. If you wonder what a private citizen might want with a crew-served weapon, remember that merchant ships of that era were often attacked by pirates. The Founding Fathers were not, apparently, afraid that some maniac would take his armed merchant ship on a rampage and start firing broadsides into a city.

    Contrary to the statement, “Our current gun laws assure that no one is safe,” regions with high levels of gun ownership are very safe. I don’t worry about leaving my house at night in Pennsylvania, where every other home probably has some kind of firearm. On the other hand, Chicago and Washington DC have strict handgun bans, and their violent crime rates are a lot higher. The United Kingdom, which recently banned handguns while strictly controlling other firearms, is now the most violent industrialized nation on earth.

  • Banning guns in DC is a silly example of the failure of gun-control laws. When anyone can cross into Maryland or Virginia and buy guns, it isn’t exactly hard to procure them.

    Look at England’s murder rate compared to America’s–in England, it’s generally illegal to own a gun. Our rate is about 3 times higher per capita. No, it can’t be because of the guns.

    And that’s a per capita rate–about .042 per 1k versus .014 per 1k people.

    People confuse the right to maintain a militia–the intent of the 1st Amendment–with the right for anyone to have a gun for any purpose they want.

  • 2nd Amendment, not 1st.

  • Anonymous

    i think this guy is totally crazy thinking that all guns are bad no not true we just refuse to be victims of these attacks,guy arming ourselves talk about being blind sorry tony hate the fact there are people in congress that think the same as you