From The Other Side Of The Bench
By David J. Seidemann, Esq.
There will be investigations, studies, and papers. Courses in universities will incorporate it into curricula. Shrinks will go nuts over it, and criminologists will lecture on it. Books and perhaps a movie or two will be produced—all in an effort to climb inside the mind of a 20-year-old madman who slaughtered 20 children who were so young they had just mastered the English alphabet, and an additional seven adults.
We have heard it all before. “Guns don’t kill, people do.” That might be true, but the fact that a mentally disturbed person had access to a semi-automatic killing machine is reason alone to ban them. Most if not all of these mass shootings are perpetrated by crazy people who, but for access to the gun, would have had to vent their malice in a manner not as destructive.
It’s a gun issue, and a mental-health issue, and a societal tolerance issue which glorifies violence and teaches members of society that there is no society. Rather, the message is disseminated that we are all individuals with the unfettered and unrestricted right to express ourselves in any way we choose, even if it is offensive to mankind, even if it poses a threat to mankind.
He was angry at something or someone, but the murders of his mother, the adults in the school, and the 20 children suggest something deeper than simple hate. The randomness, the slaughter of the most innocent and most defenseless, the killing of those that would pose the least threat to him, suggest to me that he was angry or disillusioned with the concept of innocence, the concept of youth. He was angry or disillusioned with the concept of being carefree and happy. And so he vented his fury at those that were the most carefree and happy, those that were worry-free and those persons who were caring for those that were carefree and worry-free.
The common denominator in most if not all of the mass shootings of late is the level of detachment that the shooters felt with their victims and society. The fact that their detachment manifested itself in such gruesome violence is no doubt connected to the availability of high-powered ammunition and weaponry. So while it is true that the Constitution provides for the right to bear arms, we must now qualify that right. We must restrict who can access those arms and exactly which arms may be possessed. The framers of the Constitution did not envision said right to be absolute.
New legislation coupled with a massive sweep to confiscate those weapons that do the most harm must be a priority. The weapons of mass destruction are on our shores and that’s the war that must be fought now.
The battle must be waged on a different front, as well. Movies, TV shows, and video games that not only display violence but glorify violence must be curbed. Yes, I am aware of the First Amendment, but again, the framers could not have envisioned extending those rights to provide for the destruction of society. We dig holes only to build. We don’t destroy for the sake of destruction itself.
Years ago, when I was practicing criminal law, I represented a young man on an attempted-murder charge. When I asked him after all the proceedings were concluded why he chose a gun to vent his anger, he told me that in all the movies he had seen he never saw the bad guy throw a grapefruit at the victim; it was always a gun that was used.
There are criminals that use guns simply to aid in the commission of their crimes. There are murderers who use guns to settle scores on the street. There are angry and insane persons who use guns to shoot up schools, shopping centers, movie theaters, college campuses, and politicians. And there is a society that heretofore has not effectively dealt with restricting the availability of such weaponry in the hands of the angry, the insane, the young, the criminal.
It is a multi-level approach. Politicians must do their part. Hollywood must do its part. Schools must do their part in reattaching youth to a fabric of society. In the neighborhoods where gun violence is most pronounced, the leaders of those communities must express as much outrage when one of theirs kills one of theirs as they do when a police officer allegedly harms a member of that community.
But the most important place to start is the home. Parents must control what their children are exposed to and, more importantly, must create an environment where children are seen as part of a family structure and a societal structure. This is true even in our insular Jewish community, where we don’t often see this type of violence, because a detachment from family and society, which does occur in our families, can manifest itself in other ways.
On that point, I take this opportunity to co-opt the rest of this article for a personal matter. Last Sunday my family celebrated a wonderful birthday party for my father, may he live and be well. Gathered together were four generations—father, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
We celebrated not only my father’s birthday but his life to date and all of his accomplishments, most notably his efforts along with my mother, may she rest in peace, to teach us the value of belonging to a family and to a larger society.
After my mother passed away some 18 years ago, my father remarried, and together with his new wife, “Savta Judy,” they have continued to this day to model for us the concept of feeling attached to family and community. Well into his eighties he works to mold us, his family, and works for the betterment of the Jewish community where he resides.
His coworkers and friends throughout the years have remarked to him on numerous occasions that they are both surprised and impressed that all eight of his children, as well as his numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, are all constantly in touch with and on good terms with one another. These days that is not something to be taken for granted. These days it is something to be treasured. v
David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.