At the time of the Virginia Tech shootings I felt a surge of hopefulness when the students insisted on placing a memorial to the shooter amongst the memorials they set out for all those killed. It was the first time in such an incident that I’d seen that degree of compassion expressed and I hoped it meant a shift in consciousness away from the mentality of judgment and vengeance. I haven’t seen that degree of compassion again in such cases and I’ve been quite saddened by the refusal by everyone concerned to count Nancy Lanza among the victims in Newtown.
If everyone only counted the victims of Sandy Hook I’d note that the gunman wasn’t included in the “26” so often mentioned but I’d kind of get why in this case people couldn’t give him the compassion that the Virginia Tech students showed toward Seung-Hui Cho. But the references are to the Newtown victims and I don’t understand how Nancy Lanza fails to make the list. I’ve seen some nasty comments about it somehow being her fault because she raised him or her fault because she owned guns and taught him to shoot.
I don’t believe in guns and their proliferation and I’d like to see them seriously limited. But I also get that I live in a society governed by laws that grant the right to have guns and that a segment of the society is really into guns. So I accept it as a premise that she had the right to bear arms. I’m also willing to bet that among the gun-mad the majority of parents teach their children how to shoot. The fact that Nancy Lanza owned guns and taught her son to shoot I consider part of the social fabric.
As long as that’s part of our society I don’t see how we can blame someone for living within the law. If it had been a next door neighbor who owned the guns and Lanza broke in and stole the neighbor’s would the neighbor be blamed for the killings? As long as society allows people to collect guns there’s always going to be a place where a kid like Lanza can steal a gun — and no matter how many hoops you create before a gun can be purchased none of them will do the slightest bit of good as long as mentally unbalanced people can steal guns from the collections of those who meet the requirements to buy one.
I don’t think that Nancy Lanza deserved to be shot in her bed by her own son (or anybody else) and I don’t think she deserves to be vilified by the public nor ignored as a victim. I think compassion leaves us a list with at least 27 people on it — if we could bring ourselves to total compassion I think we’d see 28.