If there seemed to be too many journalists after Sandy Hook, then at least there were not too few. Michael Daly on how the media’s collective shrug at daily gun violence helped lead us to tragedy.
Yes, curse the media for swarming grief-struck Newtown, but our real sin lies in not having covered other shootings enough, in not doing all we could to keep murderous firepower out of such easy reach.
A man crosses the street on a main road in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., as the strong media presence is seen in the aftermath of the elementary school shooting Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Why didn’t we pour into Newtown last year, when the National Shooting Sports Foundation, headquartered there, successfully blocked a bill in the Connecticut legislature that would have outlawed magazines holding more than 10 rounds?
That simple measure might have at least reduced the body count at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the number of mourners driving past the NSSF’s big white building on the way to funerals for 6- and 7-year-olds.
As I watched a black limousine bearing a grieving family go by with a police escort on Tuesday, I thought back two decades, to a time when four children were killed by stray bullets during a nine-day period in New York. The victims had included a 9-month-old in a walker. None of it had roused more than passing attention from some of us in the local press.
My own daughter, Sinead, not yet in kindergarten, was toddling just ahead of me on a Brooklyn street when an argument between some teens at the corner escalated directly into gunfire.
My impulse was to throw myself on top of her, but the gunfire had already ended. I remember running my hands over her, panicked she had been shot, as relieved as I could ever be when it was clear she had not.
The media's reputation is always a question when big stories break. The Sandy Hook shooting was no different.
We know who gunned down 27 in Newtown. We’ve heard from the shell-shocked residents. So is it time to leave the stricken residents alone? The Daily Beast’s Jesse Wegman, Harry Siegel, Michael Daly, and Christine Pelisek weigh in.
In the aftermath of last week’s massacre of 27 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, reporters from around the country and the world have descended on the small rural town in southwestern Connecticut. The result has been no small amount of conflict between the people who are trying to process the event that has devastated their community and the outsiders who are trying to tell their stories in words and pictures.
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance talks to the media about Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting during a press conference in Newtown, Connecticut, on Saturday, December 15, 2012. (Brad Horrigan/Hartfold Courant/MCT/Getty)
Two Daily Beast editors, Jesse Wegman and Harry Siegel, discuss the issue with two Daily Beast reporters, Michael Daly and Christine Pelisek, both of whom have spent several days on the ground in Newtown over the past week.
Jesse Wegman: It’s only been five days since the horrific school shooting in Newtown, and already the predictable cycle of media self-recrimination is in full bloom. My initial reaction to this sort of hand-wringing is that it is disingenuous. The Sandy Hook massacre is unquestionably the biggest news story in the country—arguably in the world—and it will remain so for days if not weeks to come. What do we do in this business but cover the news, when and where it is happening?
Of course it’s reasonable to talk about practicing basic human decency in this process, especially when the news begins to be less about the immediate facts of a terrible event and more about the aftermath of that event. I agree fully with those who are disgusted by reporters barging into funeral services and sticking their microphones and voice-recorders into mourners’ faces. But I think we can separate our abhorrence of such behavior from our obligation to cover the story as fully and as deeply as possible.
On an emotional level I understand why many residents of Newtown would like the media to leave. They have just experienced perhaps the most awful thing a community can experience, and they are consumed mostly with getting through it, as they should be. They have no obligation to talk to any of us in the press, and I don’t begrudge them their irritation or anger at us. But at the same time, their grief, their anger, the range of their human emotions—all of it is a part of this terrible story. If we declare that we won’t cover this out of “respect” for the grieving families, what are we really saying?
The media's reputation is always a question when big stories break. The Sandy Hook shooting was no different.
I’d much sooner be rid of the checkout-counter paparazzi, who truly produce no news value, than I would tell real working journalists to back off describing every aspect of one of the biggest and most complicated stories of the past several years. Gun violence includes many things, death and destruction among them, but it equally includes the grief of those left behind. It is our job to tell all of that, and at the same time, to treat the subjects of our stories like the vulnerable humans they are. I don’t think it’s hard to do both of these things at once.
Initially quiet gun advocates are now arguing that the solution for tragedies like Newtown is not gun control, but arming school personnel—and state lawmakers of both parties are moving to do exactly that.
After nearly a week of silence following the shootings in Newtown, pro-gun advocates have signaled in recent days that they plan to go on the offensive in pushing back against further restrictions on the Second Amendment.
A supporter of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, holds an NRA baseball cap during the singing of the National Anthem at a campaign rally at Alice Pleasant Park on May 29, 2012, in Craig, Colo. Mitt Romney will campaign in Colorado and Las Vegas, Nev. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)
And leading the charge are state legislators of both political parties who say the massacre last week means it is time to consider allowing teachers, principals, and school staff to start carrying firearms to work and tearing down those “Gun Free Zone” signs that now sit at the entrance of many schools across the country. Lawmakers in nearly a dozen states now say they plan to push legislation that would do just that in the coming year.
In Virginia, Bob Marshall, a Republican Delegate from Manassas, has proposed a bill that would require schools to designate a trained staff member to carry a firearm.
“In some public schools we already have uniformed officers who have guns,” he told The Daily Beast. “We don’t have a lot of money to take every [police officer] off the streets, but we have to be prudent and take some measures.”
Marshall said his bill would require those who bring guns to schools to meet state police standards in competency, and he disputed claims made by some in the press that his measure would force teachers and other school employees to carry guns against their will.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, President Obama is calling for stricter gun-control legislation.
“You don’t take some 100-pound lady who doesn’t like guns and force them into doing. There are plenty of military personnel who are working in schools as teachers or administrators or in some other capacity,” he said.
The president has been dodging the issue since early in his first campaign. Now, in the wake of Sandy Hook, he says he wants Congress to take on legislation no later than January—and Biden will lead the push.
For President Obama, gun rights could be the classic example of the disjuncture between campaigning and governing. More aggressive gun regulation, like reinstating the assault-weapons ban, was a bit of liberal orthodoxy that any standard bearer of the Democratic Party could embrace. In 2008 his campaign’s official position was to bring back the federal ban, which had lapsed in 2004, and make it permanent.
President Barack Obama speaks in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on December 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Mandel Ngan/AFP, via Getty)
But in truth, there were signs even then that gun control wasn’t likely to emerge as a high priority in an Obama administration. The candidate’s support for gun legislation was understated—declarations on his website rather than a regular part of his stump speech.
Obama campaigned as a transformational figure who wanted to move the country beyond the culture wars. As the first black presidential nominee with an exotic-sounding name, it was easy enough to see why. When a blogger caught him on tape at a fundraiser opining about why many Americans “cling to their guns and religion,” it caused a political kerfuffle, raising questions about whether he could win over enough working-class white voters to defeat Hillary Clinton.
As the 2008 campaign wore on, Obama was far more likely to offer words of reassurance to gun enthusiasts than tout his views on limiting access to weapons. Typical were his remarks at a September rally in Lebanon, Va.: “You’ve heard it here; I’m on television, so everybody knows it. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in people’s lawful right to bear arms. I will not take your shotgun away. I will not take your rifle away. I will not take your handgun away.” Obama talked about supporting “common-sense gun safety laws,” but he didn’t mention the assault-weapons ban.
After the election, Obama inherited an economic crisis of staggering proportions. As the White House confronted epic decisions, including a stimulus bill, bailing out the banks and whether to rescue the auto industry, officials were desperate to avoid controversial issues that could—in their view—squander their precious political capital. But Eric Holder Jr., the new attorney general, had not gotten the message. At a press conference in which he was announcing a major drug bust against a Mexican cartel, Holder stumbled into the politics of guns. Asked about the administration’s position on regulating weapons, Holder said, “Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons.” Holder, obliquely acknowledging that the president had a lot on his plate, was careful to add a cautionary note about how quickly the White House would get to the issue. “There are obviously a number of things…that have been taking up a substantial amount of [Obama’s] time, so I’m not exactly sure what the sequencing would be.” All Holder had done was to reiterate the new president’s campaign position. But the damage was done.
The remarks caught fire with National Rifle Association and its water carriers on Capitol Hill. The White House could tolerate a certain amount of ire from conservative Republicans, who were unlikely to support its domestic agenda anyway. But as Obama’s political advisers saw it, they could not afford to alienate any moderate or conservative Democrats. To White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, it looked like Holder’s comments were doing just that. Later that day, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, a Democrat with an A plus rating from the NRA, went ballistic. “Senators to the Attorney General: Stay Away from Our Guns,” he said in a press release.
As the gun revolt was erupting in Congress, Emanuel’s then-deputy, Jim Messina, walked into the chief of staff’s office to tell him about Holder’s faux pas. As I recount in my recent book, Kill or Capture, Emanuel exploded. Slamming his desk, he cursed the attorney general for stepping off message. He sent word back to the Justice Department through aides that Holder needed to “shut the fuck up on guns.” The message was received, and neither Holder nor his bosses at the White House made gun control a priority in the following years.
Asks Congress to pass by January.
President Obama announced on Wednesday that Vice President Biden would be leading the push for stricter gun laws. In a speech at the White House that coincided with some of the funerals for the victims of the Newtown school shooting, President Obama insisted that these attacks are “violence that we cannot accept as routine.” Obama said he would “urge Congress” to take on gun-control legislation no later than January—especially a return to the assault-weapons ban, which expired in 2004. At the end of the press conference, ABC News’s Jake Tapper noted that this is not the first time there has been gun violence in Obama’s four years in office, asking, “Where have you been?” to which the president defended his record on gun control, saying, “I don’t think I’ve been on vacation.”
Obama to dispatch VP to lead White House effort.
President Obama will name Vice President Biden to head the push for gun-control policy change, reports said Wednesday. The White House has faced increasing calls for stricter gun control in the wake of the deadly rampage in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children, seven adults, and the shooter, Adam Lanza, 20. Obama issued a call to action at a vigil in Newtown on Sunday, saying he would “use whatever power this office” has to push for a way to end these tragedies. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president supports banning assault weapons, as well as closing the so-called gun-show loophole. The assault weapons Lanza used in the massacre were all purchased legally by his mother.
Sandy Hook survivors will return to classes in Jan.
Six more funerals will be held Wednesday for the victims of the deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn., while the school’s superintendent said classes are expected to resume for the survivors at a nearby school in January. Funerals will be held for principal Dawn Hochsprung; teacher Victoria Soto; Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Caroline Previdi, 6; and Chase Kowalski, 7. All were killed Friday along with 20 others at Sandy Hook Elementary School when Adam Lanza, 20, opened fire in the school before killing himself. Lanza’s mother was found dead in her home nearby on the same day. A family acquaintance said Tuesday that Lanza had been estranged from his father and brother for the past two years.
In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, the Republican Party faces a crucial test to win over Latino voters by supporting greater gun control. Adam Winkler on why this is an issue that can win them votes.
After the defeat of Mitt Romney on November 7, alongside several Republican Senate candidates vying for seats they were once favored to win, Republicans began wringing their hands over the future of the party. The election showed that the GOP was losing the demographic battle. A party of rural whites was clearly in trouble unless it found a way to broaden its attractiveness to Latinos, who voted for Barack Obama two-to-one, and other growing ethnic groups. “Unless we do that we’re going to be a minority party,” warned Newt Gingrich.
Skeptics have wondered if the GOP was really capable of change. Newtown offers Republicans their first test.
Much of the post-election discussion focused on immigration, an issue of obvious import to Latinos. Yet Latinos are hardly single-issue voters who care only about immigration reform. Appealing to this constituency is going to require the GOP to do more than provide undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Republicans must show they support a variety of issues important to the Latino community.
Gun control is one of those issues.
Polls show that Latino support for gun control is greater than that of any other major ethnic or racial group, including African-Americans. A Pew Center study in April of this year found that when whites were asked which is more important, protecting the right of Americans to own guns or controlling gun ownership, 57 percent sided with the right to bear arms. Latinos, by contrast, were much more favorable to gun control. Only 29 percent of Latinos said protecting the right to bear arms was more important.
Other polls show that 69 percent of Latino voters believe the laws governing the sale of firearms should be stricter. Only 24 percent say they should remain the same. Unlike many gun-rights activists, only 5 percent of Latino voters say America’s gun laws should be less strict.
Latino support for the types of reform being talked about in the wake of the Newtown massacre is particularly strong. Take, for instance, mandating universal background checks for all gun purchasers. Under current law, only sales conducted by licensed dealers must involve a background check to see if the intended purchaser has a criminal record or a history of mental illness. Because you don’t need to have a license to sell a gun, it’s estimated that 40 percent of lawful gun sales are completed without a background check.
Divestment actions, boycotts, and blacklists aimed at chilling the exercise of a constitutional right can create a dangerous precedent, writes Alan Dershowitz.
I’m a strong opponent of privately owned assault weapons of the kind used in the Newtown massacre. But I’m also opposed to most forms of divestment, boycott, and blacklisting. So I had a decidedly mixed reaction when I read about Tuesday’s decision by Cerberus Capital Management to sell its stake in a company that manufactures semi-automatic weapons, and the statement from the California teacher’s retirement system that it was reviewing its investments in companies that deal in such weapons.
Paul J. Richards, AFP / Getty Images
Having come of age during the height of McCarthyism, blacklists, and boycotts, I had bad memories when I heard about these decisions. Even when such tactics were used against the evils of South African apartheid in the 1980s, I had second thoughts. During that period, the United Nations created a blacklist of artists and entertainers who had appeared in South Africa, even including artists who defied apartheid and worked closely with their black colleagues.
In 1985, I had an exchange with Woody Allen, who was opposed to apartheid but had made a film, “The Front,” on the evils of blacklisting. In the end, he agreed with me that the United Nations was engaged in blacklisting for which there was “no excuse.”
Several years later, some radical feminists tried—fortunately without much success—to boycott bookstores that sold Playboy magazine and other material deemed offensive by them.
Now the primary object of divestment and blacklisting around the world is the Middle East’s only democracy, Israel. Despite its imperfections, no country in history faced with comparable threats, both external and internal, has ever had a better record of human rights, or has ever fought its wars with more concern for avoiding civilian casualties. Yet Stevie Wonder and other benighted artists have now decided to boycott some pro-Israel events based on pressure from the United Nations. Divestment against Israeli companies and academic boycotts of Israeli universities are also being advocated.
So there can be a real downside to the tactic of divesting and boycotting both products and nations based on controversial policies.
My ambivalence about these tactics stems from my very strong opposition to semi-automatic weapons and other gun-related items that make it easy for distraught people such as Adam Lanza to kill so many people in such a short period of time. I want to see semi-automatic weapons made illegal. I also want individuals to decide for themselves to stop buying such guns. Economic pressure such as that by Cerberus, and that being considered by the California teacher’s retirement system, may very well help to delegitimize the sale of guns and ammunition clips that serve no proper purpose outside of military or law enforcement, which on its face seems like a good thing.
She may have thought teaching her shut-in son to shoot was therapeutic. But Nancy Lanza—and 26 innocents—would be alive today if she hadn’t been so reckless, says Michael Daly.
As mourners by the hundreds placed flowers at makeshift shrines to the murdered youngsters in Sandy Hook, somebody left a lone bouquet of red and white carnations outside the house where Nancy Lanza became her murderous son’s first victim.
Adam Lanza, undated.
The single offering lay by the base of the mailbox at the foot of the driveway just outside the crime-scene tape that still ringed the property on Tuesday night.
Tuesday was artisan-beer night at Nancy Lanza’s favorite bar, My Place. She likely would have been setting off for there had she not been so deluded as to keep guns under the roof she shared with a troubled son.
She seems even to have imagined that firing guns was therapeutic for young Adam Lanza. She reportedly told a friend that it helped him become more focused and confident.
“How about bowling?” a detective said on hearing this after the massacre.
She is reported by CBS News to have bought the assault rifle first, in March 2010. She and Adam must have looked like two figures out of an NRA fantasy when they visited an outdoor range, mom and son sharing quality time and bonding by blasting away.
She may have delighted in finally finding something to get him outside his room, persuading him to do something physical and real rather than just withdrawing into the cyber-realm of his computer. She may have been too relieved to consider where it could lead and what might be the real appeal for him.
An event producer. A former PR executive. A retired school teacher. They were so devastated by the slaughter of children in Connecticut that they swung into action against gun violence. Lloyd Grove reports.
Supporters of gun control gather outside the White House after the Connecticut school shooting. (Charles Dharapak / AP)
But then Newtown happened.
Five days later, the 61-year-old Pagliari is among a growing army of “accidental activists” (as one of them, freelance television producer Staci Sarkin, has dubbed herself) who have leaped into the fray, determined to do anything they can, individually and collectively, to prevent another episode of deadly gun violence.
Since Dec. 14, a date that will live in infamy, they’ve been making their presence felt across the country, ranging from Pagliari, a New York–based corporate-event producer, to Sherri Masson, a 64-year-old Michigan grandmother and retired middle-school teacher, to Shannon Watts, a 41-year-old former corporate PR executive and mother of five in suburban Indianapolis.
“We need immediate action. We do not want this to fade,” says Watts, who was booked on Thomas Roberts’s 11 a.m. MSNBC program Wednesday to evangelize for the cause, which includes a federal ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines of the kind that were used in last week’s carnage, as well as closing the so-called gun-show loophole that eliminates the background check otherwise required at licensed gun stores to vet the purchaser of a lethal weapon. Watts calls her fledgling effort “One Million Moms for Gun Control.” She explains: “We’ve had enough dialogue about what’s wrong and what we need. We can spend days debating the culture of violence and the other factors—but we want to create action quickly.”
Jerry Pagliari’s Friday began normally enough. He was at home in the Hudson River village of Rhinebeck and getting ready to go Christmas shopping when his partner texted him that something alarming had just occurred in Connecticut.
“I didn’t know anything about this,” Pagliari recalls. “I got in the car and turned on the radio. By the time I got to the bottom of the driveway, I had to pull over. I was just overcome.” Hearing the news of the mass shootings of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Pagliari started to weep. “It was like a punch to the chest.”
The Daily Beast asked readers whether or not they own guns—and if so, why. More than a thousand people have weighed in so far. The results might surprise you, writes Matthew DeLuca.
In the wake of a horrific school shooting in Newtown, Conn., lawmakers and activists have come forward to demand a serious discussion about gun control in America. The National Rifle Association has been silent, while the president has said we have an “obligation” to try to prevent another massacre at the hands of a crazed gunman.
But who actually owns guns in America—and why? Surely, they can’t all be Adam Lanzas.
Scott Olson / Getty Images
To find out, we asked our readers a simple question: Why do you own a gun? And if you don’t own a gun, why not?
Almost immediately, the answers came pouring in. As of Tuesday evening, more than a thousand people had submitted answers—nearly 600 who own guns, and the rest who don’t. The anonymity of the Internet and Twitter character counts do not always lend themselves to thoughtfulness and insight, but many readers seemed eager to put hyperbole and political expediency aside.
Some offerings were misguided attempts at humor—from both sides of the fence. Others were downright puerile. Many of the responses we received, however, were both civil and illuminating. The gun owners were not radical fantasists intent on the violent overthrow of the government. The non-gun owners did not wave the bloody shirt. Taken together, they represent the kind of conversation about gun ownership that responsible Americans should be having—both on the public airwaves and in their living rooms.
Among the gun owners, some common threads emerged. Readers from rural areas said that they own guns for practical concerns, like personal safety in homes located far from law enforcement, or as a necessary tool for their livelihoods.
In the wake of Newtown shootings.
The hideous Newtown massacre already appears to be affecting gun-control legislation. The day before Adam Lanza opened fire on students in Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature passed a bill allowing guns into schools and other “gun-free zones.” In the wake of the shooting, however, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday he’s decided to veto the bill. Snyder isn’t the only one changing his tune: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)—who once ran an ad in which he literally shot through a piece of legislation—has responded to the shootings by leading a charge for gun-control reform on Capitol Hill.
Said he feared attack similar to Newtown.
The children are afraid. That’s one takeaway from the story of a Utah sixth grader who brought a gun to his Salt Lake City elementary school in order to—he reportedly said—defend himself from an attack like the massacre in Newtown, Conn. The .22-caliber handgun he took to West Kearns Elementary was left at home by a relative. The boy, whose name has not been released, apparently waved the gun at other students during morning recess. When questioned by administrators, he said that his parents had sent him to school with the gun for protection, which the family adamantly denies.
And wanted her son Adam to go to college.
Just days after Adam Lanza massacred 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, new details are emerging about his home life with his mother, Nancy. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Nancy Lanza was reportedly looking to leave the house she shared with her 20-year-old son because she had grown tired of home schooling him. According to her sister-in-law, Nancy wanted to downsize her life and send Adam, who had been diagnosed with Asberger’s, off to college. Nancy Lanza, who grew up in Kingston, N.H., was receiving $240,000 a year in alimony and child support from her ex-husband, Peter Lanza. According to another report Tuesday, Law-enforcement officials have determined that all of the weapons used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza were bought by his mother over a three-year period starting in 2010.
A mother of a 10-year-old boy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke down while talking to CBS News on Friday. 'I get to put my kids to bed at night, and I’m very lucky,' she said, while tearfully acknowledging that 'there’s a lot of parents tonight that have not gotten that miracle.'
Friday’s horrific Colorado shooting has reignited the debate on gun control. Just how bad is the problem?
We as a society are held hostage by the NRA’s thugs. This must be the time for change. By Robert Shrum.
Gov. Dan Malloy mourned the loss of 'beautiful beautiful children' in a poignant speech on Friday evening. To those who want to help, Malloy said the best way is to “say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinking of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
The president got emotional discussing today’s school shooting in Connecticut. Read his words.
Kevin Fallon pieces together details about the Connecticut shooter.