It’s impossible to imagine the shock, horror, sadness and revulsion that enveloped the city of Newtown Connecticut after spree killer Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Newtown is a white upper middle class suburb, a 45-minute commute to New Haven. “This sort of thing doesn’t happen here.” Statistically speaking, that’s true. But it did happen there. And just like survivors of atrocity throughout history and around the globe, the people left in the wake of the Sandy Hook slaughter have had to cope with the aftermath of unthinkable violence. Their initial reaction was the same as the NRA’s . . .

Assign armed police to the town’s elementary schools.

Newtown had already placed school resource officers (SROs) in its middle and upper schools. Never mind barn doors and bolted horses. Given the scope and scale of what had befallen the murdered innocents, why not extend this armed “shield” of vigilance over Newtown’s youngest students?

It was, of course, an entirely logical course of action: protect what remains. What if a copycat killer came to “finish the job”? The unthinkable was now thinkable. No one in the town—or elsewhere—questioned the cops’ new responsibilities.

The move was as much psychological as it was strategic. The police presence reassured children that they would not suffer the same cataclysmic attack that decimated their peers. It also provided a buffer from the media circus that had descended on their town. It was a signal to both townspeople and the outside world that Newtown would, as the NRA puts it, refuse to be a victim.

As the days went by, Newtown’s gestalt began to change. The search for “answers” shifted focus. Residents couldn’t blame the school for its lack of security. They couldn’t blame the doctors, educators, administrators, classmates, neighbors, associates and acquaintances who let a psychotic killer slip through the net. That would be tantamount to blaming themselves.

Equally, they couldn’t blame Adam Lanza. His father was a successful tax executive at GE Energy Financial Service. Adam attended Sandy Hook Elementary, just five miles from the family home. He was an honors student at Newtown High. He was odd, sure, but he was one of them. A local.

And so those closest to the tragedy chose to blame the gun: the Bushmaster AR-15 Lanza used to commit his heinous crime. And the laws that “allowed” Lanza access to the firearm—despite the fact that such laws were already in place and that he’d murdered his mother to violate them.

The post-traumatic enthusiasm for civilian disarmament amongst those closest to the killings didn’t raise any uncomfortable questions about the town’s residents, schools or its safety systems. There wasn’t any pushback. Not from fellow residents. Or the media. Or the nation. How could it? What right do YOU have to tell ME what I should do about MY loss? Not “even” the NRA would dare question their possession of [what they perceive to be] the moral high ground.

The effort to “prevent” another Newtown put gun control-minded residents into a positive feedback loop. The more they agitated for gun control the less they had to face the truth about their vulnerability and failure. And the more attention and approval they received—to the point where the President of the United States flew Newtown’s worst-afflicted on Air Force One to continue their anti-gun lobbying campaign.

And then the town suffered their second “loss.” The U.S. Senate rejected the bills that would have vindicated—if that’s the right word—their unfathomable loss. As draconian as they are, Connecticut’s post-Newtown disarmament laws must have seemed like cold comfort.

And here’s the thing: the town has completely lost track of the reality of what happened. And the necessity of armed self-defense. To wit this [via wtnh.com]:

Just four months after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Newtown voters have rejected a new budget plan that would have put more security officers in local schools.

It would have cost taxpayers an additional $770,000, but local residents said no.

Less than the price of one trip to Washington on the President’s 747. And then this [via courant.com]:

A new Sandy Hook Elementary School building will be built at the site of the existing school, a task force of town leaders decided Friday night.

The school, at a cost of almost $60 million, will take the place of the old building, where a mass shooting Dec. 14 took the lives of 26 children and educators . . .

Rob Sibley, the town’s deputy planning director, rubbed his eyes after the meeting. He was a first responder to the school with Sandy Hook’s fire company. He has twins in kindergarten and a third-grader at the school. His wife happened to be visiting the school as gunfire echoed through the halls.

“It certainly opens the door to a path toward healing that was not there before,” Sibley said about the task force decision. “It doesn’t detract from the grief we feel on a daily basis.”

The story doesn’t include any mention of the security set-up for the new school. None. Nor does it say if the budget for the new school includes funding for an armed security guard. But it does repeatedly touch upon the emotional fallout from the killing that will forever be associated with the name Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The last time the committee met, many members emerged from a private session visibly shaken by the harrowing stories they heard from Sandy Hook teachers about their experiences on Dec. 14 and afterward.

At that point, members questioned whether Sandy Hook employees — or anyone — could be expected to return to the site where 26 people were murdered.

This is what you call victim mentality. It’s vastly different from the mindset of the New Yorkers who vowed to rebuild the World Trade Center site almost immediately after 9/11. Who have done so.

As TTAG commentator Dr. Vino pointed out, mentally damaged people develop strange symbolic associations and need irrational symbolic gestures. Even so, Newtown’s failure to grasp the nettle, to fully address practical and tactical issues surrounding the attack, shows a collective failure of nerve. An abject surrender of logic for emotional.

The real answer here is simple enough: eliminate “gun-free zones.” Encourage armed self-defense. We, the People, should be ready, willing and able to defend ourselves and our loved ones against evil when and wherever it appears. For it is always there. No matter what.

Sad to say, the shell-shocked members of Newtown’s newly formed civilian disarmament community will never come to the same conclusion. But the rest of us can. And should.

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47 Responses to The Strange Psychology of Newtown, Connecticut

  1. Unfucking believable. No money for an armed presence to protect their kids. 60 million bucks for a new building to make the bad memories go away. Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water…..

  2. The real answer here is simple enough: arm the teachers.

    What about the bus drivers who drive 30-40 kids through the neighborhoods, at the same time, taking the same route, every morning?

    You can’t harden every soft target in society. The best you can do is give them a fighting chance.

  3. People have a predilection for symbol over substance.

    We are scared animals that are most of all threatened by the notion of uncertainty existing in our lives. To seek solace we can either get smart and become better predictors to mitigate the uncertainty, or we can delude ourselves by putting it out of our mind.

    The most successful acts of delusion include changing one’s surroundings to remove all reminder and indication that the delusion is false. Whether those reminders be a piece of architecture, a symbolically associated object like a gun, or a person with an alternative view. All must go.

    The solution to this problem isn’t more security or policy or delusion. It’s having society react more rationally to uncertainty. What we can do is make the delusion impossible to pull off, and watch those that would prefer it illustrate themselves as useless and counterproductive.

  4. Brilliant Piece Robert.

    The only thing I might add is that i think some of this is driven by pop-culture psychology that endeavors to try to tell people how they should think and react to death, loss, and tragedy.

    The same phenomenon can be seen in the roadside memorial, wherein people grieve, but choose to remember their lost loved one with a tacky display left rotting in a ditch alongside the roadway, with the trash and road kill animals.

    • ^THIS^

      There is this weird expectation that we make sufficiently public displays of grief and outrage of a sufficient degree – lest we be deemed heartless motherfuckers.

  5. Very well written. Hats off.

    I’m sad to say its not just the suburbanites, and that in times like those, thats gonna be the mentality of most people. Not blaming the gun per-se, but blaming something that has the least to do with them and the people involved, and their investments (i.e. moral, emotional, finacial, etc.)

    The most basic example i can see of this is keys. When somebody misplaces their keys, they always say “where’d my keys go?” instead of “Where’d I put my keys?” Wheather they say it or just think it, its all about the ‘blamist” mentality.

  6. Part of the reason we were able to avoid the fate of England post Dunblane was the fact that Lanza had demonstrated mental health problems,and gained his weapons through killing his own mother.That kind of craziness defies easy cathartic reaction via the legislative process.

    Had Lanza held a legal CCW permit and bought his guns legally we gun owners would be in a spot of serious bother.

  7. Whats sad here is that spending 770k no one is making money off of that. Spend 60 mil on a construction project and people are making money and kickbacks.

  8. Right on Robert, We see the wonderfull criminal safe zones being put up all over that just beg the robber to come in & rob & have a cup of coffee. Someone gets shot & it’s look what your guns did. Well, the beauty is the gene pool gets cleansed of mostly the grabbers, the trajedy is the kids they take with them, Randy

  9. Thoughtful. I especially liked your point about the victim mentality.

    I make a distinction between arming teachers and allowing adults at schools to defend themselves.

    I think the goal should be quietly rolling back the laws creating gun-free zones so as to allow adults the liberty of defending themselves, even in a school. This is in contrast to calls to arm teachers, which comes across as pushing responsibility on a group that probably would resist having it, even if it came with the agency to potentially stop a massacre.

  10. 1) The first budget was rejected, the whole idea has not been rejected. They are trying to review a way to make the resource officers cheaper because the initial budget would have cost each home owner on average $800 to $1200/year and you know those prices only go up over time. There is a second vote in the works. A few towns in CT still have town level votes for town budgets.

    2) The parents prodded by those who will benefit, continue to make sure that “emotional conversations” are held. Wait until this December, they will sound the emotional drums again lead by the usual suspects.

    3) The school was old, very old. The renovations and repair and mandated state security enhancements to schools would have been more costly that tearing it down and building new. Given some of the other suggestions, including creating an “international yoga center” that some suggested, this was the best move. The funniest suggestion, that has been played in the local media, was some state official suggested the school be built it what would have been the exact site of the former state mental hospital.

    • 1) The first budget was rejected, the whole idea has not been rejected. They are trying to review a way to make the resource officers cheaper because the initial budget would have cost each home owner on average $800 to $1200/year and you know those prices only go up over time. There is a second vote in the works. A few towns in CT still have town level votes for town budgets.

      Notice how “if it saves even one child” quickly gives way to cold cost-benefit analysis when the burden falls on them.

    • Thanks for the input. It’s always important to see that no matter how valid the points (and I thought RF’s piece was well-written), there’s always a little more to the story.

  11. RF:

    You touched on a very important point. The inability for Newtown to properly heal as a community. We’ll know they’ve truly healed once they take collective ownership of what happened at Sandy Hook. Nowhere have I heard a resident of Newtown say something to the effect of, “…the shooter was one of us. He grew up in town, went to our schools, knew our kids, ate at our restaurants, shopped in our stores, etc. He was hiding in plain sight and everyone missed it.” Certainly, no one could’ve forecasted Sandy Hook, but those who knew shooter all described him as odd and troubled. We should in no way assign blame to the residents of Newtown for the creation or actions of this monster, but Newtown should know that only after they own it, positive and effective changes will follow. Like it or not, Newtown will forever be known as “that place that had that elementary school shooting”.

  12. What is one child life worth? What if it’s your child?

    It’s hard to put a number on the life of anyone let alone a child. Let’s give it a try shall we.

    When Eagle Scout Scott Mason got lost on Mount Washington up in New Hampshire back in 2009 it cost the state $25,734.65 (they sent him the bill) I personally think my kids are worth a whole lot more than $25,000 but for our purposes we shall go with that amount.

    The U.S. Department of Education estimates the current average class size is around 25 students. So 25 x $25,000 = $625,000.00
    The average school bus transports 54 student so 54 x $25,000= $1,350,000.00
    The average primary school on average has approximately 450 students so 450 x $25,000.00 = $11,250,000.00

    Now can you think of any other institution group or organization that would leave that kind of money laying around without extensive precautions and security let alone unarmed guards?

    And this is yet another reason I homeschool.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-5451330.html
    http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/class-size/
    http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/sites/default/files/pdf/school_bus_cuts_national_stats_FINAL.pdf
    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/overview/table05.asp

  13. Arm the teachers? I can’t think of a single group in society that would be less competent, mentally or physically, than school teachers. I’m not saying that they should be denied the use of arms. However, we cannot expect a group to protect children when they can’t even do what they’ve supposedly be trained to do — namely, teach.

    Armed guards in schools, yes. Armed teachers in schools? Fine, just don’t expect them to be able to actually do anything except report students who chew a slice of pizza into the shape of a gun.

      • Uh, nobody is talking about arming lawyers to save schoolchildren.

        But if you ever get arrested for using your pistol in self-defense, do all the lawyers a favor and call a schoolteacher.

        • Ah, I see. Lawyers is so smarts they got all that edjumacation in spite of all dem imcompent mental & physical misfits of teachers they had.

          In all seriousness though, wild generalizations about any group…lawyers, teachers, doctors, garbage collectors, ranchers, or gun owners, non-gun owners, is not helpful. I’ve done many different things in my life and there’s been good, bad, and indifferent people in all fields of human endeavor I’ve had experience with.

          Please realize most teachers do the best they can with limited resources, excessive demands from local, state, and federal bureaucrats and have students arriving with a multitude of societal problems that they’re expected to resolve and then have time to teach. Arm them? Maybe, maybe not…but worthy of discussion without the senseless negativity.

    • If you arm teachers I can guarantee one thing, the next school shooter will stay as far from the gym and shop classrooms as possible.

      • You know what Woody Allen once said: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.

    • It takes a special type of person to be a teacher. I don’t mean that in a bad way; it really does. They put up with a lot from the kids, the parents, the school system, the administrators, politicians and the lawmakers. They are teachers because they love kids, and they want to help them. That is admirable, and if I may opine momentarily, I believe after having seen what I have seen concerning how teachers are treated, they have to be a little bit crazy as well to put up with all they do.

      That said, arming teachers will not work because the vast majority of them do not have the right personality for being armed. They’re usually people who are either anti-gun or neutral but have never touched a gun… and they don’t want to. Putting guns in the hands of such people is not a good idea. They need training and readiness, and they have to deal with their already out of control students because the law has tied their hands behind their backs concerning discipline.

      Arming teachers is therefore a bad idea. They are teachers, not cops, not security officers, not martial tacticians, not self defense specialists. Putting guns into their hands would likely result in A) negligent discharges in schools, B) students being shot by terrified teachers while they were trying to shoot another Adam Lanza, and/or C) Adam Lanza-alikes stealing guns from teachers and using them to commit school shootings.

      Armed police is the answer. Not security guards, police. Police have the law backing them up. Security guards are not so fortunate. Every school should have at least one, and I would prefer three to five, armed police on staff.

  14. They are also doing what they are told. Since there is pressure to use this as a rally point for political gains, they simply aren’t allowed to stand strong, and commit to protecting themselves.

    Imagine what the president would have to do if the town and victim’s families all declared that they were going to take the appropriate measures and arm themselves. He would have to find another bloody shirt to wave in hopes to knock some of his party’s political opponents out of their positions. And that is his only goal. He wants control of the house in 2014 and that’s why he’s twisting every divisive issue he can muster up.

  15. I and many of my friends are victims of abusive teachers. Give them a gun? hell no. Education is a full time job. Security is a full time job.

    If any of my teachers who harmed me had a gun, he’d really have all the power to do as he pleases.

  16. This was a very good and deeply reflective observation. Yes, they are expressing the victim mentality. I’ve read stories and heard fist hand accounts that during the Vietnam War the North Vietnamese would raise fish in the deep V-shaped craters left by the bombs dropped by American B-52s. I have watched film footage of an old North Vietnamese man using some rescued and converted part of a crashed American plane as his rice bowl. Regardless of politics, those people had a very different attitude about being victims than the people of Newtown.

    • The “people of Newtown” want the world to stop because some of them suffered a terrible loss. They are living on a different planet than the rest of us. The world goes on. In the cosmic scheme, nobody’s life is so important that the planet goes off its axis when they die. But having Obama cater to them as if they had just cured cancer is distorting their POV even more.

  17. Any medical professional will tell you that a wound never heals if you keep picking at it. That’s what the media, the politicians and the people of Newtown seem unable to realize. As long as they continuing trying to keep this at the forefront of the news, as long as they keep trying to come up with some mythical law that will keep something like this from ever happening again, as long as they keep going into other states (where, incidentally, they don’t work, vote, or pay taxes) trying to influence the political process there, and as long as they keep playing the professional victim and (dare I say it?) enjoying their celebrity, they’ll never heal as a community.

  18. Why replace the building? that wont solve anything, the memories will still exist. That’s like losing a finger to a door and replacing the door so you forget you lost your finger, no…no… your finger is still gone, you just have a new door.
    People don’t like the truth.

    What makes them so blind? Arming the teachers is successful in Israel, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Utah, etc. Giving a teacher a $400 Glock is a lot better then paying a few million for a school.

    • Could you, please, provide more information on armed teachers in Sweden and Norway. I haven’t heard of this before.

      • I apologize, I was basing this off information id heard a year or so back from recommended articles. I cant seem to find them anymore. While I can validate the other nations, it seems I was incorrect about Sweden and Norway. I suppose I didn’t think to much of it due to known lenient gun laws and mass ownership in the countries. I suppose that’s a lesson in fact checking. Again, my bad.

        • No armed teachers in Switzerland either. That’s just a lie. Rds from Switzerland.

  19. These poor people just want to get on with their lives. Many of them are still searching for an answer to it all, yet they have constantly been poked and prodded in this direction by the media’s propaganda and the political blood dancing. The parents who are still milking every media opportunity they get will probably commemorate some memorial at this new school as “the voices of Newtown” while doing a total disservice to their dead children by using them as propaganda. It will look gaudy and stand as a refusal to move on, all while giving the more vocal parents what they really want, national attention. Oh, and of course, all while blaming the gun.

    I truly feel sorry for the grieving parents and other traumatized citizens who just want to let it go. The only way they can truly move on is by packing their bags, moving far away, and in some cases telling people they’re not from Connecticut. God help the kids who survived the shooting and will attend the new school; the bodies and carnage will always be there for them. They will never completely heal so long as they’re kept in that school system let alone town.

  20. Well said Robert. And the comments to this excellent piece are some of the most thoughtful and relevant responses to an article I’ve ever read.
    Good job everyone!

  21. It’s unfortunate that the stroking and encouragement they received from the Government and the media has prevented them from any period of introspection that might lead them to an alternative view of what happened.

    The Government and media encourage victimhood – even reveling in that victimhood. It is in their interest to turn us into a population of pussies and train out any warrior thoughts or actions and that is what they do.

    What I find sad is how very successful they are. These Newtown folks have no idea how they are being used to train a nation.

  22. These beings are no longer fully human, having spurned tooth and nail, able only to sip life through a power-assisted straw.

    Yes, I know I’ve said it before but it’s no less true for that.

    How would a man from 14,000 years ago view the average among us? This is I suspect how I view the people of New Town – at least those in the news.

    • Great Point, it seems the longer we go, the weaker we get as a race.
      Human Race, that is. That exact thought keeps coming into my mind a lot lately. Along with the movie “IDIOCRACY”

  23. The new school will be like a bunker – bullet proof glass, steel reinforced doors, 24 inch thick walls, alarms, surveillance cameras. Fix the problem? Maybe in Newtown, but tragedy will just move to another venue.

  24. The final report isn’t even out on this incident yet. There are people that have stated that Lanza went through the High School parking lot first, but saw the cop that was stationed there and left. It will be interesting to see if that’s in true and in the report.

  25. 60 million dollars would buy a lot of police protection for schools. But that’s not the point , is it?

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