As readers of Serious may already be aware, this Friday saw a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. 20 children among 26 victims of Connecticut school shooting. It's needless to say that it's a tragedy. But the question that comes to mind is, of course, why? What is the cause of this random violence, and how can it be prevented in the future? The "why" in particular is something which I certainly don't understand and am perplexed about, but which seems to be more or less overlooked or simply shoved off into the corner to make room for the other questions. "He's crazy, that's what crazy people with guns do" seems to be the common idea. But it can't be that simple. The disproportionate number of shootings that take place at schools is strong evidence that a common cause is driving these gunmen, who themselves are often similar in age hinting at perhaps more commonalities, to do what they do where they do. In this particular case the gunman's mother is suspected as a target. Aside from his motive to kill her, what is the motive to do so at a school, her place of employment, while taking so many others with her? I can't claim to understand it and post this for discussion in the hopes that maybe some ideas are built, but do believe that the key to preventing these shootings lies in finding what makes a gunman and figuring out how to avoid that in the future. The other question, the how can we stop this, is the much bigger question, at least in the media. Much discussion immediately jumps to where did the law fail us, and how can gun legislation be made tighter to prevent things from happening. As I complained about previously this strikes me as simply trying to relieve the symptons the problem rather than cure it. However, it's unavoidable and is going to be a major issue regardless and so is worth discussing. The main thing that comes to mind when gun control comes up, particularly when there's are high emotion incidents such as 20 dead school children, is misinformation. Fear and unwillingness to learn about firearms leads to common buzzwords getting thrown around, truths being stretched when readers aren't aware of the facts, and much of the legislation we currently have in the US which fails to stop criminals, despite imposing strict limitations on law abiding citizens. Naturally conflicting reports and incomplete information has spread from this incident. From the CNN article: This is one of the better reports but still brings up the problem of: what does that mean? As one interested in firearms and recreational shooting these are common names and words, but what does the "average American" see? Consider the first firearm: "Semi-automatic" contains the word automatic, does that mean you can hold down the trigger and spray bullets? Is .223 some powerful cartridge which serves no other purpose than killing children, and what's a Bushmaster? In actuality it's almost certainly an AR-15 type rifle, common among recreational shooters, hunters and collectors and the basis for the US military's M16. Any American (and indeed many citizens of the world) would recognize its silhouette. How about the second: "a Glock". Nothing but a name [unfairly, in my opinion] linked to such an evil act. There are many manufacturers with similar handguns which are just as lethal but when it comes to legislation time what is the word fresh in people's minds? Glock. The same goes for the third fiream: Sig Sauer. Again, just a manufacturer. It's somewhat implied that this is referring to one of their handgun models. Any similar handgun is just as lethal, but now the name is fresh in people's minds. Both manufacturers produce handguns which are safely owned by many recreational shooters and are often used to protect people in the hands of military, law enforcement, and carrying civilians. It's something which we've seen before, and quite recently with the Fort Hood shooting. In that incident the gunman used the notorious FN FiveseveN "cop-killer" handgun. Immediately after there were calls to ban this gun by name. In that case the average citizen was not aware of and did not understand that the armor piercing variants of the 5.7x28mm cartridge are not sold to civilians, and that banning the firearm wouldn't stop other (currently non-existent) firearms chambered for this same cartridge being produced. It's that type of fear induced but ultimately ineffective legislation which I am afraid of. How about another article, one which actually spreads misinformation rather than simply providing easy to misunderstand but accurate information: Expert: Conn. Gun Laws Need Background Checks, Limit On Guns Purchased At Once Following School Shooting . This one is from an "Expert" apparently which tells an unknowning reader to trust its firearm information which is quite worrying considering what an average reader might take away from it and how that reader might develop opinions based on it. Now, this isn't entirely inaccurate but it's extremely vague and misleading. Notice this conflicts with CNN's report of a "semi-automatic .223 Bushmaster". Well, the .223 Remington cartridge is often called a ".22" and a rifle with a 16" or greater barrel is a "Long Rifle" as opposed to a "Short Barrelled Rifle". But what sounds similar to that? The .22 Long Rifle cartridge. With the term ".22 Long Rifle" thrown around it's entirely possible for a reader to think that a rifle chambered in the much less powerful .22LR cartridge should be banned because it's similar to the one used in the shootings. Another quote: This is either completely innacurate, or extremely easy to misunderstand. Under federal law "assault" weapons and .50 caliber rifles are legal. Perhaps there are state laws that prevent them, but this is not stated and can misinform readers, particularly ones from other states. An "assault" weapon is simply a term used to describe weapons with several basic features such as a flash hider, collapsible stock, over 10 round magazine capacity and, in public opinion, colored black. Typically anything banned in the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. As for .50 caliber rifles, they are the maximum that can be legally owned without additional licenses. Anything over is considered a destructive device by the ATF and is restricted. Now, I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps by "you're not supposed to have" he's assuming that we're talking about someone who would fail and otherwise required background check but this is extremely vague and misleading since this is not clarified. So there's all sort of misinformation out there, but what makes sense? What's the good legislation? Well, it would seem that current legislation has been working fairly well: U.S. violent crime up for first time in years . This again goes back to my argument of looking for the cause first. With such a sudden surge in violent crime, particularly firearm related, it begs the question of why. But that seems to be a bit of a pipe dream. Something will proabably be done, so what do I think is best case scenario to come out of it? Considering that my opinion is firearms are just tools to be used as the wielder desires I'm in favor of, if legislation must be made, placing no further restrictions on firearms themselves and instead focusing on the purchasing. Simple background checks on all firearms aren't a particularly great hassle for law-abiding citizens and can catch felons and past/current criminals. Mental health checks for things like concealed pistol licenses are present in some states and could be made more widespread. But ultimately I believe all legislation should be made with the understanding that criminals don't follow the law. Teens/young adults can use firearms owned by parents even if you make laws saying they can't own them personally. Make laws saying background checks are required for private sales and they can be ignored. Ban certain features and you deal with grandfathered firearms, illegal imports, and illegal modifications. In order to really stop anything you need a UK-style lockdown. Since that [hopefully] won't happen in the US my hopes are that the focus can be shifted to preventing criminal behaviour and increasing understanding of gun safety.