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The family monster and societal insecurity

America is still in shock from the massacre at Sandy Hook and the premeditated murder of the responding firemen in Webster, N.Y. The events were American horror stories. However, they were family tragedies before they were national ones. In these specific cases, we should consider the laws in New York and Connecticut and health of the families of the killers. Firearms were used to commit the crimes, but the existence of guns did not determine the nature of our society or the villainy we now witness. The health of the family and the laws of the community determine the nature of a society.

After horrific crimes we all have questions. What kind of person kills his grandmother? It is the same kind of person who ambushes firemen and murders them. These are not issues for the federal government. These are issues for the communities involved and the state governments. It is ironic that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo was the lieutenant governor of New York when William Spengler bludgeoned his grandmother to death. Did he think the laws of New York were sufficiently stringent to deal with this kind of monster? Why was this murderer reintroduced into society after murdering his grandmother in 1981? Why would you ever let someone who killed his grandmother out of prison? The families of the murdered firemen have right to ask what group of activists, lobbyists, politicians, parole board or judges reached that conclusion. This horrible crime is evidence that some people cannot be let out of prison, ever. Spengler’s weapons were legally bought by a third party who then gave the guns to him. The gun laws did not fail; the parole laws did.

The reliability of the law is a deterrent. When the firm application of the law is a regular occurrence it can prevent crime by altering the behavior of would-be criminals. When a crime is committed, however, it is the swift execution of justice that can prevent the repetition of evil. Allowing the release of people who are extreme dangers to their families is to endanger the innocent and to reverse the purpose of good laws. Spengler was a known danger, but after he was imprisoned for murdering his grandmother he did not have to become a danger to the community again.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook was a tragedy. Unfortunately, the current political discourse does not serve parents or their children well. All the focus is on guns rather than the larger question of how we safely educate our kids in contemporary America. Consider the issue of gangs and drugs. Neither of them have a place in our schools. However, each is a symptom of social breakdown beginning with the family. The dangers posed by unsupervised persons with mental illness are another problem caused by familial breakdown. What kind of person murders innocent children at school? It is the same kind of person who murders his mother and steals her weapons, someone who should have been committed. Adam Lanza was mentally unstable. It has been reported that some of those who knew him were not surprised by his crime. Placing the mentally unstable in the proper institution is not just a private matter of personal mental health; it is a paramount issue of public safety.

Further, while the laws and safeguards in place in Connecticut should be scrutinized, his family had the primary responsibility to get him treatment. Families are the first line of defense against these tragedies. Family members usually witness the signs of mental instability first before anyone else, and families are in the best position to alert authorities and convince the troubled person to seek treatment. If all else fails families should enlist the aid of the authorities in forcibly committing someone and removing him from society. It is an unfortunate responsibility. However, if we view families’ responsibility for and to their members as an outdated obligation or an unjust imposition of responsibility on the individual’s autonomy, then society has abandoned its safety and cohesion to the government, which in the best of situations can only react after an incident has occurred.

Every nation is a federation of families. If the America family is unhealthy, then we must conclude that the American nation is unhealthy.