- Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, gets readers talking about ways to prevent incidents
- Many debate whether guns should be more or less available
- Security, mental health, parenting and violence in media also come up. Share your ideas
A gunman opened fire Friday in a Connecticut elementary school, killing 26 people, 20 of them children, police said. It was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
Readers posted more than 2,000 comments in response to questions we asked them in a story examining immediate shock and anger surrounding the incident. They looked at what problems might be involved and how society might go about solving them. Here are 10 of the most popular suggestions.
1. Strengthen gun laws
A lot of the posts were related to guns. "When are you going to wake up and realize that you need to restrict the use of guns in your country?" asked Emma Mitchell. Commenter Susan Chapman suggested changing the idea of a "right to bear arms" to a "privilege to bear arms." She said she believes responsible gun owners will appreciate ground rules.
"Privileges have to be earned, they aren't a given," she said. "Prove that you are mentally stable and have a reasonable need to own a gun. Make gun owners undergo mandatory training; locking up your gun, loading and unloading safely, storing bullets separately, practices that make gun ownership safer. Give police powers of inspection - checking gun safes, safe storage, training. No one can buy a gun without a training certificate in addition to background checks. No Internet sales of guns or ammunition and no walking out with the gun the same day."
Robb1371 suggested cracking down on gun crimes.
"If you have been already convicted of a gun crime, the second time around, throw the book at them. Repeat offenders need to be locked up a very very long time."
2. Keep gun regulations the same or relax them
Some said expecting people to give up gun use is unrealistic.
"There will never be a way to get rid of guns in this country," LostinSLC1969 said. "Honestly I think it would come down to a civil war if that really was pushed hard. All we can do is find a way to help stop and prevent the violence from happening. Look for the signs that cause people like this to do this and work for ways on prevention."
Another reader said it's difficult to regulate guns.
"There are countless gun laws on the books already and any additional ones will only serve to keep honest people honest," said Independent4sure. "Criminals are criminals because they have no regard for the law and could care less whether guns are banned or not. Your logic is rather simplistic or just plain ignorant and it's sad that others seem to agree with you."
3. Arm the schools
A user called Censor Til Sin said it might be a good idea to have armed people in schools just in case.
"These shootings are happening in Gun Free Zones," the commenter said. "The shooters know that the people there will have no way of defending themselves and that is why these tragedies are happening in these zones. We need to give the teacher's defense so it will discourage these psychopaths from shooting there. There is great evidence that greater gun control means more gun violence (because the bad guys still get guns and they know the good guys are unarmed)."
"Look," he wrote, "Are you seriously saying teachers should start having guns in elementary schools? Then what if a teacher has a bad day? Come on, this is irresponsible reasoning! If this man wasn't able to get his hands on a gun, he either would have used a knife and probably not killed a single person, or he would have given up on the entire plan and just committed suicide."
4. Improve school security
To better prevent future crimes, some readers like Katz advocated defensive measures.
"Though I am for stricter gun control for automatic weapons, I think we should have stricter security in schools, no matter how nice and safe an area seems to be," Katz said. "Let's get some metal detectors or something, and require every person to go through the security checks, even if the staff knows them. Especially since, as this case proves, many people who commit these crimes are not just random strangers."
This person compared schools to airports.
"I think schools should have security entrances with armed guards and metal detectors similar to courthouses and airports," said Scm. "It is no longer acceptable for it to be harder to get on a plane than it is to walk into a school."
5. Cut down on violence in the media
Some readers were concerned that fictional violence might be having real-world effects.
"If they want to ban guns, why not ban them in movies, television, and video games?" asked reader Bill Smells. "Why do we allow the media and entertainment industries to glorify weapons and killings? If we're going to start regulating and banning weapons, why not start by aggressively banning and preventing the abuse of weapons in media."
"Why do we allow our children and young adults to buy video games that put them in the position of being rewarded for shooting and killing other players? I think it's time Hollywood enact their own self-imposed ban on using weapons in any films or television productions. This would definitely reduce all kinds of violence. So why haven't they taken this bold and progressive step yet?"
6. Improve mental health care
A commenter named brocore was one of many readers who said the issue stretched far beyond weapons and into the people who commit crimes.
"Pushing the blame onto guns diverts it from where the real need is: better, more comprehensive mental health services and facilities; addressing these issues in their infancy when they're first manifesting in childhood or puberty instead of assuming 'it's just a phase' or 'they'll grow out of it;' not kowtowing to drug manufacturers by prescribing anti-depressants or whatever at the first sign of trouble; getting people to understand that they won't be punished or cast out or labeled weird for seeking help."
7. Think about the families, not the shooter
"Quit sensationalizing the tragedy," wrote a reader named Stupify in what ended up being the most-liked comment. It was a list of five suggestions mainly asking for the perpetrator to be be ignored in favor of a focus on the family.
"Never mention the perpetrator's name; let them die in an anonymity," the commenter wrote, adding, "Focus only on helping the families of the tragedy."
The post also expressed skepticism about attempts to control weapons: "Bad people will do bad things. The only real control one can hope for is taking away whatever motivation or reward the person has for doing them, and even then, they may try."
8. Focus on parenting
A commenter named Joe Gesa responded to Stupify's comment and said that young people are being affected by our culture and need better preparation for the challenges of life.
"We have raised an entire generation on the theory that we must protect their self-esteem at all costs," Gesa said. "Then, while mom and dad had better things to do, we sat them in front of Grand Theft Auto and completely desensitized them to violence. So, if we stop shielding kids from every possible disappointment in life, so that when they face one, they are prepared for it; if we take the XBox away once in awhile; and if we actually talk to our kids occasionally, we might prevent some of this crap."
Another reader said children need to be taught how to love other humans.
"Utopian futures, while nice to think about, are unattainable," said user Kandric. "Humans -- by their very nature -- are chaotic and violent. The best way to reduce violent outbreaks is by teaching our children kindness, empathy and love. Take the time to be a parent. Sure, more gun control will also help, but only marginally. The real problem is the parenting, rather lack thereof."
9. Bolster kids' social skills
Autumn Boyer said it seems like the young people of "generation Y" (sometimes also called "milennials") are living their lives on screens. Kids are playing video games and relying on social media instead of communicating face-to-face, Boyer said, and pronouns are embedded in product names. The point: Concentrating too much on technology and the self harms the ability to understand others' emotions.
"Society and the media program gen Y and the upcoming Google generation that 'it's all about you' (i.e. iPods, MySpace, YouTube, Wii, etc), meanwhile, our kids are not developing critical communication and coping skills, and are stunted socially, psychosocially and/or emotionally due to being 'detached' and 'disconnected' from each other by living life through the virtual world (rather than the real world) of screens."
10. Watch out for one another
User brocore said society is most responsible of all, and especially having "empathy for every side."
"We can immediately label the shooter an insect or whatever pejorative you prefer, but that doesn't help," they said. "You can't fix the problem by casting these people out as an other. They're us, and we're them."
11. What else can we do?