From the Publisher: Mass Shootings — "It's Complicated"

2012-12-21T02:15:00Z 2012-12-28T07:59:13Z From the Publisher: Mass Shootings — "It's Complicated"By John Pfeifer Twin Falls Times-News
December 21, 2012 2:15 am  • 

The week following Valentine’s Day of 2008 my phone never stopped ringing. “More guns to teachers”, “fewer guns”, “let’s arm the students” and “let’s ban all guns” were among the emotionally charged messages hurled in my direction. Contained in each message was the requisite need to assign blame on some person or group of persons. I was publisher of the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Ill., where at 3:05 p.m. on Feb. 14 former grad student Steven Kazmierczak walked into a Cole Hall oceanography class on the campus of Northern Illinois University and opened fire with a shotgun and a 9mm Glock pistol. Five students were killed and 17 more sustained gunshot wounds before Kazmierczak shot and killed himself. Dead were 19-year-old Ryanne Mace, 20-year-old Catalina Garcia, 20-year-old Daniel

Parmenter, 20-year-old Gayle Dubowski and 32-year-old Julianna Gehant, and yet all anyone wanted to talk about was their own particular take on guns. I did a lot of listening, and at the end of each call I thanked them and semi-politely said, “This is a local tragedy in which students from our own university were murdered. Now is not the time to turn the shootings into a political debate.”

I was firm. I was sincere. And I was wrong.

Feb. 15, 2008 would have been a very, very good day to begin the debate.

Instead, we got the first installment of public presidential remorse. The day following the NIU shooting, then-Illinois junior senator Barack Obama said during a Milwaukee campaign stop that the country needed to do “whatever it takes” to stop gun violence.

Three years later, at the January 2011 Arizona memorial service for the victims and survivors of the Tucson supermarket shooting, President Obama urged that the polarized debate over mental health care and guns take place “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.”

Following this summer’s movie theater killings in Aurora, Colo., Obama again referred to the shooting as a “terrible tragedy” and urged those attending a campaign speech to remember “all the victims of less publicized acts of violence that plague our communities.”

And last Friday, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, the president said, “Our hearts are broken today.”

There is a certain deeply troubling progression that occurs each time a mass shooting occurs. Both local residents and then national leaders immediately proclaim the shootings to be “horrific,” declare them to be “tragedies” and issue statements implying some sort of national grief that Americans feel — or at least ought to feel. The president addresses local mourning friends and families, quotes comforting Biblical passages and attempts to turn our thoughts to those things that are truly important.

And then a short 72 hours after each mass shooting, the fiscal realities of “real” solutions are cited, monied interests re-stake old ground and elected officials on both sides of all mass-shooting issues shrug their shoulders and cry out in unison, “It’s complicated.”

Yes, it is. But with the president and his re-election committee having spent nearly $1 billion — and U.S. senators and representatives spending countless additional hundreds of million dollars — they may well have thought that they’d be called upon to address, and solve, complicated issues. As Americans, we have a right to sound public policy and a responsibility to make certain that our elected officials establish sane policy and work through very difficult issues to accomplish it.

Are mass shootings a mental health issue?

Are mass school shootings a school security issue?

Are mass shootings a gun issue?

Only narrow-minded ideologues would ever consider any answer other than “Yes” to ALL of the above.

Without a solution that encompasses all of the above, there will be another mass school shooting. Children will be murdered and once again we’ll refer to them as senseless tragedies. But we’ve waited long enough; too long, really. It’s time to be honest with ourselves and see the deaths as frighteningly inevitable consequences of national inaction. We should take a moment to consider the two-word epitaph that could well be placed on gravestones underneath the name of each murdered child.


John Pfeifer is the publisher of the Times-News and He can be reached at

Copyright 2015 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. Eli Searle
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    Eli Searle - December 27, 2012 5:29 pm
    The last time I checked murder was against the law. Why hasn't that law stopped all the murders? I would guess it's because those who murder do it in spite of the law. The only thing a gun control law is going to do is change HOW someone murders someone. If it isn't by a "assault rifle" it will be with a knife, pipe bomb, chain saw. What if they had used a chain saw? The last I read it took 20 minutes to get the police there. That is a lot of time with a chain saw. So then we outlaw all chain saws? The outlawing will never end as those who disregard the law will always find another way to achieve their purposes.

    As attributed to Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
  2. DoranP
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    DoranP - December 26, 2012 10:35 am
    Everyone has fallen for the media all took the bate hook line and sinker. What is the one thing that has curiously escaped every single conversation, Article, or news coverage on the subject of mass murders? The psychotropic drugs that have been present in every mass murder in the last 30 years. These drugs have been Proven to cause violence, and compell people toward suicide and murder...again..what has been present in every mass murder event? ..thats right...Suicide and murder. Yet no one thinks that the drugs are even a worthy component of the debate? Really? What is the history of these drugs? Nearly ALL OF THEM have never been completely tested, yet were pushed into the market so Big Pharma could rake in the profits. ...and despite the court documented proof of the violence link, Congress continues to do nothing about it, and continues to cowtow to the Pharma industry...far and away the largest special interest money congress receives. There are at least 145 "mind" drugs in circulation. 31 of which have been abundantly documented to violence...of THOSE 31...nine of the top ten (strongest link to violence) are the most prescribed mind drugs in the country....How is this not newsworthy??

    But, lets not talk about it. lets not light a fire under congress' hind end. lets not hold the drug companies responsible for their carelessness. Lets not review the practice of inventing a new "disorder" every month which of course requires lifelong dependency on whatever new drug they've come up with....all rediculously irrelevent apparently.
  3. Rjlink
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    Rjlink - December 22, 2012 10:58 am
    No the knee-jerk response of the witless is gun control laws don't work! The extrapolation that because a few individuals don't obey the law that laws don't work is the real hogwash. No question we need better enforcement, but we also need better, rational gun control laws - laws that eliminate automatic and semi-automatic weapons and large volume ammuntion clips. The argument that gun ownership is an untouchable constitutional right, without rational controls associated with it is hogwash. I will concede that to you when you concede that it only applies to the mussle-loading type of firearms in use when it was drafted.
  4. tpearl
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    tpearl - December 22, 2012 12:43 am
    100 people have died since the terrible shooting at Sandy Hook a week ago...where is the outrage....They did not die from assault rifles but semi automatic weapons....yet lets go after the assault rifles because it too hard to go after the little handguns....then once we get the assault rifles out of the way we can go after the handguns....
  5. eszanto
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    eszanto - December 21, 2012 6:17 pm
    "Now is not the time to turn the shootings into a political debate. I was firm. I was sincere. And I was wrong." Well said. Many more people need to come to this conclusion. Anything other than that is a cowardly stalling technique. Unless we speak up and solve this issue, we can all look into the mirror the next time a mass shooting happens. Moments of silence and prayers are nice, but the only way to truly honor the memory and legacy of those who were murdered is by action and by preventing other shootings.
  6. EdWapole
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    EdWapole - December 21, 2012 12:13 pm
    Hogwash. It is obvious that gun control laws do not work, period. It is equally obvious that more gun control laws will not work. 99.9999% of all semi-automatic weapons were not used to commit crimes last week. But the knee-jerk response of the witless is lets pass a law to take all those guns away from their law-abiding owners, and the criminals will (here comes the sprinkling of fairy dust) MAGICALLY obey the new law and (more fairy dust) we will all be SAFE, forever and ever!
  7. SKC_ID
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    SKC_ID - December 21, 2012 9:43 am
    I will NEVER understand why the average citizen thinks they need a semi-automatic weapon, assault rifle, or a clip that holds 30 rounds! These weapons were designed for the police and the military, and should be left in their hands. They were designed to kill many people in a very short period of time, so if you own or plan to own one of these weapons, please explain to me why you need it. I promise you, your argument is going to sound weak. I realize that there is no over night fix for gun control issues in this country, but we have to start somewhere.
  8. EdWapole
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    EdWapole - December 21, 2012 5:19 am
    Actually it is not all three, it is one of the above, a school security issue. Schools are "Gun-free Zones" signs are posted declaring that really, really bad penalties will happen to you if you bring a gun on campus. Yes, that law and sign combined, are an impenetrable shield protecting all the people on campus - - NOT!

    Deranged people care not about laws or signs. What idiots were elected who thought laws and signs will prevent anyone from killing children?

    A "Gun-free Zone" sign is an open invitation to mass murder. It declares that the criminal will be completely safe here while he commits mass murder; until the cops arrive - men with guns - to stop him.

    Why not have men with gun stationed on campus? Why not have NRA and veteran military volunteers standing guard over the children? I'll tell you why. Such "citizen-based" security would dispel the myth the government so carefully constructs that it can protect you, and no one else can.

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