The Things We Can’t Know

I read the report on the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School today. It was horrific reading. I don’t know why I did it, and I can’t really recommend it. I don’t really have the stomach to say much about it, but I think Amy Davidson says everything that needs saying in her powerful blog post today.

I guess the thing which most struck me, and which Davidson also goes deeply into, is the basic unknowable nature of the gunman. Why he did what he did remains completely opaque, though of the new information brought to light today, a fleeting mention of him having possession of material justifying pedophilia may hold some small measure of explanation for some. For my part, I guess I’m just left with not knowing. His mental health issues and lack of real connection is obviously a central part of the pattern here, but we’re just not getting any closer to what he was. What we’re left with is the failure to stand to account as a country which followed. And Davidson’s cold fury on that count is almost too much to bear. 

A hundred and twelve pounds, 30.47 pounds, four feet seven inches by three feet six inches (the dimensions of the restrooms where children hid), three fragments that “together weigh less than one bullet and are presumed to have been parts of the same one bullet”—we know what these amount to in sum, in the count of the twenty-seven bodies, some of them very small. But measuring what each contributed is harder. The report doesn’t have an answer for why this happened, but it does pose a situation: a man with “significant mental-health issues” and “familiarity with and access to firearms and ammunition.” The many numbers in the report do not include 54-46, the vote by which modest gun-control measures were defeated in the Senate, this April. The great mystery, not addressed in its pages, is why, in the year since Sandy Hook, we have not done anything about our relationship with guns—either our familiarity or our access. What is the motive for that?

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