In “Are we asking the right questions?” (June 19), reporter David Hench examined the various preventive measures that might have averted the tragic pair of recent murder-suicides.

He convincingly pointed to the advantages of improved lethality assessments, bail enforcement, protection order enforcement, victim support organizations and controlled access to guns. These are essential in curtailing the risks posed by spousal abusers.

As a newspaper, however, isn’t it ironic that you missed the one question that you are intimately entangled with: What role do the media play in their coverage of violence?

I know, sensationalism sells, and that sucks you into the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” orientation. But beware, for psychology offers instructive cautions: According to social learning, people imitate role models.

As a lighter example, sales of undershirts plummeted following the release of a movie with a scene showing a bare-chested Clark Gable. In a deathly serious vein, suicides and homicides come in clusters.

In “The Copycat Effect,” Maine’s Loren Coleman shows how media coverage of acts of violence actually leads to increases in those very same acts. The media report events. Yet those reflections of reality provide an image of violence that the imbalanced spouse abuser may come to imitate.

Might headlines, photographs, and extensive coverage of violence elicit more of the same? Might this media mania serve to increase domestic homicide? Might this help explain what Hench called “the tragedy of back-to-back murder suicides”?

A more sensitive and sensible style of coverage might reduce the number of such tragic events. I hope your paper keeps this in mind.

Mike Berkowitz

Saco

The coverage of the choices Nathaniel Gordon made in Winslow has been full of potential justifications for his actions. When he picked up that gun and shot his wife in front of their 8- and 9-year-old children, was he struggling to come to terms with something he experienced in Iraq? Was he stressed out because of financial difficulties?

When we view tragedies like this one as a result of a troubled individual who simply snapped one evening, there is no accountability. When we view tragedies like this one as matters between a “struggling couple” that “argued often,” there is still no accountability.

No matter what was going on for Nathaniel Gordon on Monday night, one thing is clear. He believed that he had the right to control his wife, and in the end, murder her. No mental illness or financial stress could have planted that belief in his head. It had probably been there for a long time.

There is no excuse for deciding to shoot your partner to death. Until our communities can grasp this reality, individuals who make violent choices will continue to get away with their actions.

Clare Fortune-Agan

Wells

I find the use of some quotes and the headline of the June 14 article about the murder of Amy Lake and her two children to be inappropriate and, frankly, dangerous.

The words normalize (if not implicitly condone) domestic violence. A man taking his family hostage is not the sign of a “troubled relationship” as one interviewee (and the headline) suggest, but of a troubled man in need of psychiatric evaluation, treatment and detention.

Taking someone hostage is criminal behavior not everyday relationship trouble. Ms. Lake and her children do and did not carry any responsibility for the actions of Mr. Lake; he alone controlled his behavior.

By the same token, including the relative’s quote, “You push buttons enough, and everything’s going to come to a head,” seems to suggest that Mr. Lake’s (alleged) actions were inevitable. They weren’t.

With an eerily similar case just last week, Maine clearly needs to prioritize investment in public education, mental health and domestic violence prevention programs, and perhaps most immediately, demand responsible reporting by the media.

Carrie Hanlon

Portland

Referring to the recent deaths of the Lake family: Would a piece of paper kept this man from doing what he felt he had to do? If he had displayed his anger previously with threats and abuse, why do we think a protection-from-abuse order is going to stop him from harming his family?

It seems to me these acts of murder might have been prevented if there was a half-way house a person could be harbored in until counseling had helped reduce this anger and made him realize what he was doing to himself and his family.

Ideally, once the protection order has been issued, those in jeopardy should immediately be placed out of harm’s way.

Nancy M. Poland

South Portland

The best way to have avoided the killing of Amy Lake and her two children would have been to deny bail to the man who threatened to kill them last year.

Why did she have to live in terror for a whole year, only to be gunned down in her home, while supposedly being “protected” by the police who were occasionally checking on her?

This is not protection, it is enabling the perpetrator. Very simply, anyone who threatens another with a weapon should not be out on bail.

Let’s please enact a new law to that effect — and enforce it!

Gillyin Gatto

Machias

I am troubled, on a number of levels, by the recent shooting death of Andrew Holland.

His loss deals a life-altering blow to family and friends, as well as to the friend responsible for the shooting.

The loss to community, present and future, although not quantifiable, is still real.

According to The Press Herald, Ryan Ouimet said he accidently shot Mr. Holland while tossing a loaded gun from one hand to the other.

While he may have shot his friend unintentionally, this was not an “unforeseeable occurrence” (see Webster’s). It was the predictable outcome of arrant stupidity, outside the definition of an accident. Beyond the realm of individual responsibility lies a deeper societal problem: the belief that having a gun at home makes the house safer.

There are instances where a homeowner successfully defends himself with a gun kept at home. But for every one legally justifiable shooting in/around the home, there are four unintentional shootings, like this one, five criminal assaults on family members or acquaintances and 11 attempted (usually successful) suicides, a 1998 study determined.

The decision to keep a gun at home makes a tragedy far more likely than a heroic act of self defense.

Society pays an unacceptably high price for its love affair with the Second Amendment. A more rational balance of gun rights and personal safety needs to be struck.

Most of us would be better served by accepting the dire consequences of keeping a gun at home rather than continuing to proclaim the fantasy of enhanced safety.

Steven Zimmerman

Topsham

Counterfeit stickers show desperation of the poor

Silly poor people! Paying $100 for fake inspection stickers so they can drive miles and miles to low-wage jobs (More than 100 drivers cited in fake inspection scheme,” May 24).

Why don’t they get their cars fixed properly — or better yet, get a high-paying job? Isn’t that better than working a low-paying job — to say nothing of taking unpaid time off from work and going to court and paying fines and increased insurance costs? It’s remarkably easy to solve problems for working poor people when you choose to ignore reality.

Thank you, Portland Press Herald, for showing us how!

Mark Barnette

Portland

 


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