Generally, I lean toward optimism. Toward being a glass half full, not empty, sort of person.
But I will acknowledge my deeper, less public thoughts in December 2012, while penning the column below. It was about four hours after news broke of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders. And already I thought, with great sadness, that nothing would change.
Too many complicating issues with privacy and mental health, a lack of sufficient coordination between governmental bodies, too much not yet understood about how guns move from legal owners into unsafe hands.
And yes, an extreme lack of inertia by the general public to learn, think and begin to reclaim their sense of safety.
There would be time, and there has been, for numerous other columns to take on those tasks of explaining, learning, prodding for action.
And so when news broke of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., I was riveted to the news, but waited. For the death tallies to become finalized.
“Multiple believed dead” became “at least five dead,” then seven, then 13, which thank God, was lowered back down to 10. But there are postscripts, noting that a few victims were in critical condition.
Foreboding is appropriate. As we all know; death by gunshots is always imminent in the U.S.
Change the reference points below, adjust the victim’s ages, and the sentiments written then still fit. For that matter, had some deranged person entered a nursing home and begun shooting, the outrage would be similar, just framed differently: innocent, frail victims, living in their golden years….
I cringe putting that thought to words. It could very likely happen.
Sandy Hook Elementary School did not move our nation to change, to act. All I can do is repeat what I said of that horrible day in 2012.
We must act now, for the children of Sandy Hook
The nation has a duty to protect its tiniest, most vulnerable citizens. Our children.
America is failing at this task, and the proof is lying in Connecticut morgues.
Don’t dare forget the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Every last one of the 20 precious souls who died Friday deserves a more pertinent and lasting memorial than the shock of a nation reeling.
They deserve deep, contemplative thought and action. They deserve changes in how we manage the right to own weaponry in America.
If the slaughter of a classroom of children isn’t enough to press for reasonable gun control, then nothing will help America. We might as well hand out NRA memberships with birth certificates.
Mowing children down as if they are targets at a shooting gallery has nothing to do with a well-regulated militia.
The nation soon will be familiar with the faces and too-brief life stories of these youngsters. The sports they played. The games they enjoyed, their favorite colors and classes. Maybe coveted snacks their mothers packed for their lunches Friday.
Gone are their futures: their joy at presents and family on Christmas morning, high school and college, the effect they could have had on society as mothers and fathers and the careers of adulthood.
Some of the children who died weren’t old enough to read chapter books. They knew nothing of convoluted and coded arguments used by adults when defending a position on the Second Amendment, pro or con.
They have become symbolic of a national challenge. How do we balance the constitutional right to own weapons, with the need to protect the public from the dangers those same weapons possess?
What we don’t need in the coming days are nonsensical correlations about guns and crime rates. Nor do we need to go down the usual political rabbit holes of inaction.
As a nation, we can do better.
Locked school doors didn’t save these children. Nor, it may turn out, did background checks for gun ownership.
It should not be surprising if this mass shooting proves to fit so many other cases — that the guns were obtained legally. That’s a clue that current rules for legally obtaining guns sometimes fail to keep them from violent, troubled people.
Yet too often the “legally obtained” factoid becomes an exit ramp from further scrutiny, a way to collectively shrug and move on.
Until the next mass shooting occurs.
As a nation, we tend to accept the violence of mass shootings. We do.
Even as flags were being lowered on Friday afternoon, before the school pictures of the murdered children began flashing, some people no doubt had begun the routine of forgetting.
Tally “28 dead” and mentally file it under “tragic.”
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Aurora.
Yes, this is likely a mentally disturbed person, another family’s dysfunction gone haywire in a public space.
But it is also about the murders of innocent children.
Sear this into your memory: Sandy Hook Elementary School. Never just “Sandy Hook,” as if it could be a popular vacation site.
We need to repeat the whole name, emphasis on “elementary” and “school.”
That will help keep the focus where it belongs, on the 20 children who are dead.
Thoughts of these lost lives can and must lead us to a better place.