Without doubt, the Newtown massacre is the second most horrible tragedy of my lifetime. The first was 9/11. For many of us both events shook our faith, shattered our sense of safety and shed a different light on our view the world and our follow man. My heart weeps for the parent of the victims, but besides very sad I feel angryand afraid. I cannot stop asking the inexplicable
I am not a gun lover, in fact, quite the opposite. However, over the next several
months, there will be much discussion regarding what we should do so prevent
another Sandy Hook, and I am not sure tougher gun laws will do it.
If we look back at other mass shootings — Pearl, Mississippi, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Paducah, Kentucky, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Colorado movie theater, Sandy Hook Elementary — all occurred in “gun free zones”, areas where the killers knew they could bring to bear carnage while confronting little to no resistance.
Would Lanza have gone to the elementary school if he knew there was an armed officer on site, or if the staff were armed? We will never know because he shot himself when he heard the police sirens. However, it is interesting to note that before he went to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother while she was still in bed. Why? Is it because he knew that his mother had guns, and if she was laying down in bad there was less of a chance she could get to one of her weapons before he killed her?
Something else I have noticed is that school shootings with mass casualties are not happening at inner city schools. Most have taken place in small towns, predominantly middle to upper-middle-class, affluent communities. Why is that? Is it because as a society we associate guns with the inner city? Hence, the killers assume that at an inner city school they are more likely to encounter someone with a gun? There are many questions but still no answers.
A few weeks before the Sandy Hook slaughter Lanza attempted to get a gun permit, and he was refused. Despite the fact that our laws did not prevent the killings, the existing gun laws worked because it prevented a mad man from obtaining a permit and legally acquiring a gun. Unfortunately, the guns he used to kill the innocent were registered to his mother. Unlike her son, there is all indication Nancy Lanza was a stable and well-respected member of her community. Therefore, “tougher gun laws” would not have prevented Nancy Lanza from legally owning guns, and would not prevent the shootings.
If we were going to look for new laws as the means to prevent the next school shootings, nothing short of banning the sale of guns, and confiscating the guns already owned by law-abiding citizens, would prevent the next massacre. We all know that outlawing gun ownership in America will not happen. Moreover, even if a law were to pass and survive all the legal challenges, it would impossible to enforce. So what can we do to protect our children from the Adam Lanza’s of the world?
I believe that first step towards a more safe environment requires admitting that there is no one size fits all solution to the problem of mass shootings, and that there is no such thing as absolute safety. The best we can do, is reduce the risk as much as possible.
Consequently, we need to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of each school in our state. We have to identify the unique vulnerabilities at each facility and take action to eliminate or at the very least lessen them. We need to always weigh our threat level so we start responding to situations versus reacting to tragedy.
Long term, we need to undertake a thorough review of our mental health assets. What short and lasting help do we offer people suffering from serious mental health issues? How can we best assist the families of sufferers, especially parents of adult children who refuse treatment? Connecticut is one of only six states that do not have an assisted outpatient treatment law. Maybe we need to ask the question when do personal and public safeties supersede the freedoms and/or privacy rights of the individual?
Repeatedly, we hear that these crazed shooters are loners; that they isolated themselves from the rest. Why do they? Are they rescuing themselves from the pain that they are different? This brings up the push to “mainstream” all children. Is “mainstreaming” children with serious developmental and psychological
challenges the best course of action for them and others? Should we try to educate them at least temporarily with others working to overcome similar challenges? For the children that we mainstream do we have enough resources in place so they and their families receive the necessary help?
The murders at Sandy Hook are horrible. Nevertheless, before we rush off to try to “save” the children by way of more legislative band aides - we need to stop, and find the courage and leadership to enter into a perhaps politically incorrect, certainly gut wrenching, but very needed conversation.