The horrific murders of schoolchildren and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut are incomprehensible acts of violence and brutality. Words cannot truly convey the sense of loss, pain, and sorrow that filled hearts as people around the country listened to the account of the incident unfold. It was numbing, the realization that someone had slaughtered children who had innocently sat in their classrooms at school, that these childrens’ lives and the lives of the adults who had been slain were cut horribly short, and that a permanent loss always would exist for these families. The news evoked feelings of profound sadness that was evident as parents picked up their own children from schools that were hundreds of miles away from Connecticut. In a sense, it did not matter. Such an act of randomness could happen anywhere.
As I thought about the discussion I would have with my own children about the incident, I wondered what do we take away from it? Beyond the evident tragedy, what thoughts do we leave with our children? Because, as one of my children remarked after our discussion, the killings are so difficult to think about that the inclination is to push the incident from our minds to avoid dwelling on the utter horror of it.
I settled on two, hopefully thoughtful ideas that I left with my children. The first idea is to appreciate and be grateful for all of the blessings in their lives. The blessings of a loving family, friends, good health, safety, and the satisfaction of basic needs are more apparent in the face of such a tragedy. Suddenly, those electronic devices or material wants pale in comparison to the less tangible but more important qualities of life. The second thought was the importance of actively participating in the discussion of certain political issues they believe are important. In this case, the issue is gun control. The loss of the lives of these children and teaching staff is devastating by itself, but let their loss not be duplicated.
In their names, let us pass a federal ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons and on large ammunition clips; let us close the loopholes in the gun control laws that enable people to avoid background checks; let us put common sense in gun control legislation; and let us ensure unyielding enforcement of those laws. Perhaps, too, our legislators need to hear from our children on this issue so that during a political debate, they remain aware of that segment of the population that yet has no voting voice, but of whom our leaders in Congress have a duty to protect.