This is the word, the past tense of is, that parents and loved ones of those precious children slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are using to describe their child. Was is a word I simply cannot shake as it cuts to the core of the devastation, that a living, innocent, vibrant child, full of life and life ahead, is no longer.
I do not presume to have the answers to where we go from here. But, as I posted to Facebook as the horrific details from Friday settled upon us, “Tears, tears, and more tears. There are not enough tears that can be shed for children taken so tragically and way too soon.” Since then, as my heart is still heavy and grieving for the families and for our country, I have wondered how, during a time of great divisiveness, we are ever going to come to terms with this not being a unilateral problem, but a multifaceted one needing a multifaceted approach.
There are many facts surrounding mass killings in our country that have come to the fore in light of the massacre at Sandy Hook. I will share links to the information below. What I now understand that I did not fully grasp prior, is that mass killings by civilians not related to civil unrest are almost completely unique to the US. As to the procurement of guns, in the 61 mass killings documented over the last 30 years, 80% of the weapons used were legally acquired*. And, 50% of the shooters had a history of mental illness. While many supporters of gun ownership argue the right to bear arms for protection, in none of the 61 mass killings did any civilian attempt to intervene by shooting the shooter. And, can you imagine how much worse the devastation in the Aurora, CO movie theater would have been had someone attempted to?
As alarming in our love affair with guns, is that on black Friday of THIS year, Americans purchased a record 283,000+ guns**. There are more gun shops in our country alone than Starbucks locations worldwide***. And, where public support of a ban on handguns was once as high as 60%, it has fallen to 26%****.
We will never be able to fully protect ourselves or our children from those bent on doing harm and causing mass devastation. We simply can’t predict how, when, or where they will act. But, one thing I know for sure is that the degree of devastation would be mitigated by banning civilian ownership of assault rifles. At first, it was reported that Adam Lanza used two handguns to slaughter his victims but by today we know he used a semi-automatic rifle, shooting his victims multiple times, and firing “hundreds” of bullets in the span of less than 20 minutes, killing 26 people and leaving only one wounded victim alive.
But as important as it is for us to consider how we go forward with guns, is how we bring the treatment of mental illness out of the shadows and into the light. Of the many pieces I’ve read, what struck me most was this piece by Liza Long, I am Adam Lanza’s Mother. When this mother’s only option for handling her mentally ill 13 year son is incarceration, we have a deep and serious problem. Yet, she knows she needs help and wants it but there is no help since he is undiagnosed and properly functional most of the time. If he were my or your son, what would we want and deserve in terms of his treatment and care?
The children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School are our children. As I awoke at 2:30 this morning to get something to drink, I knew my son was sleeping soundly in his room. I couldn’t help but cry for the parents likely huddled in their child’s room knowing they would never be coming home. The image of parents recovering their beautiful children from the morgue guts me. How do we prevent any more children from becoming was?