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Lambs to the Slaughter

Einstein’s definition of ‘insanity’ is doing something over and over and expecting different results. Expecting things to change by doing nothing over and over again, when it comes to guns, is insanity too.

My daughter was born May 10, 2006. So was Jessica Rekos, one of the 20 children murdered in Newtown, CT on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.

Since then we have been trying to make sense of the senseless, to understand the unfathomable. Our world is suddenly devoid of reason. As a parent, as a commentator, as an American, as a human being, my soul feels crushed by this insane turn the world has taken.

Reasonable thought seems to have vanished when it comes to the issue of guns in our culture. And pardon me for bringing it up so early in my column, but let’s be frank: This issue has everything to do with guns.

Yes, it also has to do with mental illness and our attitudes and societal approach to the treatment and acceptance of the mentally ill. Of course it also has to do with our cultural glorification and permissiveness of violence, in visual media, in music and in the electronic games we play. It is increasingly about cowardly politicians who sacrifice principle and their constituents’ wishes by accepting money from special interest groups and industries that manufacture death. It is about letting our social support fabric fray and fail all too often.

But most of all it is a story about children, and about our responsibility to keep them and those around them safe.

I vow to stand strong against the insane belief perpetuated by those who feel their right to bear arms is greater than the right of my children, or any child, to feel safe in their school.

The original intent of that Second Amendment right had nothing to do with anything that occurred in the classrooms of Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. I have to think that had the founding fathers even imagined what would happen in Newtown just less than a week ago, we wouldn’t have mention of arms in the Constitution at all.

That Second Amendment right has nothing to do with owning, collecting or being an ‘enthusiast’ about today’s weapons of warfare. And let’s be blunt:  that’s exactly what the weapon reportedly carried into Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School and used in the massacre was—a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing up to 100 rounds of ammunition. It most definitely was a weapon of modern warfare.

That Second Amendment constitutional right actually has to do with a 235-year-old, revolutionary-era concept of militia and military defense of our country against tyranny—not about being a collector or enthusiast. Even if you regard the law as our modern courts have interpreted it, from a perspective of protecting the right to self-defense, what happened in the classrooms of Newtown had less to do with the Second Amendment on Friday, and more to do with slaughter.

In other words, our Second Amendment no longer is about protecting us, but rather it is being used to cause us harm.

So it seems we are at war now, and the attack comes at us from within our own borders, by those we might have once considered our own.

This weaponized madness has come to remind me of is a visit I made seven years ago to Israel, a country that is actually at war, declared or undeclared. During our visit we were at first surprised and then inured to finding armed security guards posted at every mall entrance, and at each and every entryway to restaurants, shops and offices. Atop Masada and everywhere else we toured, we saw groups of schoolchildren, accompanied by armed Israeli soldiers who were chaperoning them as a standard component of every school field trip Israeli kids take.

This is what our reality will become, unless we make change happen here, and happen now.

The time for ‘debate’ has passed long ago—it should have happened before Newtown, before Aurora, before Gabby Giffords, before Columbine, before Virginia Tech, before the JCC shooting, before the many, many others mass shootings where gun violence brought about hundreds of other senseless deaths. We need to mobilize as if this is a movement, as if this is revolution.

We must face the reality that unless we take action, the gun violence will only continue. The day after Newtown was shattered by the massacre there, two more gun incidents happened—one at a hospital in Alabama, and the other at a mall in Los Angeles—resulting in more casualties.

We must also face the reality that, today someone else is planning the next school or hospital slaughter.

What we must ask ourselves is whether or not we need to ever again read kinds of headlines as those that followed the events in Newtown: “Children Were All Shot Multiple Times With a Semiautomatic.”

We need to find the reason, the sanity and the courage to say to those who oppose sensible gun control that they are cowards. They are cowards unwilling to stand up to a gun lobby and say, “We refuse to allow more innocent people to die.” Those unwilling to consider common sense alternative options—background checks before gun sales, ammunition limits, assault rifle bans, limits on number of guns owned, gun registration, and other saner options—need to be called out for what they are:  extremists, cowards and those willing to put children at risk.

They have shown their cowardly stripes through the events of this past weekend. All 31 pro-gun senators declined to appear in front of the media, including their much-publicized refusal to appear on “Meet the Press.”  As of my writing deadline, there still has been no comment about the Newtown deaths from the NRA.

Whose heroism dwarfs each of those senators and other cowardly politicians? Teacher Victoria Soto, whose story we sadly know all too well—she put herself between the gunman and her 6- and 7-year-old students to save their lives, and paid with her own.

It is Soto’s courage, and the courage of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, and of school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and of all the other teachers and children who stood up to the face of evil that Friday morning that we need to celebrate and hold up as the beacon of light to show us the way.

They are shining us on the path devoid of politics, barren of the hypocrisy that we have seen before. To honor them and their memories, that is the path of righteousness we must now pursue.

I, for one, will no longer allow us to be led, like lambs to the slaughter, down the other path to our demise. I vow that for two little girls who share a birthday of May 10, 2006—one whose life is in my hands, and the other whose memory I will always honor.

Cathy December 18, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Heather, My heart is with yours and like you we are devastated by the carnage that took place last Friday. Like you, we are looking for better ways to live while protecting all from insane behavior of others whom we have little control. Tim McVeigh killed more people with fertalizer and a truck and back in the early 1920's even more children were killed in a school in Illinois (I believe) when an angry man who lost an election as town clerk used dynamite to blow up a school. I for one will not give up the right of citizens to arm themselves but will encourage people in authority to address the challenges of modern society - complete with more sufiscicated weaponry then was available when this nation was founded - to take steps to protect the innocent among us. You mention how the Isralies are protecting their children and while I do not think we need machine gun toting teachers, I do believe that we have come to a time when the deterrent of armed protection at our schools and malls may be in order. Did you know that the shooter in the mall in Portland, Oregon turned the gun on himself when he saw a gun of a private citizen/shopper pointed at him? Had that man who has a carry permit not be on site and ready to take responsibility, that gunman probably would have continued to shoot others. We all need to take a breath, hold our children, family and friends...now is not the time to come up with all the solutions. We first need to grieve, assess and heal.
Dan B December 18, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Amen, Heather. The time for debate is over. There is nothing left to do but act. I do respect Cathy's POV and comments above, but also respectfully disagree with her position and her final tought. Now IS the time to come up with solutions, and an arms race amongst the private citizenry is not the answer.
steven bernstein December 18, 2012 at 05:15 PM
i'm mad as hell and i, for one, won't take it any more!
Cathy December 18, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Dan, I have learned the hard way that to react when one is grieving or angry is the absolute wrong time to take action. Cooling our jets so to speak is what is required here. There is much more to this story and we must wait and seek all the details.
Harrison DeStefano December 19, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Heather, thank you for the article. Cathy, with all due respect, I will always be angry about what occurred this past Friday and I do not plan on "cooling my jets". We are all to blame for what happened on December 14th. We are all to blame for letting it get this far. There is no place for assault weapons in the hands of anyone but the police and military. We should have demanded that our politicians do something a long time ago. We have to act now before this happens again and again. Assault weapons and high capacity magazines should be outlawed immediately.
Alethiologist December 19, 2012 at 01:52 AM
HDS What kind of weapons were used in the other notorious "insane shooter" killings?
Harrison DeStefano December 19, 2012 at 02:03 AM
What was used in Aurora, CO and in Newtown you ask? Military style assault rifles. In Aurora a Smith & Wesson M & P 15 with a 100 round magazine along with other weapons. We all know too well what was used in Newtown. If you would like to learn more on the subject of gun laws, the gun show loophole, and how we allow criminals to acquire weapons with our weak policy please see our friends at Johns Hopkins: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/ Oh, and please use your name.
Harrison DeStefano December 19, 2012 at 02:08 AM
If you'd like to learn even more about our gun policy here in CT please visit the website of Connecticut Against Gun Violence. www.cagv.org
Dana Cammarata December 19, 2012 at 03:00 AM
Such a well written and heartfelt,informative article. Thanks.
Jlo December 19, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Any new legislation should aim to make background checks tougher and to incorporate mental health and drug abuse into the things that are evaluated when issuing a gun permit. I also think that all gun purchasers should be forced to obtain a gun permit, which forces you to wait several months, have a local and federal background check, and, at least in wilton, meet with the chief of police and have your neighbors provide references. Obviously the downside of this is that it means all of us are going to have to submit to sharing a lot more personal information with the government. If you know anything about the gun industry this plan makes a lot more sense than banning certain types of guns, which will work for about a week before manufacturers and the public find the loopholes and exploit them.
Alethiologist December 19, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Yet, statistics show, unlike handguns or shotguns, rifles account for only a fraction of homicides in the United States. Of 12,664 murder victims last year, only 323 were killed with rifles, according to the FBI. Both the Paducah, Ky., and Columbine, Colo., mass school killings occurred during the 10-year ban. In Paducah, the killer used a .22 caliber long rifle, 12 gauge pump-action shotgun and a Ruger MK II .22-caliber pistol. In Columbine, the shooters used 99 explosive devices, a 12 gauge pump action shotgun. Hi-Point 995 Carbine 9 mm carbine, a 9 mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun, and a 12-gauge Stevens 311D double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. In 2007, the Virginia Tech shooter used a Glock and Walther handgun to kill 32 and
Harrison DeStefano December 19, 2012 at 04:23 AM
If you must use examples of school shootings and the weapons used as some sort of rationale for lax gun laws let me at least expand upon your facts. In Paducah there were only three fatalities thank goodness, and like you said no assault style gun - perhaps the ban on assault rifles was working. At Columbine two assault weapons were used, a Hi-Point Carbine 995 and a TEC-9 along with multiple high capacity cartridges including one that held 52 bullets. The guns were purchased at a gun show and from an individual seller. Yes, the assault weapons ban was in place but there was no buy back program with that ban. All weapons made before the ban we still legal meaning millions of assault rifles were on the street. At Virginia Tech the gunman only used semi-automatic pistols but you make a good point and maybe we should restrict ownership of those too. Like the do in Australia. BTW, Australia banned assault style weapons in 1996, 12 days after a mad man killed 35 with an assault gun and since then there have been no mass killings with a gun. You can still get a gun in Australia but the rules are much stricter. Oh, and their homicide rate with a firearm is only 41 times lower than ours.
Alethiologist December 19, 2012 at 09:10 AM
HDS My point is less complicated than that. The point is, killing anyone is an irrational, lamentable act and a regrettable component of (in)humanity. Mental illness is the cause. As long as there are guns, knives, rocks or sticks, there will be murder. Better to treat the illness and reverse the recent, rapid decline of valuing the sanctity of life. That includes Hollywood, electronic games, war and abortion.
Harrison DeStefano December 19, 2012 at 12:22 PM
And my point is why make it easier for sick people to get weapons that allow them to maximize the carnage. I would rather they have a rock to throw than a semi-automatic assault rifle. Gun control is not the only problem facing this country, our culture of guns and violence is also a huge issue. Hollywood doesn't help either. But as a parent I know I can have an impact on what video games my kids can play and what they can watch on TV. It all starts at home.
Andrew Ziemba December 19, 2012 at 11:44 PM
The idea that guns are going to "go away" if we make them illegal to own is a total joke. I can accept that there are some who do not like guns and even some who think all guns should be taken away and only the state should have them. What troubles me most is that people think the solution to gun violence is disarming the law abiding citizen. Criminals don't care about laws. What is one thing in common with all mass killings? They broke a whole bunch of laws. What else? They are usually all on medication which makes them suicidal. Here's a statistic. More people die each year from hitting deer than they do from mass shootings in America. Should we make deer extinct? Mass shootings are part of life just as drunk driving, child abuse, animal abuse, murder, bullying, robbery, home invasion, and so many other horrible things. Anyone who legitimately cares about gun violence should take that up with our government who routinely slaughters millions in the middle east to push the military industrial complex marching forward. Obama and Bush have more blood on their hands than all the mass killers combined. What is with the lunatics that demand government acts? Government has acted. Say hello to "fast and furious". Nothing says "I love gun control" like DISTRIBUTING ASSAULT RIFLES TO DRUG GANGS IN MEXICO. It's about DISARMING law abiding citizens. You think politicians care about you OR your children? Please, Obama would slit his mother's neck for a nickel.
MAC December 29, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Again Heather spouts her uninformed and ignorant leftist misunderstanding of the Constitution, in this case of the 2nd Amendment. She demands giving our governments, and incompetent career politicians, even more control over our lives with more ineffective (at disarming criminals and the insane) gun laws! The "Second Amendment" has nothing really to do with "militias" (or hunting, as other foolish pacifist drones like Piers Morgan constantly proclaim). The individual CITIZEN'S "right to keep and bear arms" has everything to do with self-defense, not only of our lives and property, but AGAINST "TYRANNY" by governments!!! "Tyranny" nowadays most often is coming from D.C. and Hartford (and other DEM run state capitals) rather than from outside our borders, Heather! Our founding fathers recognized this threat, and it is more true than ever, now!!! Your demands that all law-abiding citizens give up their 2nd Amendment Rights and make themselves defenseless against CRIMINALS, the insane, and tyrannical governments are extremely foolish and misguided! We will NOT submit to such shortsighted and wrongheaded foolishness--and any legislators who don't understand that are asking for retirement from their positions in government!

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