Thoughts on the Newtown shootings

candleTragedy casts a pall over other plans.  The senselessness of current events defies understanding.  I was going to write about something else today, but in the wake of the shooting of 26 people in Connecticut yesterday, mostly little kids, everything else seems pretty mundane.  Similar to the way I felt when Hurricane Sandy hit.  Overwhelming circumstances.

I grew up in a town not dissimilar from Newtown, right across Long Island Sound.  I know it was a long time ago, and I know the world has changed, but I don’t remember anyone thinking it was reasonable for a person to have 5 non-hunting guns in their suburban home.  Not so today.  In an article in the Washington Post today, someone from the community was quoted as saying that “she (the shooter’s mother) used them (the guns) responsibly.”  When I was growing up I don’t remember people thinking that the Second Amendment meant that everyone had a right – a Constitutional right – to keep as many guns as they wanted in their house in order to protect themselves.  The Constitutional Amendment was to allow for a “well regulated militia”.  Period.  No one can convince me that the Founding Fathers would have thought it would be fine for people to be able to buy semi-automatic weapons at gun fairs or online.  For a well regulated militia?   I just don’t believe it.  Hunting or shooting in a controlled place is one thing; there are ways to allow for fair use and make sure the public is protected (sorry, I am really out of my depth here, but I want to acknowledge that for many people there are legitimate uses of guns, although not part of my experience).  When this unfathomable and unspeakable tragedy hit the air waves yesterday, it crossed my mind that this might be what it takes to finally allow a national dialogue on how fundamental changes can be made.  At least there could be some tiny silver lining – a positive legacy.  I still hope that is the case, but I was sorry to see an immediate defense of a single mother’s need to have 5 guns in her home, troubled son or no troubled son.

I usually try to stay clear of politics and other divisive topics in my blog posts; there are enough topics to write about without wading into those troubled waters.  People have views.  But if there is one thing that has become clear about politics in the past several years, regardless of whether it is the U.S., Canada, U.K. or elsewhere, state/provincial or national level, it is that politicians won’t act on a matter of principle if the voting public is off-side.  If the majority of people cease agreeing with a long-held party tenet, say for example immigration or same-sex marriage, then politicians who want to stay in power, or at least keep their job, will change their stand.  Conservative parties in the western world are coming to grips with this reality as we speak.  One thing I have a tendency to forget is that there are two effective but separate pressures on politicians: the voters and the lobby groups with money (especially in the U.S.).  But the recent U.S. election produced an unexpected and to my mind refreshing message: money doesn’t always win out.  The Republican Super PACs didn’t make the difference they had expected to because their positions didn’t resonate well enough with the voters, who in a democracy do in fact have the last word.  Perhaps with that lesson fresh in the minds of decision makers, the NRA might not have quite the clout with politicians it usually has, especially with the fallen children in Newtown, Connecticut fresh in everyone’s minds and hearts.

I don’t live in the U.S. and I realize that this is an American issue for Americans to decide.  But I am a great admirer of so many things about the U.S.; how could I not be?  And Americans have an unanticipated opportunity to effect change.  We have learned this year that change can start with the public, voter by voter.  Take this moment to speak up.  It is within your power to ensure that these little children have not died – been killed – in vain.

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11 Responses to Thoughts on the Newtown shootings

  1. Nicole says:

    I’m curious to see what happens with gun control. This shooting saddened the whole country. I don’t understand what goes on in the minds of some people. Violence like this seems to be common now, unfortunately, but what happened in that school was way beyond insane. I can’t even imagine being a parent or a sibling to one of those angels, especially right before the holidays. I heard about how the boyfriend of one of the teacher’s aides that didn’t make it was going to propose to her on Christmas Eve. All of this upsets me to the point that I want to do something about it. Something needs to be done about mental health, and I’m hoping that this doesn’t get forgotten about and swept under the carpet like so many other wrong things around here.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know, it’s really impossible to absorb, isn’t it? I had hope that this tragedy might well be the needed turning point – after so many other tragedies – until the incredible (I’m being polite here) speech by the CEO of the NRA yesterday. If a majority of Americans don’t rise up against that viewpoint, it’s hard to imagine the needed changes will take place. Hopefully, his position will be a further rallying point towards gun control (plus improved access to mental health services, etc.), instead of a sense that, “Oh well, I guess there’s nothing we can do to change things.” What a sad situation.

  2. A.M.B. says:

    I can barely stand to watch the news these days. I truly hope gun control laws and increased support for mental health services come out of this tragedy.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s really impossible to process. How can it have had to take such an inexplicable tragedy, after so many others, to give people the courage to say there is a problem? At least there does seem to be an opening for change. Thank God. Happy holidays to you and your family.

      • A.M.B. says:

        Thanks, Jane, and happy holiday to you, too. It’s hard to believe that those precious little kids were only a year or two older than my twins. I can’t even imagine the pain those families are going through right now.

  3. Stephen says:

    Thanks for your post Jane. I’m Australian but lived, studied and worked in New Jersey for several years. I, too, love the energy, freedom and creativity of many Americans. A few of the things I have trouble coming to terms with about the USA, however, are: radical economic inequality, paranoia over universal healthcare and resistance to sensible gun control. Putting aside the usual points of contention–the constitutional basis for the right to bear arms and what it means; the kinds of guns and clips that should be allowed; whether carrying guns enhances or undermines self-defence; whether mental illness or immorality are more to blame than technology; the relationship between levels of gun ownership and gun deaths (the Canada example); the procedures and conditions for owning and using guns; and so on–Americans need to ask themselves what are the cultural, and more importantly the psychological drivers, of the need to own so many guns. What insecurities does it try to meet? What does it substitute for? It is hard to believe that the needs of law enforcement, military, agricultural workers, hunters and sporting shooters can justify the excessive gun use of some Americans. And it is not just the massacres that should be focused on in this debate but also the ‘everyday’ gun deaths–robberies, gang-related killings, suicides, and family and relationship murders–on street corners and housing projects, and in apartments and houses.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thank you for reminding us of the larger everyday toll taken by guns when they are so accessible. The stats – which of course are describing dead people and their grieving families – are a compelling response to the well-worn phrase “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Both the number of guns and the number of gun deaths dwarf similar numbers in any other stable country, rich or poor. Let’s hope this latest mass shooting really is a tipping point.

  4. Manuel & Laura says:

    Laura and I were first numb with anguish about what happened in CT (and, earlier this week, right here in an Oregon mall). Now we are incensed. Since April of this year there have been eight – EIGHT! – instances like this in Colorado, NY, Wisconsin, CA, OR, and now CT. IMO, fault lies squarely with the NRA who through extensive lobbying and lots of money thrown around, have created this gun filled nightmare in the US. Some stats: 89 guns in the US for every 100 people; #1 in the world in gun ownership; #5 in number of gun related homicides; the # of people who die annually in the US from gun violence is 3X the total who died in the 9/11 attacks. When will this end? What more will it take? All we get are expressions of condolence from the politicians and requests, once again, that we pray for the victims’ families, and NOTHING ELSE.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I know. It’s beyond comprehension. I kept saying to myself, “Connecticut?!” And I’ve never been able to fathom the power the NRA seems to hold over politicians of all stripes. That’s why I started wondering today if perhaps there is a slim hope that, after all that money that the Supreme Court allowed in campaigning (another mind-boggling situation) showed that maybe money isn’t everything, there might be a chance for sanity to reign. Oh God, I hope so. Do what you can, folks. Write some letters, maybe?! Love to you both.

  5. Wow. So perfectly said. I wrote a post about Sandy Hook this morning that I chose not to post, because I’m still so unclear.. still wrapping my brain around it…. Your post is thoughtful and true. Something desperately needs to be done.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks a lot, Martha. I also hesitated for many reasons, for one because I grew up American and am no longer, so want to sound as well as be respectful. And as you well know, these gun issues are so sensitive (for reasons I admit I fail to understand but have to acknowledge are real) that it is dificult to wade in, because you may be alienating some people inadvertantly who otherwise you’d have a fine relationship with. Never easy. I tried to say what I thought needed saying while minimizing causing offense to some.

      BTW, I am following your posts, but your new hosting doesn’t allow for “likes”. I have the same problem with another blogger I really like who just switched hosting as well. I hope all is going well with you behind the scenes! Lots going on for you. Merry Christmas.

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