The Sandy Hook Discussion: “But I Think The Gun Helps”

photo of president obama talking about the sandy hook massacre pictures
This post is, perhaps, a bit more of a rant than most. So . . . enjoy.

The horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut was a national tragedy.

I think that that is one thing on which most of us can agree. I will not regurgitate the upsetting details here. Because I want to talk about the response to the shooting—the things on which we do not all agree.

A lot of people are blaming the lack of access to mental health services in many places in the US.

A lot of people are blaming the easy access to guns throughout the US.

There are some loony people who are blaming outlandish things. I mean, for one thing, the idea that prayer being “banned” from schools is responsible for the shooting would be an absurd and, frankly, insulting concept even if prayer were banned in schools. But, I mean, it is not. I went to public school. Some students pray before they eat their food at lunch. My high school did not, to my knowledge, have an Abstinence Club, but there was a Fellowship Of Christian Athletes and they certainly prayed. I know that students might pray fervently and silently before, during, and after taking particularly important tests. Some students pray during the raising of the flag in the morning, though for the life of me I have no idea which school club or what is responsible for doing that.

What people complain about being banned is mandatory prayer in schools. And people complain about exclusive prayer in schools. When you go to a friend’s house and his or her family prays before a meal, it is polite to remain silent as it happens and to wait before you eat and perhaps to hold hands—depending upon the customs of your friend’s family. That’s called being polite, and you are at a friend’s house of your own volition. School is a very different situation. No mandatory, teacher-led, or student-let classroom prayer could ever be “non-denominational” enough to not exclude at least some of the religious students. And, oh by the way, not all students are religious at all. There is no need to bully students of minorities (or majorities) by excluding them. Formal and informal student-groups and afterschool clubs are more than sufficient for any student religious group.

I have even heard some proponents of “bringing prayer back to our schools” speak as if those students (and parents) who object to institutional prayer in schools are invading parties. That is not the case. Even if that mattered, I know that my family has been in this particular county of this particular state since before the Civil War. We have not invaded anywhere recently.

Interestingly, Mike Huckabee and the Westboro Baptist Church (that’s the “God Hates Fags” group) seem to have similar views on the shooting. Mike Huckabee has blamed “taxpayer-funded abortion pills” (his concept of reality is a little shaky) and other signs of the US having laws differing from those of conservative Christianity for the shooting. The Westboro Baptist Church (that’s Fred Phelps’ thing and, oh by the way, he is …

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There’s Nothing Else Worth Writing About, Really

Friday, December 14th, 2012, was like any other morning. I got up and got ready for work. I turned on the news and heard that there had been a mass shooting at an elementary school and I froze when I saw that six people were injured. I went to work. I work at NBCUniversal, so news was coming in pretty steadily by this time. I listened as the body count climbed from six to eighteen, and eighteen to twenty, and twenty to twenty-six. I fought back tears when I heard that twenty of the casualties were children. I fought back tears again when I sat in a conference call and heard “Why aren’t we promoting on social? Cause of those kids? Come on!”

There was a mass of misinformation that day. No one could figure out if the shooter’s mother was involved at the school, if there was a second shooter, if there was a motive, etc. It didn’t matter, though. Nothing really mattered. I went home and, for the first time, cried over an American tragedy. I tried to do anything that might take my mind off of that Friday’s events, but everything took such effort. I just wanted to stay in bed. Nothing mattered. When I did venture out and I saw people walking I couldn’t fathom how they were doing it. Did they not know? Maybe they just don’t watch the news, because that’s the only explanation, right?

By the time Sunday came, we had all the information we were probably going to get. It was a single shooter—he used a Bushmaster assault rifle, and he put anywhere from three to eleven holes in the bodies of six- and seven-year-olds. Teachers told their students that they loved them so it would be the last thing they heard—not gun shots. She told them to wait for the good guys, and that they would be coming. Teachers formed human shields around children, and they read them stories and gave them lollipops. “We thought it would be our last snack,” one seven year old told a reporter. A 27-year-old teacher hid her students in cupboards and a closet then told the gunman that her “students [were] in the gym” before she, herself, was gunned down. Children spoke of how they heard the shooter banging on the locked closet door, screaming “Let me in!” One sweet six year old girl hid under the bodies of her fifteen classmates. When the police arrived, she ran to her mom and said, “Mommy, I’m okay but all my friends are dead.” One student offered, “I know karate! I’ll lead the way out.” The Principal and School Psychologist even charged the shooter. They charged him, but the rapid-fire weapon won out over their bravery. Parents gathered at the firehouse, waiting to embrace their children. They matched up children ages, five to ten, with their parents. What was left was twenty parents without their babies and that’s how they began identifying the bodies.

This past Monday, the funerals began. The bodies were finally identified (by photographs, because no parent should remember their child with eleven military-grade bulletholes in them) and released. Stories came out about Jack Pinto, a six-year-old boy whose favorite football player was Victor Cruz of the NY Giants. That night, Cruz dedicated a game to Jack and wrote his name on his gloves and cleats before heading to Newtown to see his family. Jack was buried in a replica Cruz jersey. Jessica Rekos, another six-year-old, loved horses. Her parents promised her that on her tenth birthday she would get a pony. For Christmas, Jessica asked for cowgirl boots and a cowgirl hat. Seven-year-old Daniel Barton wanted to be a fireman. At his funeral on Wednesday morning, New York firefighters were there, standing clad in dress blue uniforms, many with white gloves to honor Daniel.

Emilie Parker, another victim, loved drawing and carried her markers everywhere. Her father spoke to the press over the weekend. He said, “I am so lucky to be your dad,” present tense, which psychologies will tell you means he hasn’t accepted she’s gone—or in his past. He also said to the Lanza family, the family of the shooter that took his six-year-old little girl from him, “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you, and I want you to know that our family and our love and our support goes out to you as well.”

So far we know that Nancy Lanza, the mother of the shooter Adam Lanza, was a good, kind, generous woman that vowed to be her son’s caretaker for life. She was a gun enthusiast and kept them in a gun locker in her basement. She didn’t work so she could monitor Adam, who had difficulties. She was in the process of having Adam committed at the time and this is being looked at as a possible motive for what Adam did. I mention Nancy Lanza because she, too, was a victim. I think the gutting number of twenty children ages six and seven makes us forget that seven adults died as well.

Naturally, this has sparked gun debates, healthcare debates, cultural debates, and parenting debates. But I don’t care. I don’t care about these debates. I don’t care anymore. I know this has happened fifteen times this year. I know something has to be done but I don’t care to debate it anymore. I …

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