I am sure that I am just like many of you who feel numb and shaken with disbelief by the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The fact that the majority of the victims were so young has really upset me. For years when my boys were in elementary school, I worked at the school they attended in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms. These little children were so sweet, so loving, so excited to learn. They were always filled with funny stories and laughed so readily. Even those that I knew came from difficult situations at home were full of kindness and hope when they came to school. School was a refuge where they were surrounded by love and acceptance provided by the most amazing teachers. How I loved those kindergarten and first-grade teachers. They brought so much joy and enthusiasm and patience to their classrooms. They made their classrooms a haven, a secure and safe place for all their students. I am sure that the teachers at Sandy Hook were the same. It takes someone very special to teach our youngest children.
Yesterday I made sure that I told each of my children I loved them before they walked out the door. Actually, I know I said it more than once, probably more than twice. This time I didn't receive the standard "I know mom" or "You already said that" in response. Each time they said "I love you" in return. We didn't focus on the tragedy at our house over the weekend. We limited news coverage, but we did encourage our children to ask questions and answered them with straightforward answers. I appreciate that their teachers did the same thing yesterday at school. When Lela came home and told me that the glass in the windows of her classroom are bulletproof, I did take a moment to pause and recognize that the world my children live in is so different than the world I grew up in. I can guarantee that my elementary and junior high schools did not have bullet proof glass in the windows.
I worry about balancing the need for my children to feel safe, providing them the knowledge to be safe, and not letting them become accepting of these acts as normal or commonplace. We do not want them to become distanced emotionally from the world around them or become incapacitated by feelings of inconsequence or ineffectiveness and fear. While talking to them about all the things their schools have done to make the environment safe, we have also talked to them about things they can do to be safe. We have encouraged them to be involved and be aware. If they see something that seems wrong, they need to tell an adult. I appreciated the email from the elementary school that stressed this and let us know that there was help and support at the school for children who are having a difficult time.
Now I want to get on my soapbox for a minute:
Gun control legislation: I understand that guns don't kill people, that people kill people. I understand that guns are just a tool in the same way a shovel or a hammer or a knife is a tool. Any of these tools could be used to kill as well and have frequently been used so. In fact, I love to go shooting. Guns have always been a part of my life. All my children know how to use and RESPECT a gun and my children go shooting with their father quite often. My daughters have a collection of tin cans, plastic bottles and even a pumpkin to use as targets at the gun range. We do not hunt in our family, but my father and brother used to go hunting and my brother still does. If our children wanted to go hunting, that would not be a problem with us. Our guns are stored unloaded in a locked gun safe and/or have trigger locks. I remember one incident reported on the news where children were playing with a gun and one shot the other. At the time, my boys, who were children at the time, were shocked that a loaded weapon was stored unsecured where children could reach it and that they would think it was a toy. That concept was so foreign to the way they had been taught.
But let's be real, there are certain guns that are made for the sole purpose of killing people. There is no need for the average person to have a clip that holds 30 rounds of ammunition. These are the weapons that have become the weapon of choice in the tragedies in the news headlines today. Do I know individuals that own these types of weapons? Yes, I do. Why did they purchase them? To feel macho, to boost their ego. Do they use them much? No. They aren't good for target shooting and defeat the purpose of hunting.
Last night, David Letterman stated that he had had his team research school shootings - only SCHOOL shootings. Since 1995, there have been 70 such shootings. How accurate this is I have not verified myself, but using that information it is disturbing to think that in simpler terms that is over four SCHOOL shootings a year or on average one every three months. Many of the political rhetoric posts on Facebook "recite" incidents where a teacher or principal has stopped a potential shooter by using their own weapon. I have yet to see one such post that says the lifesaving individual pulled out his handy AR-15.
Please contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that you would support a ban on assault-style weapons and the paraphernalia that goes along with them. I am sure that there are many who will say that this starts us down a path that will take away our constitutional rights. But let me say this, no law will ever be passed that will do away with an individual's right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes. The Supreme Court has upheld this right on numerous occasions. But it has also upheld the right of legislatures to prohibit or restrict possession within limits.
To me it comes back to these two questions: Will my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness be lessened if I am unable to purchase an assault-style weapon? Will my children be safer if access to such weapons is lessened?