Sandy Hook Elementary School. As a child from 1966-1971 I went to Sandy Hook Elementary School. I grew up in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown CT. After Sandy Hook School I went through the normal school progression, Newtown Middle School and then Newtown High School. When I got my drivers license, I joined the Sandy Hook Fire Department just down the driveway from Sandy Hook School. I worked for the Parks and Recreation department as a teen and mowed the lawns at the schools and the town park used for all those terrible press conferences. From 1980 through 2005 I worked for the Newtown Police Department.
I retired as a sergeant and deputy fire marshal from the town of Newtown in 2005. As a firefighter in the late 70's I gave fire prevention talks to the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary. As a police officer and then as head of the detective and youth bureaus, I patrolled and later helped write the emergency response plans for the school after the tragedy at Columbine. I also spent the last 10 years of my career teaching recruit and incumbent Connecticut Police Officers in Law Enforcement Response to Crimes of Domestic Violence.
I watched the TV in shock on December 14th. I saw too many familiar faces contorted in pain and fear. I saw former colleagues, friends and aquaintances in a pain that we couldn't imagine in our wildest dreams, or nightmares. Then the list of victims. Familiar names of school employees and children's families. The President spoke at my former high school, but before he spoke I watched as the members of the Police Department entered the auditorium. One word comes to mind after seeing the faces of the detectives I worked with who were inside that school, shattered.
Some deranged kid with a mental illness who lives about a mile from my mother, killed his own mother with her assault rifle. He then drove about 5 miles down the road and shot his way through the glass doors of my old elementary school and with the same assault rifle killed 6 educators and 20 innocent babies, some of which had special needs. The last part of that has been left out of the conversation. Some of those children killed had disabilities and one of the teachers killed was their special education teacher.
By no means am I saying we should "lock up" the mentally ill. Most people with mental illness diagnosis live productive and event free lives on an out-patient basis. There are however people with illnesses and times during the illness, and there are people with mental illnesses who do not comply with treatment programs or medication regimens who should not be allowed access to weapons.
Politicians can fight over assault weapons and high capacity magazine bans, record checks and eliminating gun show loopholes. Politicians need to look at all avenues to protect our children, and us from persons who shouldn't have guns:
1. Ignore the NRA. The NRA is supposed to support training, education and safety not promote the agenda of gun manufacturers and suppliers while making American Congressmen and Senators their whores. Any politician who votes against gun safety and control measures should have his/her name and the amount of money received from the gun lobby posted for all to see.
2. Government needs to do a better job of educating the public on what the 2nd ammendment actually says and what the supreme court decision expanding gun ownership rights to individuals actually says, instead of what Rush, the NRA and Fox News report. If you listen to the gun rights lobby they have a right to have a machine gun turret set up on their roof to take out the tyrannical US government when it drives down Maple Street to come get their guns. Where does the paranoia stop? Are we really allowing people to say they have assault weapons in case they have to shoot government agents?
3. For Federal, State and Local permits for guns and ammunition a more in depth criminal background check including official interviews with persons such as employers, former employers and neighbors. Currently in many areas of the country the applicant has to submit 3 letters of reference. Who is going to submit a letter to the permit agency that says "I wouldn't give him a permit, he's a fucking lunatic"? It's amazing how many people when interviewed by a cop will say "You're going to give him guns?" and then tell you about real or perceived threatening or violent behavior. I had it happen to me with references I contacted for police applicants. My favorite was the day a former employer told me "I wouldn't let him use the cash register, I certainly wouldn't let him carry a gun."
It may take longer, but while the 2nd ammendment and SCOTUS says you have the right to "bear arms" there is no "right" to walk into a gun store, buy an assault rifle and 1,000 rounds of ammo without a permit or background check. The government has an obligation to keep our children and schools, our malls, streets and theaters safe. The US has become reminiscent of what Israeli's had to live with when suicide bombers would target public buses, nightclubs and shopping areas. Difference is, Israel did something about it.
4. I am a big proponent of ongoing record and mental health checks. If your permit is good for 5 years, the extension process should include another background check. A lot can change in 5 years.
5. Expand the Federal and State Domestic Violence laws to include the removal of guns from homes/immediate relatives of persons who are mentally ill. If a person is arrested for domestic violence or is the subject of restraining order (including those in the US Military under federal law) that person has to surrender his/her weapons until the end of the court case and only receive them back when a judge orders it.
If the murdering bastard in Sandy Hook didn't have access to his mother's assault rifles, 26 innocent lives wouldn't have been lost. Connecticut law worked when he tried to buy a gun at Dick's sporting goods a couple of weeks before the shooting and was denied. So the issue in this particular case was a clueless mother with a gun fetish who allowed her mentally ill son access to her weapons since he couldn't obtain his own. How did that work out for her?
Imagine in the future a 15 year old is sent to the emergency room because he threatens suicide or a 17 year old high school student threatens to kill a teacher or fellow students or a 29 year old sends threatening emails and is sent to the hospital for an evaluation. Now, imagine the law requires Doctors, emergency rooms, counselors, school personnel, police officers, ambulance employees and other "mandated reporters" to report the name of the person to the police department which would trigger a "search" of local, state and federal weapons records. If the address of the person revealed parents, siblings or others with weapons, then the weapons would have to be secured or surrendered until such time that the risk/crisis is abated.
I am not saying take away people's guns forever. I am saying take them away during the time of crisis and only give them back after the crisis is certified as over, with safety measures in place to protect society from those who should never be around, in the presence of, or possessing weapons.
We have all seen the mass murder stories. How many of us have seen the stories of kids playing with their parents gun shooting themselves, a sibling or friend? I remember a police officer I knew who was sent to a neighbor's home on a shooting call to find his own son dead after accidentally shooting himself with the officers off-duty gun. When is the last time we saw an NRA commercial preaching gun safety to gun owners? When is the last time we saw an NRA commercial touting the Gun Nut 2000 gun safe? The National Shooting Sports Foundation located in Newtown CT had a very popular gun lock program years ago, it's time for another safety and security campaign.
The Newtown shooting simply comes down to a problem with access. Not only did this kids idiot mother take him shooting, aquaintances have said she thought shooting and handling assault weapons would teach him "responsibility". This kid and his mother lived in a $750,000+ home and she received $283,000 a year in alimony. She could have spent $1,000 on a gun safe keeping her little nut job out and she, 6 educators and 20 babies would still be alive today. How about it NRA, want to start a campaign preaching gun safety and security? My guess is the NRA will just continue being the John to the whores in politics.