A man carries flowers from the Sandy Hook Fire Department to the Sandy Hook Elementary school sign after a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut December 15, 2012. Residents of the small Connecticut community of Newtown were reeling on Saturday from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, as police sought answers about what drove a 20-year-old gunman to slaughter 20 children at the school.
I'm a Newtown resident, and like the other town folk (my neighbors and friends), I/we are still reeling from the events at the Sandy Hook school. It wil take a long time for this to really sink in and get processed. There were many heroes yesterday, including the first responders and the teachers, and I am proud of them all.
And, by the way, kudos to Brian Williams and NBC News, who accurately captured the tone, the feeling, and the ambiance of the town. That's hard to do, but they did a good job of it without being intrusive.
My sincere and heartfelt thanks for the messages of good will, thoughts and prayers from everyone. But the obvious, next question is "what can we do"? Believe it or not, there's no easy obvious answers.
That's why, to me, the idea of having a conversation about gun control makes so much sense. Discussion can often lead to enlightenment.
Let me point you to two thoughtful articles that illustrate the above points. The first, from Nate Silver, look at language and usage:
There is, of course, no way to monitor the conversations that take place in living rooms around the country. But we can measure the frequency with which phrases related to gun policy are used by the news media.
If the news coverage is any guide, there has been a change of tone in recent years in the public conversation about guns. The two-word phrase “gun control” is being used considerably less often than it was 10 or 20 years ago. But the phrase “gun rights” is being used more often. And the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is being invoked more frequently in the discussion.
That's a reason right there to enter the discussion and not cede ground.
The second, and in many ways more important, article is from the NY Times and examines the difficult conversation.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, who is the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and has worked on school violence issues, said there were steps that could be taken to try to limit school violence, like limiting entry, developing an explicit disaster plan that includes strategies to lock down schools and pursuing close ties with the local police.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “random acts of severe violence like this are not possible to entirely prevent.”
That's very true (Sandy Hook had those systems in place), but not a reason to avoid the conversation.
As a Newtown resident, I don't speak for the town. But I'm looking for answers just like you are, and I believe discussion and conversation is an important way to find them.
Please sign the petition asking President Obama to help start a national conversation about gun control.
It's a start, and it might just do some good. It might even open the door to talk about the other topic people don't like to talk about, mental health. But let's start by making sure that gun control and gun rights are part of the national discourse.