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What can we learn from the Newtown tragedy?

 

Eye with tears

What can I say about the Newtown tragedy that hasn’t already been said? The nation is shocked and stunned with the slaughter of innocent young children. We try to make sense out of this tragedy but can’t. We are left with many questions and those questions may never be answered—all those who might know the answers are dead.

Like the rest of you I have heard countless discussions of the tragedy and a few points stand out to me. The first is that these mass killings are becoming even more frequent and each one is more horrifying than the last. I heard a psychiatrist say that the killings have some similar threads—most are done by society misfits and there have been warning signs. He said this is their way of gaining recognition. Each must be shocking and worse than the ones before to gather that recognition.

Similar threads and contributing factors

He said there are several factors driving these killings. One is the constant coverage by the 24 hour news channels. The perpetrator knows he is guaranteed to receive the attention he craves—he will leave his mark on society. Another factor is the dehumanization of our society driven by violent movies, TV shows and video games.

How can we avoid future mass shootings? The most obvious is the debate over gun control. Even conservatives are beginning to say something needs to be done. Yes, we have the Second Amendment right to bear arms but I don’t think anyone has ever said they want to take away all our guns, despite the fears the gun lobbyists from the NRA have tried to create.

I grew up with guns and learned to shoot at an early age. I’m not sure how young I was but I know that before the age of 12 I was hunting and target practicing with a .22 rifle. It was a rite of passage when our father took us hunting for the first time and taught us to respect and shoot a gun.

I believe we should have the right to have weapons and to defend ourselves but do we need assault rifles with the capabilities of firing multiple rounds consecutively? Do we need something of that magnitude to kill a deer?

We need guidelines for the Second Amendment

We need a limitation of the Second Amendment. We also have the right of free speech but we do not have the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. We cannot incite a riot and cause panic in a public place. The more powerful weapons should be limited to the military and police and kept out of the hands of the ordinary citizen.

The president has started a national conversation of the assault weapon problem. Hopefully, legislation will result that will allow gun ownership but take the powerful weapons off the streets.

Secondly, if the people doing these mass shootings are crying for recognition, then we must find a way to deny them that attention. Once the shooter is identified then we should impose a blackout of referring to that person by name.

Are we dehumanized?

How do we solve the problem of dehumanizing society? If everyone refused to attend violent and gory movies, watch brutal TV shows and refused to buy vicious video games then the problem would solve itself. If there is no demand then it is not profitable to continue producing such material.

We need to look at the mental health system of this country. In some of the cases family members recognized there were problems but were not able to get the proper help and support before their loved one turned to drastic methods.

There are some islands of light beginning to show through this dark time. Some retailers are taking the assault weapons off the shelves. A teacher’s union refused to invest with a company that invests in guns. People across the country are offering their support to the Newtown community, including bringing in therapy dogs to help ease the tensions. Others have sent Christmas trees and fresh wreaths in honor of the victims.

Mr. Rogers said it best

A quote many in the media are turning to at this time of need is one from an old friend. Mr. Rogers was every kid’s friend and teacher and it is appropriate that we should turn to him for guidance during a time of tragedy involving so many children. Mr. Rogers said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Let us look past this horror and take a cue from the helpers in Newtown. Take time to hug someone, or sit down and listen to what a troubled child is trying to tell you, or give a stranger a smile. You never know how far that smile will go.

And, finally, let us join hands and pray we find a way to stop the insanity.