In the aftermath of what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., I have gone back and forth whether I wanted to tackle the subject and all the questions that come with it, not to mention the emotion people feel about this issue. I knew that this specific blog would be posted on Christmas Eve and wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted my readers to read during the holiday. One thing that made up my mind was something a mother of one of the victims said. She said, “There is a new comfort that I feel when I realized that my daughter is with all of her friends now. She is up there with her friends and her amazing principal.” What happened made me very sad, angry, scared, and wanting answers. So, I decided to honor those 26 people killed on December 14, 2012, with the continuation of the gun control conversation. Some people say that when an event like this happens, it isn’t right to talk about gun control right away. But now, it’s necessary. Otherwise, when would be the right time to talk about it? Change needs to happen and It needs to happen now.
Like most people, I was at work on Friday, Dec. 14th. I was in the middle of feeding the baby when my mom called me. She said, “Put on the news when you put him to sleep, it’s horrific.” At this point, a million things went through my head. Even though I eventually learned this event took place in Connecticut, 900 miles from Chicago, it hit very close to home. As most of you know, I am working on my master’s degree in early childhood education. My first thought was, “Children? Twenty children were killed? When will this stop?” I switched between CNN and MSNBC to get the latest information. Then I sat and watched for hours, stunned. I was so sad for all those killed, for their families and the community of Newtown. I was scared for the safety of the first and third graders I nanny. I was angry that guns and gun owners in our society are so protected and that it is incredibly easy to purchase one, particularly assault rifles. I’m extremely angry that gun sales have skyrocketed in the last week amid fear for harsher gun restrictions. One gun company said they made more than $20,000 in gun sales in a day. Another company did about $1 million in gun sales in one day. More than any other day in the last 50 years. That’s ludicrous! Then, I wanted to know why. Why is the debate of gun control so black and white? In the past years, the number of Americans supporting major restrictions or a complete ban, has wavered at around 50 percent. Now, it’s over 60 percent, according to a CNN poll.
I simply put “Gun Control” as my status on Facebook that day. I got some support and a lot of criticism. Now, I know I have a right to my opinion and you have a right to yours, even if you disagree with me. I was just amazed at the amount of comments saying that gun control won’t work. One person said with sarcasm, “Right, like criminals and murderers are going to follow gun laws.” This person’s comment made me realize that I don’t think people understand gun control. By gun control, I don’t mean that creating more legislation is going to solve the problem completely. Many things need to change in addition making it more difficult to purchase guns. But also, my response is, how do you know what will and will not work if we have never tried? Isn’t something worth trying if it’s going to potentially save lives? How many more mass shootings does this country need to endure? How many more lives need to be taken for something to change? Change happens within yourself. If you want change to happen, YOU have to make it happen.
I understand the 2nd Amendment protects people’s rights to bear arms. I believe if someone feels the need to have a handgun hidden away in their house for safety…well, that is their right. However, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, safety devices could have prevented 31 percent of accidental deaths due to firearms. There are roughly 700 deaths a year from accidental shootings and most of those are children.
Another aspect of this horrific event that people are talking about is mental health. I understand there are many people out there with mental health issues that don’t have help and the lack of health care doesn’t make the situation any better. So, here is my suggestion: tougher legislation on owning and selling assault rifles, MANDATORY background checks AND psych evaluations before you can purchase a gun. Now, I don’t know if it will work, but I firmly believe it is worth trying.
I am going to end this blog with a video from Saturday Night Live. They opened their show with a children’s choir singing “Silent Night.”