The facts are still emerging. But many children and adults are dead after a shooting this morning in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. It is being reported that twenty children and six adults were shot dead by one man.
I wept when I heard the news.
I can only begin to imagine the grief and anguish the loved ones of those murdered are feeling and will continue to live with.
I felt waves of emotion including horror and sadness.
I also felt frustration and fury.
The United States has a culture of violence. I do not profess to have all the answers. I do know we need better laws. With 40% of all guns in the United States being purchased through private sales, including gun shows, without a background check, that’s not a “loophole” that’s a norm.
I’ve read arguments today about how changing or improving gun laws is just “feel good legislation”. My response is there is a great deal of room for improvement in weapons legislation. Improving and tightening laws and regulations does not make it just "feel good legislation". It makes things better; safer. No legislation is perfect. No law can be completely and perfectly enforced. That doesn't mean we shouldn't have the laws.
There is a lot to think about in today’s article in the Washington Post by Ezra Klein: “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States”.
There is also, once again, talk about “not politicizing” this, another, mass shooting. Ezra Klein writes the following about when the air has been thick with:
"calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws."
Two quotes comforted me today.
“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.”
This quote is attributed to Mr. Fred Rogers.
He was a wise man. His mother was a wise woman.
And we are grateful for the helpers - the police officers, the emergency medical technicians, the social workers, the fire fighters, the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the clergy - all the helpers, always.
And this statement from President Barack Obama:
“This afternoon I spoke with Governor Malloy and FBI Director Mueller. I offered Governor Malloy my condolences on behalf of the nation and made it clear he will have every single resource that he needs to investigate this heinous crime, care for the victims, counsel their families.
We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years, and each time I learn the news, I react not as a president but as anybody would, as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.
The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old.
They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.
Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.
So our hearts are broken today -- for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.
Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for, as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children's innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.
As a country, we have been through this too many times, whether it's an elementary school in Newtown or a shopping mall in Oregon or a temple in Wisconsin or a movie theater in Aurora or a street corner in Chicago. These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children, and we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we'll tell them that we love them, and we'll remind each other how deeply we love one another. But there are families in Connecticut who cannot do that tonight, and they need all of us right now.
In the hard days to come, that community needs us to be at our best as Americans, and I will do everything in my power as president to help, because while nothing can fill the space of a lost child or a loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need to remind them that we are there for them, that we are praying for them, that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their memories but also in ours.
May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”
Another wise man.
Now we need to “be at our best as Americans”.
We need to address this problem - not in all or nothing terms; not with heat and no light. But we must act. We must do everything we can to help prevent this violence, these tragedies.