My daughter was born May 10, 2006. So was Jessica Rekos, one of the 20 children murdered in Newtown, CT, on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.
Since then we have been trying to make sense of the senseless, to understand the unfathomable. Our world is suddenly devoid of reason. As a parent, as a commentator, as an American, as a human being, my soul feels crushed by this insane turn the world has taken.
Reasonable thought seems to have vanished when it comes to the issue of guns in our culture. And pardon me for bringing it up so early in my column, but let’s be frank: This issue has everything to do with guns.
Yes, it also has to do with mental illness and our attitudes and societal approach to the treatment and acceptance of the mentally ill. Of course it also has to do with our cultural glorification and permissiveness of violence, in visual media, in music and in the electronic games we play. It is increasingly about cowardly politicians who sacrifice principle and their constituents’ wishes by accepting money from special interest groups and industries that manufacture death. It is about letting our social support fabric fray and fail all too often.
But most of all it is a story about children, and about our responsibility to keep them and those around them safe.
I vow to stand strong against the insane belief perpetuated by those who feel their right to bear arms is greater than the right of my children, or any child, to feel safe in their school.
The original intent of that Second Amendment right had nothing to do with anything that occurred in the classrooms of Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. I have to think that had the founding fathers even imagined what would happen in Newtown just less than a week ago, we wouldn’t have mention of arms in the Constitution at all.
That Second Amendment right has nothing to do with owning, collecting or being an ‘enthusiast’ about today’s weapons of warfare. And let’s be blunt: that’s exactly what the weapon reportedly carried into Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School and used in the massacre was—a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing up to 100 rounds of ammunition. It most definitely was a weapon of modern warfare.
That Second Amendment constitutional right actually has to do with a 235-year-old, revolutionary-era concept of militia and military defense of our country against tyranny—not about being a collector or enthusiast. Even if you regard the law as our modern courts have interpreted it, from a perspective of protecting the right to self-defense, what happened in the classrooms of Newtown had less to do with the Second Amendment on Friday, and more to do with slaughter.
In other words, our Second Amendment no longer is about protecting us, but rather it is being used to cause us harm.
So it seems we are at war now, and the attack comes at us from within our own borders, by those we might have once considered our own.
This weaponized madness has come to remind me of is a visit I made seven years ago to Israel, a country that is actually at war, declared or undeclared. During our visit we were at first surprised and then inured to finding armed security guards posted at every mall entrance, and at each and every entryway to restaurants, shops and offices. Atop Masada and everywhere else we toured, we saw groups of schoolchildren, accompanied by armed Israeli soldiers who were chaperoning them as a standard component of every school field trip Israeli kids take.
This is what our reality will become, unless we make change happen here, and happen now.
The time for ‘debate’ has passed long ago—it should have happened before Newtown, before Aurora, before Gabby Giffords, before Columbine, before Virginia Tech, before the JCC shooting, before the many, many others mass shootings where gun violence brought about hundreds of other senseless deaths. We need to mobilize as if this is a movement, as if this is revolution.
We must face the reality that unless we take action, the gun violence will only continue. The day after Newtown was shattered by the massacre there, two more gun incidents happened—one at a hospital in Alabama, and the other at a mall in Los Angeles—resulting in more casualties.
We must also face the reality that, today someone else is planning the next school or hospital slaughter.
What we must ask ourselves is whether or not we need to ever again read kinds of headlines as those that followed the events in Newtown: “ Children Were All Shot Multiple Times With a Semiautomatic.”
We need to find the reason, the sanity and the courage to say to those who oppose sensible gun control that they are cowards. They are cowards unwilling to stand up to a gun lobby and say, “We refuse to allow more innocent people to die.” Those unwilling to consider common sense alternative options—background checks before gun sales, ammunition limits, assault rifle bans, limits on number of guns owned, gun registration, and other saner options—need to be called out for what they are: extremists, cowards and those willing to put children at risk.
They have shown their cowardly stripes through the events of this past weekend. All 31 pro-gun senators declined to appear in front of the media, including their much-publicized refusal to appear on “Meet the Press.” As of my writing deadline, there still has been no comment about the Newtown deaths from the NRA. [Editor's note: The NRA issued a statement Tuesday condemning the shootings and said it plan to hold a press conference Friday.]
Whose heroism dwarfs each of those senators and other cowardly politicians? Teacher Victoria Soto, whose story we sadly know all too well—she put herself between the gunman and her 6- and 7-year-old students to save their lives, and paid with her own.
It is Soto’s courage, and the courage of Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, and of school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and of all the other teachers and children who stood up to the face of evil that Friday morning that we need to celebrate and hold up as the beacon of light to show us the way.
They are shining us on the path devoid of politics, barren of the hypocrisy that we have seen before. To honor them and their memories, that is the path of righteousness we must now pursue.
I, for one, will no longer allow us to be led, like lambs to the slaughter, down the other path to our demise. I vow that for two little girls who share a birthday of May 10, 2006—one whose life is in my hands, and the other whose memory I will always honor.