Newtown Tragedy Is Just So Sad

My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and to the entire community of Newtown, CT.  20 children and 7 adults are dead, victims of senseless violence, murdered by a mentally unstable gunman.  Although the facts are not yet clear, the gunman, described as a man in his twenties, allegedly killed his mother, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary school and open fired on a class of kindergartners, killing 20 of the children and 6 school personnel, including the principal and a school psychologist before taking his own life.

This unspeakable crime is almost too gruesome to process, and as horrifically shocking as it is, mass murders are not all that uncommon in the U.S.  Mother Jones recently released a report finding that 61 mass murders have been committed in the U.S. in the last 30 years, and 7 such murders have occurred in 2012 alone.  In most of the cases, the atrocities were committed by mentally unstable gunmen with semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons they legally obtained.

Given the frequency of these tragedies, it’s time for lawmakers to get serious about enacting gun control legislation and providing more funding to support mental health services to people in need.  We seem to care more about the right to own a gun, than we do about the idea of a social contract, one based on love and support for all and a commitment to those in need – the poor, the hungry, the neglected and those suffering from abuse and mental illness.  We should look after each other and this also may mean institutionalizing those who are a threat to themselves and the community.  But I’m tired of the slogan that “people kill, not guns”.  I’m sorry conservative NRA members, but you are wrong.  Guns obtained legally do kill when in the wrong hands.  In the 61 cases of mass murder in the U.S. in the last 30 years, victims were slaughtered not by baseball bats or fists, but by guns purchased legally by people with serious mental health issues.  Honestly, what is the purpose of a semi-automatic handgun or an assault weapon anyway, if not to kill?  And consider this:  the 2nd amendment does not state that people have the right to own an AK-47.  In fact, the 2nd amendment refers only to the rights of gun ownership within the context of a well-regulated militia for the purpose of national defense.

Society did not kill 27 people today.  But aren’t we in some way responsible as a nation for trying to prevent mass killings?  And what have we done lately? At the federal level, Congress let the Federal Assault Weapons ban of 1994 expire in 2004.  At the state level, Florida passed an open carry law, as did Oklahoma. Florida leads the nation in mass murders.  Texas passed a law in 2011 that permits workers to keep guns in their parked vehicles at their workplaces.  And in Kansas, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools.  According to research by Mother Jones, 37 states have passed 99 laws in the last 4 years with strong backing from the NRA that make it easier to own and carry a gun.  Finally, as the GOP refuses to allow tax increases on billionaires and pledges to keep state and corporate tax rates low and wages low too for that matter, 31 states in 2012 reported cutting mental health services by $840 million to deal with revenue shortfalls.

What will our nation’s policy response be to the Newtown massacre?

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