Those Kids Are Waiting For Us Adults to Respond
Tragedy has visited Newtown, Conn. - a town not far from where we lived for 20 years, a town that helped raise two boys to whom I am "Auntie Joyce," a town that houses families I know and love.
A flood of bullets brought the needless slaughter of 20 children. Teachers and administrators perished by being blown to bits by bullets that tear a person apart as they tried to stop the gunman, as they lied about where the children were.
Teachers huddled with children and read to them. Or told them, "Wait for the good guys. They're coming."
Well, that would be us.
Let me say that I grew up in a family with guns. My father took us out shooting, so we knew how to handle them, knew to fear their power and respect them. I have good friends and family members who own guns for sport, hunting and protection. I am not anti-gun.
I am also the victim of crime. I know how it changes your life forever, and it lives like Peter Pan's shadow around you, only without whimsy or charm.
And when we, as a society, cannot see our way clear out of the fog of gunsmoke to rethink our responsibilities in the ownership of such power and fear, something has gone terribly awry.
Compromise, the four-letter word of the decade, needs to come into play. Somewhere between the "keep your hands off my guns" approach and the confiscation of all firearms is the middle and livable way.
We train to drive a car, must pass a test and be retested from time to time. We register and take responsibility for any ownership of a car, any damage we cause with it. How many of us are enraged when a driver has no insurance or drives without a license and hits our car? Should we not at least do the same for deadly force so easily obtained in gun shops?
With the use of force on animals or humans should come the proof of training, some record of guns, and proof of their storage. I do not think that is unreasonable. Nor is it a threat to the right to bear arms.
Our view of mental health and its treatment comes into play as well. Insurance companies must help those with severe mental issues. Communities need to help schools nurture those children who show signs of mental disability. It is the "pay me now or pay me later" plan. We can help people or bury them along with their victims. That seems to be where we are headed.
As more states allow more "concealed carry" laws, should we not be sure those doing the carrying are trained and mentally stable? That the guns are stored safely?
The idea that everyone carrying can or should "take someone down" in a situation like Newtown amazes me. Ask a policeman or a soldier how well-trained you have to be to make the right decision and fire the shot in the right manner to accomplish that goal. Friendly-fire killings are not my idea of a step-up in all of this.
I don't have all the answers. But coming to the table, in the name of these children, might be a good start. The fiscal cliff is nothing compared with the moral imperative to answer these and other deaths with rational, fair action.
Bring the parties together, and let's find the middle way. Let's do it now, when there is no election in the air. Can we really let either side pay money to politicians over the coffins of these children to win their side's point of view? Can we?
Many ideas can be put on the table to arrive at a reasonable and doable solution. I don't think we can put this rational discussion off any longer. Those 20 children, ages 6 and 7, are waiting for us to respond.
"Wait for the good guys. They're coming." But when? When?
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She recently retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.
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