The public outcry from the devastation and unthinkable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut continues on 24 hours later, and undoubtedly will stay alive for another week or so. That is the length of attention we as a culture roll with these days. The shooting in a Portland, OR mall just days earlier is all but forgotten, overshadowed by the loss of life of 20 young children and (let us not forget) 6 adults who were trying to protect them.

Our virtual town criers are Facebook and Twitter, and the raw emotions of anger, sadness, and pain are filling cyberspace. Calls and online petitions for gun control are burning like a forest fire in 101 degree heat. Pleas from everyone to hug your kids abound, as if we should be reminded to do this daily anyway.

I have a few thoughts about all of this. Some of you may agree; some of you may get annoyed or angry. I hope it at least it may be cause for civilized and thoughtful debate. Something that the platforms on Facebook and Twitter don’t always lend themselves to.

This has been a sickening tragedy. As a school board president, I can’t help but superimpose the events with one of the elementary schools in my charge and wonder how that pain must feel. As a parent, I can’t imagine what those who lost children are going through. AND don’t forget that the 6 adults lost were someone else’s child. They are also suffering the same anguish. I hope that in the focus of the young that we don’t overlook the other lives lost and affected. The people involved – including the police, the community, the state, and all of you will have this indelibly inked in your memory. My prayers go out to all those who have been affected and touched by this tragedy.

I am not a gun owner. Never have and don’t plan on ever being. I don’t have any issues with people that own guns as sportsmen and hobbyists. The sonorous roar for gun control has been precipitated due to the loss of young lives in a school. Unfortunately, guns are not the proximate cause of all these catastrophes (remember Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and two weeks ago in Kansas City with the NFL player). Connecticut has some of the stingiest gun control laws in the country. The guns in this situation were legally owned and registered by the mother. Guns end up doing the fatal damage.  So do the cars on the road that have killed over 100,000 people on the last three years in the United States. Yet, nobody is calling for a prohibition or control of vehicles. The problem with cars is impaired and distracted driving by people who should know better. This gun control problem runs deeper than guns. You want to have stricter enforcement and tougher laws to control guns…fine. But these issues will not end until the root causes are fixed. In my opinion, here they are in no particular order…

  • Our country does a poor job of identifying and dealing with mental health issues in our society. This is not to be disrespectful to those working in the profession. They are doing the best they can. It’s time that we as a society had an outcry for improved education, identification, and solutions to help treat the mentally ill. All these people perpetrating these awful crimes are mentally ill and in each case, information arises that shows there were signs along the way that were missed. We need to get better fast at fixing our sign watching.
  • Sorry to some of you video game fanatics but here’s my deal. Video games have become intrinsically violent and I fear this has de sensitized  young people from the horror of violence. Games like Mortal Kombat, Thrill Kill, and Postal have a detrimental affect on the minds of young people. Check out who is doing all these killings. They are all under the age of 25. Where is the public outcry to ban games like this? What about pointing the finger at the parents who allow these games. But, that’s just me.
  • Our movies have glorified gun violence with increasing special effects and brutal story lines. Don’t get me wrong. I watch a lot of them. You can go back in time to movies like The Godfather and see violence. However, I think we can all agree that the intensity level and graphic nature has raised dramatically over the past decade in a competitive movie environment and younger and younger kids are being exposed to it. The horse head in The Godfather wouldn’t even faze anyone anymore!
  • Prohibition doesn’t work. It only makes things worse, Go back and review your history of 1930s prohibition of alcohol. Black markets and organized crime grew their strongest roots in that time. So did NASCAR, but that’s another story! Some of my dear friends are calling for prohibition of guns. I get your anger, but be realistic. That will never happen in this country where there are millions of sportsmen who go hunting all over the country every year. They are not the problem and should never have their rights removed. Prohibition and over-strict laws will lead to more underground crime and new ways to spark mayhem.

Safety is the last issue I will cover here. Let’s start in public areas…

When I was in Bogota, Colombia in 2011, I never felt unsafe. Huge cities like Bogota, New York, and Los Angeles all have their bad spots. Even small cities have those places you shouldn’t be walking around at night. But, while I was there, I never, and I mean never, was in a public place that did not have a show of police force. At the malls, police were perched above parking lots, and they checked the trunk of your car before parking. On the streets, they were ubiquitous. Armed and ready to respond. And, frankly the same is true in New York City. Barb and I were there during one of the Occupy Movement “events.” I guarantee you that my safety was never in question!

We need to figure out that we don’t live in Pleasantville any more. Instead of cutting security and police, we should be adding. The best way to avoid criminal acts is to have a visible presence of protection.

The same goes for schools…

In my own personal opinion, police need to have a more visible presence in schools, and it should not be another unfunded mandate.  It should be considered part of total school funding.  When there is a police force visible in schools,  bad things decrease – vandalism, drugs, violence, bullying, etc. If our number one goal in schools is safety (and YES this comes before educating for me), then we as a society need to get serious about showing a force of protection.

Now it’s time to come together and care for each other…

© 2012 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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