I'm still not entirely sure what to make of the tragedy at Sandy Hook last Friday. It has been nearly a week now. I've avoided the news for the most part in regards to Sandy Hook because I know I will get sucked in. That happened to me after 9/11 and I still shudder at the thought of news specials each year around that anniversary.
But, I am curious to see what changes do come about as a result. To be completely honest, I'm not sure there is anything that can be done to completely prevent this type of tragedy. If someone is unstable enough to desire to harm others (and themself), no amount of laws and regulations will stop that person.
Guns - I support a non-felon's right to possess a gun. Personally, I hate guns and I wish they didn't even exist. I've never had a "bad gun experience" personally. I was raised in a responsible household that had guns. I remember being told as a child that if I was ever at someone else's home and I saw a gun (out, lying around or a friend "showed" one to me), I should leave - immediately - because guns can be dangerous when they aren't respected and having a gun lying around the house with kids isn't respecting the kids or the gun. I'm telling the same thing to my children. That being said, I don't see the need for a handgun or rifle to have the ability to shoot large numbers of bullets without reloading. I know, plenty of people can give me fabulous reasons why you need to be able to shoot off 30 rounds at once. But, I just don't buy those arguments. And, I also don't think arming every person is going to fix the problem either. I, for one, am not certain that I could kill someone with a gun. (Ok, maybe if they were harming my children... but I'm more likely to have that gun used against me because I would probably hesitate.)
Mental Health - I'm truly believe that the mental health system in our country is broken. Not just faltering, but flat our broken. Do I think providing mental health screenings for every man, woman and child would fix the problem? No. Do I think there are thousands of people suffering in silence that can't afford or don't know how to access help? Yes. Do I think the government can legislate a fix? No. I think our society, as a whole, has to get a new perspective on mental health. There needs to be a better understanding of mental health and the fact that it isn't limited to the person with a mental health issue. It can affect so many more lives. The stigma associated with mental illness also needs to be addressed. 50 years ago, we locked up loved ones, often to never see or speak to them again. We forced sterilization of entire populations because they weren't "quite right." Now, they live on our streets, go to school with our children... and we treat them as if they should be anywhere but near us OR we tell them to just get over it. We also blame parents. I do think a child's environment can have a huge impact on their mental health. But, I also think there are children who are destined for mental illness, regardless of their environment. Severe mental illness can't just be "loved" away. There isn't a certain number of hugs and kisses that will magically fix schizophrenia.
Awareness - More than anything else, I think everyone should be aware. Aware of those off the wall comments a friend or aquaintance makes. Aware of the strange behavior in one of your students or your child's playmate. Be aware. Trust your gut. Teach your children to be aware too. Not paranoid or constantly afraid, but aware.
God - as a Christian, I've been very frustrated with some of the comments that have been made in recent days. Especially regarding prayer in schools or "kicking God out of our schools." I went to Catholic schools until 7th grade. We prayed everyday and attended Mass each Friday. Beginning in 7th grade, I attended public schools. Sorry folks, but bad things happen in schools with organized prayer, just like good things happen in schools without organized prayer. Prayer is something that will remain in schools until we, as parents, stop teaching our children to have a relationship with God. Period. Prayer doesn't have to come over a loudspeaker every morning for it to take place in schools. And, prayer in schools wouldn't have stopped last Friday's tragedies. God gives each person free will. Like it or not, some people are going to choose to do harm. That doesn't mean God is no longer there.
I pray for the families and friends touched directly by the tragedies of last Friday. I pray for the people across the country and throughout the world that struggle with similar tragedies every day and are never given a second thought.