I can't shake Newtown.
I was on my way home from a lawyer networking event on Friday when I heard the news on the radio. When I first heard there was a shooting, my ears peaked, but I wasn't that surprised. I mean, we're all immune to this stuff now, right? It seems there is a random shooting on a weekly basis. What a sad state of acceptance and resulting numbness.
But when I heard it was children - young children - at an elementary school, I let out an audible "Oh God," despite the fact that I was in the car all by myself. I could feel a pit in my stomach forming that I knew wasn't going to go away. I actually felt sick. I turned off the radio and vowed that when I got home I wasn't going to turn on the TV or computer. I couldn't deal with it emotionally, and didn't want to. I didn't want to see crying relatives, scared children, or gurneys. Maybe if I ignored it, that pit in my stomach would go away and I could resume my normal afternoon.
Much to my chagrin, I paid the babysitter and went directly to my laptop, without even taking off my coat. And there I sat, still and in silence, for a half hour, until I broke down and cried.
What kind of world am I sending my children into?
As I was thinking about what I was going to post today, I thought about gathering some statistics on guns and fatalities. I thought about making arguments about regulation and registration. I thought about making comparisons to other countries. About making my own, meager request to the universe, for heightened gun control.
But then I remembered I did that already.
On February 24, 2000, actually. I was an opinion columnist for the Penn State newspaper, The Daily Collegian, when I wrote a column, entitled "America Needs Tougher Gun Laws." The quoted byline of the article read, "The irony is that so many things are strictly regulated in our society such as registering a vehicle and making sure products are safe for consumers."
That is ironic, isn't it.
In any event, I don't need to be a broken record. I made my case almost 13 years ago. My post could conceivably read almost the same way my article did, with some updated statistics and additional massacres.
But my perspective has certainly changed since then.
I wrote that article 13 years ago because I was intellectually interested. I was disturbed by the Columbine shootings. I felt strongly that something could be done.
But I didn't feel it in my gut. It didn't wrench me.
Now I am a mother, and I simply can't handle it. Those babies. Those innocent children who died wondering, "Why is this person hurting me?" and "Where is my Mommy?"
It's too much for me to take.
Now I am beyond intellectually interested and wanting something to be done. As a mother, I DEMAND that something be done.
Instead of ignoring the articles, tweets, and posts about Newtown, I am now devouring them. Not because I am so obsessed with the story itself, but because it brings me peace to know that people are talking about it - that there is an active conversation. That there is more than just mourning. That maybe this was so horrific, so jarring, so inconceivable, that things will change. Because they have to.
Please, lets keep talking about it.
I watched President Obama's speech on Sunday night, and for the first time, in a very long time, I was truly inspired by a presidential speech. He said something that really struck me - he said that having a child is "like having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around."
God, I feel that. And what a sense of vulnerability that is. To have my heart away from me - if only a few hours a day at this point - and trust that my heart will be taken care of, loved, and safe. The alternative is unimaginable, unfathomable, and unthinkable. I simply could not go on.
Doesn't every parent feel the same?
So lets do something about it.
There's no reason that someone needs rapid fire guns, assault weapons, or high capacity "magazines." None.
There is no reason we can't require background checks, permits, and a waiting period for gun purchases. What's the downside? Extra government expense? A loss of profits for gunmakers? Additional red tape? An inconvenience?
I argue that it's more than worth it.
Will it solve the problem completely? Of course not. There is so much more to be done - with mental health awareness, with services, with school security, with education.
BUT IT'S NOT GOING TO HURT.
You can agree or disagree, but regardless, I hope we keep the conversation going this time.
It's about time.