Like most of you, I was very shocked and heartbroken to learn about the massacre on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
As the details unfolded about the horrific violence and the deaths of 20 first graders and six educators, my sadness and grief soon turned to anger. I felt so sorry for those 26 innocent people's lives being cut so tragically short by some deranged individual armed with an assault weapon. Thanks to ammunition clips that hold 30 bullets each, in 10 minutes time he was able to slaughter 26 people and take his own life. According to reports, all of the women and children who he killed were hit by between three to 11 bullets each.
I can't imagine how awful their families must feel. It's bad enough this happened at all, but just 11 days before Christmas makes it that much worse. Christmas is supposed to be a time of worship, family gatherings, food and presents, not funerals for 20 innocent 6 and 7 year olds and six of their teachers.
While I realize there is nothing that can be done to bring those beautiful children and their talented and caring teachers back to life, I do believe we as a nation can put our political differences aside and do something to help prevent situations like this from happening again. Enough is enough.
I hope you will use the sadness, anger and sense of helplessness you are feeling to help make change happen.
Since the massacre, I have learned that gun violence takes the lives of 34 people every day in this country. That's more than 1,000 men, women and children dying every month due to gun violence or 12,410 people per year.
We are by far the most heavily armed country in the world. Some 60 million Americans own 300 million handguns, shot guns, rifles and assault weapons. We have 310 million people living in this country. That's nearly one gun for every man, woman and child in America.
I'm not advocating taking away guns used for deer, duck, goose or turkey hunting. I understand the value of hunting, especially in Wisconsin, but we certainly need to ban assault weapons and ammunition clips that hold more than five bullets each. What hunter needs to fire more than three to five bullets before reloading their gun? Assault weapons are designed to do one thing and one thing only – kill people and lots of them. We need to get these weapons of war off our streets. We should create incentives to reduce the number of guns out there, too.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, a gun in a home is a risk factor for a death in the home. Most people own guns because it gives them a sense of protection. But statistics show a gun makes it much more likely that a woman in a home will die. It makes it much more likely that there will be a suicide. And having a gun in a home makes it more likely the gun will be used outside the home.
We have the most permissive gun control laws in the rest of the developed world.
And evidence shows Americans are dying like crazy:
- 5-14 year olds are 13 times more likely to die from being shot than kids in other developed countries
- There is no difference in non-gun murders between our country and other developed countries
- People are eight times more likely to commit suicide with a gun
- Americans are 10 times more likely to die from an unintentional gun-related homicide.
I believe reasonable gun policy can minimize the harm that comes from guns.
During the past week, I heard gun advocates and pro-gun politicians suggesting that teachers should be armed with assault weapons. I heard several of these politicians say if Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hocksprung would have had an assault weapon, she would have been able to shoot and kill Adam Laska before he had a chance to kill her or any of the teachers and students.
What in a few brief seconds she was supposed to pull an assault rifle out of a safe and shoot him before he shot her? I don't think so. Arming teachers and school administrators with assault weapons is not the answer to solving the problem. We have a huge gun problem in this country and it's not going to be solved by arming more people.
I agree with gun control opponents that simply banning assault weapons is not going to get them off our streets and end all of these mass shootings at schools, malls, theaters, restaurants and other public places.
We had an assault weapons ban in this country from 1993 until 2004 and that didn't stop mass shootings. Thirteen students and one teacher were killed at Columbine High School in 1999 during the assault weapons ban.
I learned since the massacre that there was a mass shooting in Australia several years ago. Their government not only instituted a ban on assault weapons, they also had an assault weapon buy back. Since then, there have not been any massacres in Australia.
We need to invest money in assault weapon and gun buyback program to get millions of guns of all kinds and assault weapons and high-capacity clips out of circulation. Simply banning the purchase of assault weapons does nothing to get the weapons that are already out there out of circulation. I believe buying guns back , banning the sale of assault weapons and making it illegal to own or possess an assault weapon would be a good first step in ending massacres.
Another essential tool would be closing the loophole that currently allows criminals, crazy people and everyone else to buy guns at gun shows without a background check. Half the guns in this country are purchased at gun shows without a background check. If this was no longer allowed, it would stop a lot of people who shouldn't be allowed to buy guns from buying guns.
I know there are a lot of other things that need to happen to minimize gun violence in our country. I admit I have more questions than answers. But I think just because the problem is complicated is not a valid excuse to do nothing.
I think we have to address mental health in this country. According to statistics, one in four people in this country have a mental health issue and one in 17 people have a major mental health issue. As we have seen over and over, people with mental health issues and assault weapons are not a good mix. Solving this problem will take the efforts of many.
But to quote President George H.W. Bush, I think we also need "a kinder, gentler nation." We all need to be nicer to each other. We need to help each other and to help end the violence. I also think we need to have less violence on TV and in movies and video games. I believe violence in movies, TV and in video games desensitizes people to violence and inspires crazy people to do what they see on the screen.
I think each of us needs to take the time and send an email to or call our U.S. senators and representatives and let them know we're fed up with gun violence and we want them to do something to make it safe for Americans to go to school, shop at malls, eat at restaurants and watch movies in theaters again. Solving the problem of gun violence will take a lot of work, but if we all choose to get involved and do something about it we can help end this craziness.