It is Time: Do We Need Tougher Gun Laws?

At a time when the nation is frozen in grief and disbelief as a result of the actions of a disturbed young man in Newtown, CT, it is now when we should be talking about and taking action towards gun reform. Astoria Mom, Maria gives us her thoughts. Please tell us yours.

On a crisp Friday morning, a 20-year old young man woke up, dressed himself in black fatigues and a bullet-proof vest and shot his mother; he then took her guns and proceeded to force his way into Sandy Hook elementary school. The children, 40 minutes into their school day, were oblivious to the young man and his actions; they sat in their first grade classrooms doing first grade things—reading, drawing, adding; maybe some were giggling or talking about presents and the upcoming holiday, but surely none were thinking that in a few minutes this young man would walk into their classroom, open fire, and leave it strewn with the bloody carnage of their friends and teachers.

But he did.

And once again, almost four months after James Holmes transformed himself into a one-man army and shot 71 people at a midnight showing of The Dark Night Rises, we, as a nation, find ourselves confronted with the recurring issue of guns and everything related to guns. The networks wasted no time in beginning their onslaught of probing one question: whether or not we need tougher gun laws and if tougher gun laws would even matter in these types of shootings. For weeks to follow, we will hear endless discussions surrounding this very question, but we will never really address it; we will grow angry and bitter, we will wonder why and how, we will engage in debates about evil and mental illness, nature and nurture, whether we should name the shooter or not; we will learn intimate details about Adam Lanza, and we will come to hate him, in the same deep and abiding way that he hated us. And then, like so many other tragedies in this nation, the event and all discussions will quietly slip into the archives of our collective memory, and save for those directly affected, we will move on with our lives.

But we cannot move on, not this time. This time, if anything is to change, and it must, we need to stay in this moment and turn a deaf ear to statements like Jay Carney’s, the White House Press Secretary, who declared that “today is not that day [to talk about our nations gun policy]…that day will come later.” Well, Mr. Carney, guess what? When 20 first and second graders and 7 adults are massacred in a school, a school, Mr. Carney, not the front of lines of Iraq or Afghanistan, an elementary school, then that day for talking has arrived. There is no later, or tomorrow, or in a few weeks, by then it will be too late.

No, today, as we experience the raw and visceral emotions of feeling violated by politicians and gun-lobbyists who continue to sacrifice our children for policy and money, is the day; right now, while these emotions wash over us again and again and images of broken parents dropping to their knees and howling at God permeate the media outlets, it is time to sit down and talk. Time to tease through the jargon and rhetoric and understand how this type of violence is an indication of an ailing society, a society that needs to reassess its values and priorities and political agendas, not by finger pointing, but through real, legitimate dialogue. Now, we need to talk.

As a mother, a citizen, and a human being, I become outraged and sick when I try to fathom the horror that ensued when Adam Lanza opened the door and those children watched him pull his guns and begin to shoot. I cannot pretend to understand the yawning void that opened in the heart of the parents who received that phone call, who showed up at a Firehouse and saw nothing, the parents whose lives are now reduced to how’s and why’s and haunting images of their child looking into the face of a rabid young man who decided they should pay for his hate. Can you understand that abyss Mr. Carney? Can anyone who decries the passing of stricter gun laws? Is this still not the time to talk about guns and violence?

And now, as we stand aghast, trying to wrap our mind around acts that move beyond the realm of language, acts that break the core of our very being and make us draw those we love closer, I hope that we resist the temptation to rationalize these acts by saying they are simply the work of one psychotic individual, they are not. Yes, Adam Lanza acted alone, they all do, but he did not live in a bubble; he lived with us and among us, in our society, and if we are to make any progress as a society that strives to end gun violence, then we need to remember that, and we need to start talking right now.

Maria Smilios