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Don Roach: Making Sense of the Newtown Tragedy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


This is very difficult to write.

I’m a parent of three boys. Many of you are parents with little children. On Friday, many lives were forever changed, some cut way too short, and the rest of us are left to deal with the aftermath.

The difficulty I’m having is having an opinion and it just not being of much value. What I mean, we’ve all read about how many people are saying we need better gun control laws. Others are talking about needing to support those with mental health issues. I get all of that, but still twenty little children are dead, not all buried, and six more adults also had their lives taken away by someone who was hell bent on killing a lot of people.

My point is, I don’t want to politicize their deaths or use it as leverage to further my own political agenda. Indeed, I see a number of people doing it. Let’s talk about gun control for a moment – a number of Congressman have discussed the issue since the shooting. Some are calling for us to revisit the ban on assault weapons which expired back in 2004. The shooter – who shall not be named in this piece – utilized an AR-15, which is akin to the more commonly known M-16. In its non-military form, the AR-15 is semi-automatic, meaning that it shoots one bullet per squeeze of the trigger but does have a magazine. From what I have read, it can shoot about 45 rounds per minute. If someone comes to your house to rob you and you have one of those, I’m pretty sure they would regret their decision.

The question people are asking is why do regular folks need to arm themselves with such weapons? Do you really need a semi-automatic rifle in case one, two, or three burglars show up at your house coming for you 50” tv? Many people and lawmakers are asking just that question today and many are using this tragic event to further their own agenda. I’m not going to give you my opinion on this particular subject, but I just want you to think about this.

Let’s assume that a ban on assault rifles had been in place before this incident and the shooter only had access to non-automatic handguns. He can still shoot his way into the school. He can still destroy the lives of a number of people. It may not have been 26, but what if it was 5, 10, 15? Does it make the story less tragic or, more importantly, less real for those who lost someone? I don’t think so and I think attacking this problem from the angle of gun control seems disingenuous in some aspects.

Others have sought to address mental health issues. As a father of a child with autism, I certainly understand the effects of mental disorders on a person. I also believe that our government does not do enough to support people with mental health issues, but instead only seeks to ensure that they do not hurt themselves or others. In other words, they do the least amount possible so that their conscious is clear. Obviously, and I mean obviously, you’re reading my bias about this issue and I certainly do agree with those who have said that if the shooter had mental health problems that were evident before the shooting, we need to create a culture where we can effectively treat those situations so that they do not escalate. Still, no amount of mental health awareness and increased governmental support will bring back any of those lives that were lost on Friday. And regardless of the events on Friday, if those of us who believe mental health issues are important we need to continue to advocate for those issues and not merely use this moment as a way to get our issues to the fore.

I’ve spent the last six hundred words talking about what we shouldn’t do, I’d like to talk about some things we should do before moving onto the very real issues of gun control and mental health disorders. First, maybe we could say a prayer for the families affected by this tragedy and if possible support any number of funds that will result. I listened to one of the victim’s father, Robbie Parker, and he is a much more evolved person than I am as he talked about doing good in the aftermath of this situation. I think he has it right. I think the takeaway from this incident isn’t just about changing laws but it’s about helping our fellow man on a daily basis. See that homeless guy you pass on your way to work every day? Give him that fifty cents in your pocket.

I know it might seem a little odd in light of what has just happened but it saddens me to no end that those twenty kids were probably terrified in their final moments – going from a regular Friday school day to utter horror in an instant. For me, I can’t move to politicizing this situation without paying respect to their lives, celebrating their lives, and trying to, in some manner, help the families they left behind.

I guess it just boils down to wanting to some good to erase the evil that has come about from this man’s violent rampage. There will always be time for the political arguments and debates.

Let’s just not forget the emotional impact losing a child will have on these folks for years and decades to come.


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