This weekend, we celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a family trip to Hershey Park.
We were on our way back when my wife reminded me that my birthday arrives in December, and even as I smiled and considered what I’d like to do to celebrate, I couldn’t help remembering the sadness that I felt around my birthday last year.
Just before I turned 45, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old loner, shot his mother in the face with one of her own guns before marching into Sandy Hook Elementary School. There, he turned those guns on those who least deserved his wrath.
What was lost
When the smoke cleared, 20 children and six adults in the school were dead. Lanza then turned one of the guns on himself. Just like that, a total of 28 lives were extinguished.
The children who were killed that day will never get to celebrate their birthdays with their families again.
They’ll never get to grow up, to marry or to have children of their own.
They’ll never get to be anything other than the people they were on that fateful day — innocent and trusting, small and afraid, and ultimately betrayed by our collective unwillingness to address the scourge of guns.
What have we learned?
This year, if I am fortunate enough to reach another birthday, it will come close to the time that America marks the first anniversary of those shootings. I just wonder if we will pause to reflect on what we’ve done to keep that horror from recurring in the future.
We can’t allow that day to pass without trying to do something about guns.
Why? Because if I can still celebrate my child’s birthday — indeed, if I can still celebrate my own — then I should do everything I can to make sure every other parent and child can share in a similar experience.
There should be no moment of silence to commemorate the day 20 children lost their lives in a senseless gun rampage. Instead, there should be a moment of outrage.
Right now, FBI agents are analyzing tapes and other evidence in an effort to understand the reasons for Lanza’s actions. I hope Americans will find the courage to search our hearts and find the reasons for our inaction.
Time for introspection
There’s no excuse for failing to pass gun-control legislation in the wake of such a tragedy.
And for those who will cite the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to keep and bear arms, I doubt the Founding Fathers imagined that their Flintlock muskets would someday evolve into semiautomatics with 30-round clips.
If Washington and Jefferson could see a world where one man could walk into a school and kill 20 children in minutes, that amendment might be worded a little differently.
But Washington and Jefferson didn’t see what we’ve seen, did they?
A much-different world
We’ve seen armed madmen take lives in a Colorado theater and a Connecticut school, on a Washington military base and a Virginia college campus. We’ve seen bullets cut down innocent people by the dozens. Yet, we continue pretending that what we’ve seen are aberrations.
We succumb to glib slogans like, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” We believe they’re true because they’re spoken loudly and spoken often. And while such slogans are at least partially accurate — people have been murderous since the beginning of time — guns make killing sickeningly efficient.
A person armed with a knife couldn’t walk into an elementary school and easily kill 20 schoolchildren and six adults, like Adam Lanza did with guns in Newtown, Conn.
A man with a club couldn’t walk into a movie theater, killing 12 and wounding 58, like James Holmes did with guns in Aurora, Colo.
That’s why I’ll be moving toward my birthday with purpose this year.
I don’t want to grow another year older without speaking up about the need to control guns in our society.
I don’t want to celebrate another milestone without fighting to make sure others can do the same.
I don’t want to look into my own children’s faces knowing that I didn’t do all I could to make their world just a little bit safer.
It’s time to put gun control back into the national debate. That’s the very least we can do to honor the memories of the children who died in Connecticut.