Newtown, Our Warped Gun Culture & Fear

When the horrific details of the Newtown school shooting started leaking out on Friday, I hunkered down in my cubicle and I cried. I cried for the 20 dead children, the teachers, and the parents. And I don’t know about any of you, but as each new picture of a murdered 6-year-old appeared online, I saw the same thing — my son.

After all, Newtown is only a couple of hours away from me. I, too, live in a quaint New England town that is by and large a sleepy little cocoon, tucked away from a major city where all the “real crime” is committed. The Sandy Hook Elementary School might as well be the Solmonese School where I’ll send my son next year to kindergarten. Usually when tragedy strikes it seems a world away, and you can protect yourself with the “Well, that would never happen here” argument.

But not this time. Not when it’s so close. And not when it takes place in a town that is, for all intents and purposes, a facsimile of my own. Which is why it was so easy to imagine the following scenario:

The phone rings and it’s my wife. She’s screaming about something happening at Will’s school. She got a call from another parent who talked to another parent who was there and said someone had a gun. I immediately swallow my heart in that half-second of frozen terror that can only take hold of you when the person you love most is in mortal danger.

I’m out of my mind but trying to stay on the road as I drive home from work. She calls me again when she’s at the school. Mass chaos. The cops are here but they’re scattered all around. They look as confused as everyone else. And scared. There are other parents there but they won’t let anyone in. The SWAT team just pulled up. Someone’s running out of the school screaming. Is it a teacher? A kid? Is that blood. Oh my God I think it’s blood. One parent said she was in the school when she heard gunshots. She stepped over a body on the way out. There are some kids over there, but they’re older. Some other kids are over there but that’s not our son’s class. Oh my God.

By the time I get there it’s a scene from out of a movie. Emergency crews everywhere. Scrambling parents crying — some out of relief and others out of desperation and fear. No one knows what actually happened, but we know there was a shooting and people are dead. Rumor is kids are dead. Parents still searching for their kids start to recognize each other from past birthday parties and school events. And they also recognize that their kids are all in the same class — and that class is the one that’s missing.

Panic grips tight as does the grim realization that the worst has happened. And in that moment — amongst other parent-kid reunions and cops that won’t give you information but look down in horror as you ask them if your kid is safe — you are hit with the fact that your son is dead. That your little boy, who went to school reciting his ABCs so he could work on his Christmas list for Santa, was one of the 19 other poor souls whose little bodies were torn apart by multiple bullets fired from a military assault weapon. That life as you knew it, will never be the same.

I know it’s graphic, but that’s what I’ve been thinking about every single day since Friday. When I’m not hugging my son in quiet gratitude that he’s still with me, all I can think about are those kids and the parents who lost them. I can’t fall asleep for hours, because I’m wondering how in hell those parents and the survivors will ever sleep again. I’ve never had a panic attack before, but I’m pretty sure I had one over the weekend as story after story after story came about these kids. Each one with a picture. A picture that inevitably morphed into my son’s smiling face.

I’m telling you this because I bet I’m not alone. I bet most parents thought of something similar. Hell, you don’t even have to be a parent to be physically ill about this. I’m sure most people have wondered what it was like when the shooter first appeared, what they would’ve done, what those poor little kids must’ve been thinking, and how grotesque and sickening it must’ve been while that sick sonofabitch was firing 30+ rounds at a time into the most innocent of victims.

It is literally the most disgusting and terrifying thought that’s ever been in my head. I can’t imagine anything scarier being in ANYONE’S head.

Which is why I’m so fucking disgusted by this news story.

This is not going to be a diatribe on gun control. What I want to talk about is much more fundamental. You see, part of my day job is public relations. And any PR person will tell you crisis management is often the toughest part of the job. If one of your products, or someone in your company, does something horrible then you’ve got your work cut out for you.

When an airline company suffers a deadly crash due to pilot negligence, you’ll likely see a loss of business because people are justifiably scared and don’t trust you. If you manufacture food or items like baby formula, you might have to deal with a recall if a dangerous chemical poisons a batch and makes someone ill. Chances are parents will run screaming from that brand because they feel it represents a danger to their kids, and most of them will never buy from you again under any circumstances. That is a completely understandable and natural reaction to a product deemed harmful to you and yours.

Which is why I can’t understand the decision by tens of thousands of people to go out and buy the exact same gun used to viciously murder 20 children less than 24 hours before.

Seriously. What the fuck is wrong with us as a country that our first reaction to 20 dead children killed by a military grade assault weapon is “Aw shit. Now Obama’s gonna take our guns. Quick, get to the Wal-mart so we can pick that baby up before it’s too late!” Because that’s EXACTLY what happened.

This gun was involved in the most unspeakable act of horror anyone can conjure up. Dead children. It doesn’t get any worse than dead children shot multiple times in the head. If you manufacture a product that is in the news for viciously slaughtering kindergarten children, there should be no earthly spin you can put on the situation that will make people look favorably on it. But as it turns out, spinning this isn’t even necessary for the gun companies. Before the gun companies could say a word, people took it upon themselves to go purchase the very instrument that killed these kids. They flocked to stores in hordes, tripping over one another, to bring the very same assault rifle into their homes.

That’s a problem folks. That’s a big friggin problem that should make you angry. It’s saying that people think their right to own an AR-15 and fill it with extended ammo clips that hold 30+ bullets is more of a pressing issue than the carnage it just left behind. It’s saying that instead of taking a long, hard look at the availability of certain kinds of weapons and ammo, it’s more important to buy that one last gun for their collections.

The most telling (and chilling) post-Newtown quote I saw wasn’t from one of the Jesus freaks who thinks godlessness and lack of prayer in school caused this killing. And not even the despicable Westboro Baptist Church morons who plan on picketing childrens’ funerals. It came from a 19-year-old Connecticut man who was quoted in a Yahoo! article:

“Personally, I feel safer where there’s guns,” 19-year-old Peter Griffin, an apprentice cabinetmaker who owns three guns, told Reuters while shopping in the hunting section of a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Danbury. “I don’t want to go to any gun-free zones any more.”  (emphasis mine, not his)

That the gun lobby and groups like the NRA have somehow managed to convince us that MORE guns will bring about LESS violence, is the most troubling component at work here. When people falsely believe that a gun-free zone is a negative, while arming teachers is the right path, it’s a sign that we’ve gone horribly astray.

I’m a nobody with no power. But I’ve already signed White House petitions and I’ll be writing letters to my congressional delegates. Will it do any good? Who knows. But whether or not change ultimately comes out of Newtown, we should at least be able to have the discussion and put all the cards on the table. No more “this isn’t the time” bullshit. There are 20 very small graves being dug two hours south of me, and the very least they deserve is a frank discussion about making changes that could save lives.

In the meantime, hug ‘em if you got ‘em.

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23 thoughts on “Newtown, Our Warped Gun Culture & Fear

  1. Yeah, I too am disgusted with these comments I read from people about how there should be more guns and they should arm all teachers and faculty at all schools and if only everyone had a gun there would be no gun crimes. And I was listening to a right wing radio talk show host who was going to such lengths to defend having any and all guns. He was like, “It’s only an assault rifle if you use it to assault people. What about my assault fists?” And it goes on and on like that. They’re crazy.

    Also, Peter Griffin from New England, really?
    Stay At Home Brad recently posted..Eagle Tries To Pick Up A BabyMy Profile

  2. I, too, was horrified and shocked that peoples’ FIRST reaction after hearing about the massacre of children by an American citizen with incredibly easy access to weapons designed specifically to kill as efficiently as possible was “We need MORE guns, and I need to get them before they’re harder or more expensive!” We have 20 times the rate of death from firearms than all other first world countries COMBINED, and all people say “It’s not a gun control problem, it’s a people problem.” Other countries have mental health issues. They have bad parenting, violent video games and media, and they have crazy people running around. But they don’t have the sheer number of deaths from firearms or subsequent increases in firearm-related crime, and the only major difference is stricter regulations and accountability for their guns.

    This country is letting its paranoid fears and delusional sense of security from its guns take innocent lives, and the only thing people say is “We can’t touch guns laws, because if we do, we’ll be overrun by mass criminals wielding guns and shooting anyone they want.”. We have a warped love affair with our weapons, and not changing our approach is only going to increase the violence.

  3. Very well written. I am a recently retired special education teacher . I cry on and off all day since Friday. I have had very heated discussions on Facebook and Twitter. Topics have ranged from “get over it and move on” to the controversy over autism. I don’t have any kids of my own but, as you can imagine all of the students in came into contact with special needs or general education were “my kids”. I’m participating in the @26Acts cause started yesterday by Ann Curry of NBC. I completed my 1st good deed this afternoon and feel great about it. Tomorrow will be something new and so on. May God bless you and your family O:-)

    Carol

  4. Very well written. I am a recently retired special education teacher . I cry on and off all day since Friday. I have had very heated discussions on Facebook and Twitter. Topics have ranged from “get over it and move on” to the controversy over autism. I don’t have any kids of my own but, as you can imagine all of the students i came into. Contact with special needs or general education were “my kids”. I’m participating in the @26Acts cause started yesterday by Ann Curry of NBC. I completed my 1st good deed this afternoon and feel great about it. Tomorrow will be something new and so on. May God bless you and your family O:-)

    Carol

  5. This is a really interesting and moving post. I am based in the UK and I too have been glued to this story. I have 3 children – one is 7 years old – and the thought of going through what those poor souls are going through right now makes me sick to my stomach.
    We find it very difficult here to understand why the US does not impose restrictions on gun ownership. We have had a handful of mass shootings – there was one in Scotland (Dunblane) about 15 years ago when a mad man murdered 16 children and their teacher. This led to a further crack down on gun ownership. As a result there have been only a handful of mass shootings since then.
    We obviously have our share of Adam Lanzas here, however, they are not able to get their hands on an assault rifle – so the damage they can do is limited. I really hope and pray that Obama will have the guts to stand up and say “enough is enough” and impose some meaningful restrictions on gun ownership.
    I wish you guys all the best.
    Keep up the great writing.
    Jeremy recently posted..Who’s Your Secret Angel?My Profile

  6. Very well written. I am a recently retired special education teacher. I cry on and off all day since Friday. I have had very heated discussions on Facebook and Twitter. Topics have ranged from ” get over it and move on ” to the controversy over autism. I don’t have any kids of my own but after 17 years of teaching, I feel that they were “my kids”. I’m participating in the @26Acts. #26Acts cause started yesterday by Ann Curry of NBC. I completed my 1st good deed this afternoon and feel great about it. Tomorrow will be something new. God bless you and your family.

    Carol

  7. as disgusting as this event is people are too focused on the gun, without the individual to wield thw weapon the weapon does no harm go anyone. if this individual did not illeagaly get hold of a weapon that was obviously not properly secured he would have found another way to do the same thing be it a bat or a bomb knife or sharp stick. lets not punish responsible gun owners for discusting acts of a few disturbed individuals. i heard no crys to ban airplanes when three of them were used to kill thousands of us citizens or baseball bats when some sick person bashes anothers head in the problem is not the weapon, it is the indivuals wielding them. i too have spent the last week hugging my young children and crying every time i have to leave them buf that does not change ghe facts ig was the person that killed those children not the gun!

  8. Right. The gun had nothing to do with it. He must’ve thrown the bullets at them.

    Give it a rest. Stop regurgitating the crap the NRA spoonfeeds you. You don’t know what he would’ve done without a gun. Maybe he builds a bomb, but perhaps he does nothing. Or he’s found out given more time. We won’t ever know.

    But what we do know is that after 9/11, we couldn’t even bring full tubes of toothpaste on a flight. I can’t buy Sudafed without extra security at the drug store. Yet in some states there’s not even a waiting period to buy an assault weapon with high capacity magazines that serve no purpose outside of military use.

    If Lanza came in with a bat & knife he might’ve killed a few people — still a tragedy. But because it was an AR-15 assault rifle, he got 26. And THAT is the gun’s fault.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Newtown, Our Warped Gun Culture & FearMy Profile

  9. excellent post. My first thought upon hearing about the tragedy was to want to hug my kids.

    My second thought was how am I going to tell my kids about this in a way that will not make them worry…
    Carl recently posted..I am going to use the R word.My Profile

  10. At first I was going to write a post about it, but then figured I didn’t have anything to say (that won’t be said anyway by more capable people). I retweeted some things, Liked a few things, and stayed quiet. Until I saw that “God, why didn’t you save these children? — Because I wasn’t allowed in school” picture of a t-shirt on Facebook. All the anger over everything came out. Blaming Atheists like me for the death of 20 children… And what’s the logic here, anyway? That God was too offended to care? That he couldn’t get in to the school? A killer pushed his way in but God wasn’t able to do the same?

    Arghh. I’m getting angry again…
    BloggerFather recently posted..A blogging dads group. So crazy it just might work.My Profile

  11. I have no children. I too have been wide awake with angst since December 14. I can see all of the same visions as you, feel the horror in my stomach and the ache in my heart. That being said, I think this issue is not about guns. We need to think about WHY this is happening. Its not because of guns; its due to the state of our society as a whole. Our society has raised a generation of kids that now care only about themselves. Not their country, not their families, not their neighbors. They are the most important and only thing in his/her lives. Caring about others has become an after thought. We do not teach our children the importance of community. We are missing a much larger picture. People will always be able to obtain weapons, guns, etc. illegally. We must start at the core values of our nation to TRULY change what is going in our communities.

  12. American: What “core values” are you talking about?

    Each generation thinks the one that preceded it is lazy & selfish. Am I a fan of participation trophies and entitlement? No. Does that have anything to do with this incident? Of course not. Lanza was, by all accounts, mentally unstable. And then his mom introduced him to guns. A gun specifically advertised, by the way, to prey on “wussy” men. Google “Bushmaster gun ads” and check out the “Man Card” ads too despicable for words. So whole there certainly are other issues at work here, guns are the main one.

    Besides, please explain why so many peoples’ first instinct immediately aftwr the shooting was to go buy this exact weapon.
    Daddy Files recently posted..Newtown, Our Warped Gun Culture & FearMy Profile

  13. I’m not American so I woke up to the news of the shooting, initially just tweets mentioning the shooting, my first reaction was “oh sh!t not again” my second reaction was “holy crap little kids?”, I then bawled my eyes out after reading the reports of 18 little kids.
    I think the fact that my first reaction is ‘not again’ says a lot.

  14. Hey D-Files,
    While I seem to share the same shock and saddness as other, as well as similarities to being a parent with others, here’s why you’r stuck a chord. We both have children of the same age, we both are dads with the “papa bear” feeling as I call it, and your reaction internally sounds like mine. I cried, inside and out. I put myself in their place and felt fear myself, then thought of those affected and my heart ached for them.
    Thanks for sharing, as I didn’t want to feel along on this, and I don’t.

    Jason
    The Cheeky Daddy
    Jason recently posted..Creating Memories Through Old TraditionsMy Profile

  15. I’m not sure what’s worse: The people who thought “oh shoot, this gun was used to kill kids, let’s buy a bunch before they aren’t available anymore” or the NRA VP who held a press conference saying that their recommendation was 1) a national list of the mentally ill (because putting people on a list for a mental illness diagnosis will *really* encourage then to get treated and stay a productive member of society), 2) the media/video games/movies are to blame, and 3) armed guards in every school (trained by the NRA with Congress-appropriate money, of course).

    Have we really gotten to the point where we need security cops in the 100,000 public schools? And what happens when that one security cop with a handgun is overpowered by the killer with a semi-automatic assault rifle with 100 round clip? Up it to 10 guards with assault rifles at the ready? What about other places that mass shootings have happened? Theaters? Restaurants? Just today, there was a shooting of firefighters who were responding to a building on fire. Should all firefighter squads have an armed guard along with them?

    Where does it all stop? At what point do we say that “Well, maybe we don’t actually *need* that assault rifle and 100 round clip for ‘hunting’ or ‘to protect my home'”? At what point do we admit that maybe our lust for guns needs to be reined in?
    TechyDad recently posted..The Tastiest Decoration in Disney WorldMy Profile

  16. I recently found this blog and wanted to comment on this post from last year regarding gun control. I am a father of 2 girls, live in Texas and do not currently own a gun and I am not a member of the NRA. After Newtown, my desire to purchase a gun increased, but not to the point of actually buying one. As of today, I don’t need a gun. I don’t currently feel threatened enough to purchase one, but I am getting closer and let me explain the rationale.

    I am a firm believer in Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” You are correct, you don’t need an AR-15 with a 100 clip magazine to hunt, nor do you need it to protect your family from an intruder. As Joe Biden suggested, just get a shotgun. But what you do need to keep a tyrannical government at bay is millions or armed Americans who are willing to use their AR-15 if necessary.

    The United States doesn’t need it’s nuclear stockpile to fend of the Soviets anymore, but we still keep them. If those willing to do us harm think that they will be wiped off the map if they send a nuke our way, then the deterrent is working. The same concept applies to a well stocked populace.

    Now, before you think I am a total loon and that I expect our government to turn on its people any day now. I don’t. I think the likelihood is remote, but not entirely out of the question. History is littered with governments turning on its own people for a wide variety of reasons. I also don’t believe that our government can always protect us. Look at recent riots in Sweden, Greece and London and even the tragic Boston Marathon bombing. Having an AR-15 to protect my family and property in these types of circumstances would be very beneficial (if needed).

    As for background checks, I’m against any kind of federal gun registry. If the feds could be trusted to destroy the information they use in background checks then it would be fine. However, recent events involving the government recording our free press and using the IRS to target certain political groups enhances my distrust of the entity.

    Just wanted to offer a different point of view.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

  17. Thanks for your comment but I just don’t understand your point on the Boston Marathon. How would a gun have helped in that situation? Runners running while armed? Spectators all carrying? No one knew who did it at first, so it’s not like people with guns could’ve prevented anything. And residents of Watertown all armed during the police searched just would’ve made things even more dangerous for law enforcement doing their sweeps.

    Thinking that people having arms wiuld somehow deter our trained military in the (very) unlikely event of the govt turning on us is just not realistic. And it focuses on the wrong problem. Let’s keep working to make things better instead of constandtly worrying about worst case scenarios.
    Daddy Files recently posted..When Will This Pregnancy Feel Real?My Profile

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