Editorial - Lessons from shootings in NewtownThe horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday are generating the same questions that arise anytime there is deadly violence at a school. Why did this happen? Was there anything that could have been done to prevent it?
The horrific shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday are generating the same questions that arise anytime there is deadly violence at a school.
Why did this happen? Was there anything that could have been done to prevent it? Should we re-examine gun safety laws to make it harder for shooters to get weapons or should we go the other route of making sure teachers or other school officials are armed to take action?
The hard truth is that a school can never be 100 percent safe, 100 percent impenetrable or 100 percent prepared to stop the kind of violence that erupted last Friday. If someone wants badly enough to get into a school, they can. They can shoot themselves in, drive through a wall, use explosives or a hundred other scenarios.
The best a school can hope for is to slow the shooter down and be as prepared as it can possibly be, which, in the case of Newtown, appears to have been the case. The shooter had to break through a glass door to enter. Teachers kept their cool and unflinchingly followed a plan to keep their students safe; some even gave their lives by trying to shield the children. Police responded to the scene speedily. But in the space of about three minutes, the gunman’s damage had already been done. He took the lives of 20 children and six teachers, including his mother whom he shot earlier that morning, before turning the gun on himself.
The magnitude of the shooting is still sinking in. Many are already growing weary of the constant drumbeat of reporting about the issue, which will continue for weeks. Still, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary should open a discussion of what we, as a nation, can do to stop such senseless violence from occurring in our classrooms.
One thing we don’t need is complacency, or accepting that these shootings will happen from time to time and there’s nothing much we can do about it. For the sake of our children and the other potential victims out there, we must try. It will be difficult. Passing new laws won’t magically make the threat disappear. Instead, it will require a shift in behavior and deeper dialogue within every community, not just from parents and teachers but from law enforcement, mental health professionals and everyday citizens.
Speaking at a prayer vigil on Sunday, President Obama addressed the issue by noting that the job of keeping children safe involves everyone. Obama asked, “Can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children – all of them – safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?”
How we answer those questions could prevent the next Newtown or Columbine or Cold Spring tragedy from taking innocent lives in the future.