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By: Jamie Collins
Today, we felt compelled to share an opinion piece, written by the Founder in light of Friday’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. Please note that this piece does not necessarily represent the views of The Paralegal Society as a group, its individual Mentors or its Members, although it certainly may. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by this terrible tragedy.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last Friday, I dropped my 7-year-old, first grade son off at his elementary school, as many other parents did. We waved goodbye to our children as they stepped outside our parked vehicles or onto big, yellow school buses in route to another day of education at their respective elementary schools all across the country.
Little did we know that Friday, December 14, 2012, would change us as a nation. It would bring the citizens of this great country to their knees. We would hear graphic radio accounts, see tragic photos scrolling across our television screens, and view countless media interviews, timelines, and personal accounts telling us what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in the early morning hours of what was believed to be a normal day. As we dropped our children off, we were completely unaware of the absolute horror that would ensue. It would become a tragedy of unconscionable loss that would affect the most innocent among us – our children. It would shake us as a nation to our very core, as parents and fellow human beings. We would find ourselves searching for answers where there were simply no real answers to be had.
That evening, I had the privilege of picking my son up from school. I pulled into the parking lot, lined with the cameras of a local news crew, undoubtedly filming a story we all expected to view with heavy hearts on the evening’s nightly news. I felt an overwhelming sense of deep, personal gratitude sweep over me as I began to walk toward the building to pick up my precious child. Knowing that I had my son walking securely beside me was a gift. It was a gift for all of us who had the fortune of doing so on that day. It is a gift we often overlook. One we now know to be grateful for on a deep and meaningful level after helplessly watching the tragic events of December 14th unfold before us.
As a nation, we found ourselves transfixed to our television screens and hanging on every word of national broadcasts, as we listened and watched, gripped in horror. We found ourselves wondering how such a horrendous event could occur in an elementary school, of all places. In that moment, we knew that there were so many others within our country: parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors who learned they would never see the smiling, happy faces of those precious 6 and 7 year old children again. There would be no more bedtime stories, bandages after bike wrecks, family game nights, helping with homework, cuddling on the couch or hugging their children tightly. There would be no formal goodbye. There would be only empty chairs in a classroom and a gaping hole left in a community and a nation.
This tragedy is beyond logical comprehension. It is a horrific story of young lives lost far too soon to an act of senseless violence. It is a sequence of events that has become all too common within our society. Perhaps the terrible tragedy that unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, will finally wake us up as a nation. May it implore us to take major steps in the right direction to prevent these types of tragedies from routinely occurring within our society. The time has come to ask ourselves what must be done to ensure that we aren’t making it easy for mentally deranged individuals, or those in search of unjustifiable vengeance among us, to commit savage and senseless crimes against our fellow citizens, and possibly, ourselves.
We must ask ourselves what the real problem is — Is it a mental health issue? Could we offer more support and better assistance to those with disabilities or other mental health issues? Is it an assault weapon issue? Would passing a ban on assault weapons really help? Is it a break down in our norms and societal structure overall? While these isolated incidents may lead some to believe it is the latter, I must continue to hope that is not the case. Most of us are good people with morals who care about other people. Yet, one person, making a series of really catastrophic choices can forever alter the lives of so many others. I believe it’s not a one size fits all type of a problem. A broad brushstroke will certainly not lend itself to becoming the solution. We must look long and hard at all of the issues that could be at the core of these incidents that have now become commonplace in our society.
While I believe that citizens of this great country should have the right to bear arms, I don’t believe our forefathers had high-power, assault-style weapons with large ammunition clips, such as Uzis and M-16’s, in mind when they created the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Perhaps you agree with me, and perhaps you don’t. I will candidly admit that I am not naive enough to believe that a ban on assault weapons would prevent all senseless tragedies from occurring, but I do believe it could drastically minimize the collateral damage caused when a mentally disturbed member of our society decides to go on a rampage. (I realize that the gun used in the Connecticut shooting was a semi-automatic assault weapon, not an automatic assault weapon, which seems important to point out for purposes of this discussion, but I stand behind my opinion on assault weapons.)
If you agree with me that we need to look to a solution — then we must impress upon our political leaders that they need to take a cold, hard look at what the key issues are and work toward putting legislation into place that will protect us all. They must act, and act now. They must work to create and pass legislation that makes sense, continues to allow us our constitutional rights and freedoms, but takes into consideration what is in the best interest of our society, as a whole. Does the average Joe really need an assault weapon? Should those with mental health issues really have nowhere to turn then they are in need of support?
I implore you to ask yourself: How many letters you would write, e-mails you would send, and petitions you would sign if this tragedy had taken the life of your own child, grandchild, niece, nephew or neighbor? We have the right to be angry. We have found ourselves with “what if” scenarios swirling in the back of our minds as we enter shopping malls, movie theaters, and drop our children off at their local elementary schools, libraries or other public places as the result of news stories. Not only do we have the right to be angry, we have an obligation to be outraged.
We have a moral responsibility to do all we can to urge lawmakers to take swift and decisive action. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat. I don’t care if you’re a Republican. Whether you have Obama stickers affixed to the bumper of your car or were in the process of mailing a letter of condolence to Mitt Romney prior to reading this post makes absolutely no difference. Quite frankly, I don’t care if you’ve never voted a day in your life. We are a nation of people with a government that was founded by the people, for the people. When those people decide to come together to take a stand on an issue, they become empowered.
We have the power to unite for the greater good of our society.
We must bombard the in boxes and mail boxes of lawmakers.
We must speak out.
We must sign petitions, write letters, and tell Congress: Enough is enough.
We must put politics second and humanity first after the terrible events which occurred in Connecticut last Friday morning, and all the similar events over the past few years. We, as Americans, are no longer willing to passively sit by on our couches, glued to our television screens wondering what we can do in the wake of a horrific tragedy such as this.
We have had enough.
The time has come for action. Do what you can right now to make your voice heard. Send the e-mail sharing your thoughts, make the phone call to a Congressman’s office, write the letter, forward this blog post to people you know, and above all else, hug your children tighter when you pick them up from school tonight. It is a gift. Let us never again forget to realize it.
Ask yourself – What would you be willing to do today if you had lost your own child, grandchild, niece or nephew on December 14, 2012, in such a horrific way?
As a citizen — you have the right to be angry.
You have the right to be outraged.
You have a personal obligation to take decisive action and make your voice heard.
Write the letter. Send the e-mail. Make the phone call. Sign the petition.
As a society — we have the right to be angry.
We have the right to be outraged.
We have a personal obligation to take decisive action and make our voices heard.
Enough is enough. And we have definitely had enough.
“We have got some very big problems confronting us and let us not make any mistake about it, human history in the future is fraught with tragedy … It’s only through people making a stand against that tragedy and being doggedly optimistic that we are going to win through.
– Robert James Brown
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you agree or disagree? Please feel free to share your thoughts via a comment. We’d love to hear from you.