by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
Do not turn your eyes from the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary
School massacre in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children, their teachers and aides, their school principal shot repeatedly, in some cases beyond recognition, by a 20-year-old wielding a semiautomatic assault weapon.
As he has shown in his moving words after the horror, President Barack Obama clearly is grief-stricken, as we all should be, about the children murdered in their innocence.
“Can we honestly say we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?” Obama asked in his remarks in Newtown. “If we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough, and we will have to change.”
The president pledged that “in the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
As the president said, we’ve seen too many of these tragedies.
And daily in major cities like Chicago, the trauma builds. This year as of Dececember 10, Chicago has witnessed 485 killed in gun violence, 125 under the age of 18.
Legislators are afraid to act because the gun lobby is well-funded, and this country is saturated in guns. As of 2009, there were an estimated310 million non-military firearms owned in America. There are 129,817 federally licensed firearms dealers, 51,438 of which are retail gun stores.
That compares with 10,787 Starbucks stores, and 143,839 gas stations across the country. And that doesn’t count gun shows.
About 40 percent of guns are sold in unlicensed private sales.
So if action is to take place, Americans in large numbers must make their voices heard.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, one of the original authors of the 1994 assault weapons ban, has vowed to introduce, on the first day of Congress, a new ban on the sale of assault weapons. President Obama could lead the drive for that.
He also could challenge Americans to rethink our infatuation with guns and violence. I would invite him to come home to Chicago to challenge the nation to understand the daily toll gun violence takes.
New York Mayor Michael Bloom-berg has called on the president to increase resources and priority given to enforcing the gun control laws already on the books.
According to Bloomberg, 77,000 people were accused of lying when issued gun permits, but only 77 have beennprosecuted.
The New York Times reports that after the Gabby Giffords shooting, the Department of Justice reviewed what could be done to strengthen gun control enforcement.
One measure was to compel federal agencies to merge information about the mentally incompetent into the background check database.
Obama could challenge states and cities across the country to act. The gun lobby has persuaded many state legislatures to strip municipalities of their power to regulate guns. The president could enlist public officials from major cities and suburban jurisdictions to push hard on states to give back that power to act — and enlist citizens to march on state legislatures to get them to act.
Instead of expanding concealed weapons laws, cities and suburban districts could unite to put strict limits on handguns and assault weapons.
Will the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary and the slaughter on our urban streets force action? Strict laws won’t end gun violence, not with 310 million guns spread through the country.
But we can do more to protect our children, and we must.
Keep up with Rev. Jackson and the work of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition at www.rainbowpush.org.
by Orrin Hudson
Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — The recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is a cry for help across our entire country. President Obama during a memorial service, said, “I’ll use whatever power I have to prevent the type of tragedy that occurred… We all need to contribute in some way, shape or form to the betterment of our nation and communities.” And he was right!
Too often now, we are hearing about such massacres in different parts in the country. Sometimes, they occur at schools, malls and even workplaces. Sometimes, the shooter is a child, sometimes he or she is an adult. Regardless, we as a national community must start pushing the message to “THINK IT OUT, DON’T SHOOT IT OUT”.
The problem is that many of us think we are separate from others; But we are universally one. One song. We normally realize this when a tragedy strikes, but really we should realize this all along. Instead, we are walking in fear, not walking in love. We should be walking in love. We must move away from anger and fear towards each other.
We must embrace and promote life lessons, communication skills, and coping skills. We must teach to each other how to deal with life challenges, and solve problems peacefully. We must adapt slogans such as “Brain Before Bullets”, and as mentioned before, “Think It Out, Don’t Shoot It Out”.We must do more than talk; we must act and the time to act is now.
Talk to your children regularly and address their emotional needs. Learn how to identify the signs of depression and mental illness. Be on alert for signs that show mental instability, uncontrolled anger, and even unreasonableness. If needed, take action to get them the medical attention they need.
Also, take caution with the movies, video games, and music that your children are involved with. Garbage in, garbage stays! Take caution when buying toy guns and such for your kids. Such activities can stimulate violent desires and fantasies in your children. Teach them to walk in love.
Pay attention to your students. Don’t teach at them, teach to them. Inspire them.
Challenge them, but don’t discourage them. Don’t overwhelm them. Don’t create unnecessary stress for them that they can’t handle. Always remember that, in addition to school, students have a life at home. They are people, they are real. Be a friend, be a counselor. Teach them to walk in love.
Embrace each other. Pay attention to each other’s needs. Eat meals together, and talk to each other – in person. If there is a problem or disagreement, settle it. And if someone has mental challenges, assist them. Don’t allow problems to go on unsettled. Also, don’t be abusive in your speech towards each. Words cut like knives, and some wounds never heal. Be effective. Be compassionate. Be the solution.
Teach each other to walk in love.
This isn’t where it ends, but it is definitely where it starts. So, let’s start here, right here, right now!
Orrin “Checkmate” Hudson is an award-winning author and master motivational speaker who has inspired many to “make the right move” and solve problems peacefully.
Associated Press/Charles Krupa – A child peers through firefighters standing as the procession heads to the cemetery outside the funeral for school shooting victim Daniel Gerard Barden at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Conn., Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. According to firefighters, Daniel wanted to be a firefighter when he grew up and they honored him at the service. Barden, 7, was killed when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
by Associated Press
Newtown, Conn. (AP) — One by one by one by one, each with fresh heartbreak, hearses crisscrossed two New England towns on Wednesday, bearing three tiny victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre and a heroic teacher in a seemingly never-ending series of funeral processions.
“The first few days, all you heard were helicopters,” said Dr. Joseph Young, an optometrist who attended one funeral and would go to several more. “Now at my office all I hear is the rumble of motorcycle escorts and funeral processions going back and forth throughout the day.”
As more victims from the slaughter of 20 children and six adults were laid to rest, long funeral processions clogged the streets of Newtown, where Christmas trees were turned into memorials and a season that should be a time of joy was marked by heart-wrenching loss.
At least nine funerals and wakes were held Wednesday for those who died when gunman Adam Lanza, armed with a military-style assault rifle, broke into the school Friday and opened fire on their classrooms. Lanza killed his mother at her home before the attack and committed suicide at the school as police closed in.
At St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, mourners arrived for Caroline Previdi, an auburn-haired 6-year-old with an impish smile, before the service had even ended for Daniel Barden, a 7-year-old who dreamed of being a firefighter.
“It’s sad to see the little coffins,” said the Rev. John Inserra, a Catholic priest who worked at St. Rose for years before transferring to a church in Greenwich.
He returned to his old parish to comfort families wondering how a loving God could permit such carnage and has attended several of the funerals.
“It’s always hard to bury a child,” Inserra said of the seemingly unrelenting cycle of sorrow and loss. “God didn’t do this. God didn’t allow this. We allowed it. He said, ‘Send the little children to me.’ But he didn’t mean it this way.”
Hundreds of firefighters formed a long blue line outside the church for little Daniel’s funeral. Two of his relatives work at the Fire Department of New York, and the gap-toothed redhead had wanted to join their ranks one day.
“If me being here helps this family or this community just a little bit, it’s worth it,” said Kevin Morrow, a New York firefighter and father of two young girls. “He wanted to be a firefighter, as any young boy wants to be.”
Family friend Laura Stamberg, of New Paltz, N.Y., whose husband plays in a band with Daniel’s father, said that on the morning of the shooting, Mark Barden taught his son to play a Christmas song on the piano.
“They played foosball and then he taught him the song and then he walked him to the bus and that was their last morning together,” Stamberg said.
At Caroline’s funeral, mourners wore pink ties and scarves — her favorite color — and remembered her as a New York Yankees fan who liked to kid around. “Silly Caroline” was how she was known to neighbor Karen Dryer.
“She’s just a girl that was always smiling, always wanting others to smile,” Dryer said.
Across town, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, hundreds gathered for the funeral of Charlotte Helen Bacon, many wearing buttons picturing the 6-year-old redhead. Speakers, including her grandfather, told of her love of wild animals, the family’s golden retriever and the color pink.
She was “a beautiful little girl who could be a bit stubborn at times — just like all children,” said Danbury resident Linda Clark as she left the service.
And in nearby Stratford, family and friends gathered to say goodbye to Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher hailed as a hero for trying to shield her students, some of whom escaped. Musician Paul Simon, a family friend, performed “The Sound of Silence” at the service.
“She had the perfect job. She loved her job,” said Vicky Ruiz, a friend since first grade.
Every year, Soto described her students the same way, Ruiz said.
“They were always good kids. They were always angels,” she said, even if, like typical first-graders, they might not always listen.
In Woodbury, a line of colleagues, students and friends of slain Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, wrapped around the block to pay their respects to the administrator, who rushed the gunman in an effort to stop him and paid with her life. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attended the service.
“She loved kids. She’d do anything to help them and protect them,” said Joann Opulski, of Roxbury.
In emotion-charged Newtown, tempers flared as residents of the town of 27,000 navigated the hordes of reporters and camera crews that descended on the town. Some shouted at reporters outside the funerals Wednesday, urging them to leave their town in peace.
Cynthia Gubitose said the shooting and its aftermath have jolted what she described as a quintessential “Norman Rockwell, New England community.”
“Nobody knew about Sandy Hook,” Gubitose said as she placed flowers at a memorial with bouquets stacked chest-high. “Many of the people that live here like it that way.”
The symbol of Christmas took on a new meaning in the town, where one memorial featured 26 Christmas trees — one for each victim at the school.
Edward Kish said he bought a Christmas tree two days before the shooting but hasn’t had the heart to put it up or decorate it.
“I’ll still put it up, probably,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right, and it doesn’t seem like Christmas.”
Mourners from across the country came to offer condolences. A jazz band from Alabama played at the main memorial site as local children played with a team of trained therapy dogs brought in to provide comfort.
At the Newtown Library, dozens of people gathered for a meeting of Newtown United, a grassroots community group formed in the wake of the shootings. The topic was gun legislation and how the community could push for a ban on assault weapons and other measures to make certain types of guns and ammunition more difficult to obtain.
There was a rumor that guests from Washington, D.C., would show up. About 10 minutes into the meeting Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen.-elect Chris Murphy walked into the room, to applause and surprised looks. They spoke and took questions for about a half-hour.
The school massacre continued to reverberate around America as citizens and lawmakers debated whether Newtown might be a turning point in the often-polarizing national discussion over gun control.
President Barack Obama promised he’d send Congress broad proposals for tightening gun laws and curbing violence and pressed Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. He called for stricter background checks for people who seek to buy weapons and limited high-capacity clips.
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” said Obama, who set a January deadline for the recommendations.
Authorities say the horrific events of Friday began when Lanza shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home and then took her car and some of her guns to the nearby school.
Investigators have found no letters or diaries that could explain the attack.
However, Connecticut’s chief medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver, told The Hartford Courant he is looking for genetic clues that might explain the behavior and is working with the University of Connecticut department of genetics.
The massacre at a Brookfield spa last Sunday, where three individuals were killed and four seriously wounded, ironically took place in the month the nation focuses its attention on the prevention of domestic violence.
Since 1989, October has been the month we nationally observe Domestic Violence Awareness. Created by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the intent of the observance is to connect battered women advocates across the nation and educate the public about this intimate form of crime committed against women and children.
We doubt Radcliffe Haughton, the shooter who took the three lives (one of whom was his estranged wife Zina Haughton) at the Azana Salon and Spa before committing suicide, was aware–or even cared if he did–of the significance of the month in which he committed his horrific act.
Most men who committed domestic violence this month and the other 11 months of the year probably didn’t know or care either.
The only thing Haughton and the other abusers cared about was revenge against the ones who they believed spurned them and their peculiar expression of “love,” the type which requires the use of violence, threats, intimidation, psychological control and–unfortunately–death.
Anti-domestic violence advocates are now engaged in an effort to assure women that saying “enough” to their abusers is the right thing to do (Zina Haughton had a restraining order on her husband at the time of her death); encouraging them to take out restraining orders to keep the abusers at bay until they can divorce them and completely break the hold they have over their lives.
The massacre has reportedly prompted state lawmakers to pursue the creation of a law that would prohibit the sale of firearms to people under restraining orders, allow police to remove guns from the scene of a domestic violence incident, as well as let courts and prosecutors know if a batterer has a conceal/carry permit.
State Sen. Lena Taylor is one of two legislators who reportedly vowed to reintroduce a failed 2009-10 bill that would have forced abusers to prove they have complied with a restraining order requiring them to surrender their guns.
Experts have said getting guns out of the reach of batterers is the most important thing lawmakers can do to keep domestic violence situations from escalating to the level it did Sunday. Will these laws stop batterers from getting their hands on guns?
No. But as one judge reportedly said, everything humanly possible must be tried to educate the public and protect the victims.
Only then can we reduce the number of domestic tragedies like the one we witnessed in Brookfield Sunday.