President Obama: “Caring for children is our first job.”
On the anniversary of Newtown’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, where 26 died, President Obama’s speech still offers comfort, consolation, and a call to action.
As a teacher and later a principal, I remember the pain and the fear of this day, December 14, 2012. And I remember watching it reverberate through the education community in the form of metal detectors, bulletproof whiteboards, and security drills with increased frequency and intensity.
I also remember how, four days later, the President of the United States came to the grieving town. He quoted scripture, sharing the promise of comfort after death for those who were murdered, and offered the condolences of a nation in mourning.
He named the victims, told their stories, and added moments of laughter and grace from the tragedy to help us see the victims as whole people, suffering loss and sharing successes, imperfect and worthy of our love and memory.
Then he challenged us to do something as a nation.
Yet today, seven years later, our federal legislature remains frozen in the headlights, less clear and decisive than even the child who promised to protect his teacher during the shooting.
“I know karate,” he reassured her.
While individual cities and states have taken action, including more than 200 pieces of legislation to restrict access to guns and ammunition, and Virginia appears poised to take more dramatic action, as a country we have done too little to reduce the harm of guns in our daily lives.
Some states have instituted “red flag” or “imminent danger” laws to allow families and law enforcement to step in, safely and temporarily holding the guns for someone at risk of using them on others or on themselves.
Some states have taken action to prevent the illicit sale of guns from unlicensed vendors.
And yet our national legislature remains steadfastly opposed to new legislation, including reinstating the successful Brady Bill with expansions to address the widespread availability of high capacity rifles.
And so, by cowering in the shadows, our legislators have left our children on the front lines of America’s bloodiest battle.
Children who must respond to shootings in school on a regular basis by taking shelter and sitting silently in darkened classrooms.
Children who must pay for our elected officials’ inaction with their own fear, their own blood, their own scars, and — all too often — their own lives.
I share this to remember what it feels like to be comforted and supported and loved — and called to be our best selves.
The President ended by naming the murdered children, and saying, “God has called them all home. For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on, and make our country worthy of their memory. May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in His heavenly place, may He grace those we still have with His Holy comfort and may He bless and watch over this community, and the United States of America.”
I am touched by other stories we have heard about that day, like this one shared today by Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut.
May we use our grace and comfort to offer safety to our children, instead of memorializing them.
There is something you can do. Start by joining the nearest chapter of Moms Demand Action:
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It's time for gun sense in America.
Find your Congressional Representatives and lobby them to support meaningful and Constitutional reforms like the Brady Bill:
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And talk to your neighbors and friends about the significant difference between taking steps to limit high capacity rifles and to secure guns in houses and the frequent, easily debunked talking point about “banning guns” that you will encounter.
Let’s reduce the our chances of harm not by toughening our children, or by hardening the places they might attack, but by comforting and redirecting and disarming those who would do them harm.