We Owe the Sandy Hook Victims a Real Conversation

ByChas Hamilton

The full weight of Friday's Newtown, Connecticut, tragedy didn't sink in until I learned that the vast majority of the victims were children between the ages of 5 and 10.

It's a sad statement of these times to note that we've been here before, and with increasing frequency over the past few years. It's sadder that with each incident of gun violence we feel a little bit less, we grow slightly more numb to the shock. My brain has grown used to the now years-old exercise of processing these tragedies. Confusion. Disbelief. Sadness. Anger. Anger is usually followed by an attempt to understand, to make sense of why this happened.

I cannot understand why 20 children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old were murdered.

I cannot understand how the parents of the victims must feel.

I cannot understand what would bring a human to commit this act.

While Friday's shooting is just the latest instance of gun violence in this country, it contains an unprecedented element that demands our attention. 20 of society's most vulnerable members were murdered in the place where they were supposed to be safest. If that doesn't call us to action, what will?

There is an important discussion to be had about mental illness and what leads people like Adam Lanza to commit an atrocity of this kind. There is a more important discussion to be had about how Adam Lanza obtained the weapons to commit an atrocity on this scale. I am interested in how proponents of the Constitution's Second Amendment can justify the sale of a high-powered semi-automatic rifle to a 20-year old kid.

And though tempting, the answer cannot be that we need to make our schools, malls, or movie theaters safer with enhanced security or metal detectors. Nor is the answer opening the floodgates and allowing every and anyone to carry a firearm in an effort to deter the would-be gunman. The answer must include some reasonable means of limiting the presence of firearms in our society. Yes, it sounds naive. Yes, we have a constitutional amendment that protects the right to possess a firearm. Yes, there are millions of gun owners, almost none of whom would dream of an event this chilling and tragic.

We owe it to the victims — especially the children — to do better than avoid the issue. Our elected officials have a huge responsibility in finding a way to come together to develop legislation that will help society move forward in a safe and productive manner.

But the onus lies also with us.

Wherever you fall in the ideological spectrum, this is too important a conversation to not have it. Whatever your political leaning, I urge you to find someone who does not share your view. I urge you to listen to their view and try to understand their perspective. Laws must be passed to reduce the likelihood of these types of events, but we must also do our part. As we collectively experience this tragedy and suffer, so too we must collectively heal. The better we understand one another the more effectively we can come together and make our society what it ought to be. If not for us, then for the countless children processing yesterday's news, wondering what the future holds for them.