There are simply no words for the tragedy that occurred this week in Newtown, Connecticut. The loss of a loved one is always incredibly difficult, and I simply cannot imagine losing someone in such a violent, cruel way. We say our thoughts are with the friends and families of the victims, but the truth is that there is nothing that can heal their wounds. This, the second deadliest shooting in our nation’s history, is made so much more disturbing by the fact that so many of the victims were young children. The fact that anyone could point a gun at a child, much less pull the trigger, is too horrifying to comprehend.
I am devastated that since I took over this column in July, this is the third major shooting tragedy I have reported on. Even worse, I know that thousands of people in our country die every year from gun violence, and most of their stories never make it to the news. We must come together and stop this. Every single one of us shares the responsibility to do what we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening with such terrifying frequency. In the United States, only 58.7% of adults with a serious mental illness receive treatment for it. In most states, especially for people of low income, it is easier to get ahold of a gun than to get adequate mental health care. Our knowledge of mental illness is by no means complete, but it is far too advanced to allow our current system to stand.
Since the Newtown shooting, I have heard many people say that this is “not the time” to talk about gun control and mental health. Please, tell me, when is the time? Because every time something like this happens, we mourn for a few weeks, and then most of us forget. Leaving the victims’ families with wounds that will never heal and memories of horror that will never subside. And every day, leaving the families of unnamed victims of violence to mourn, forgotten, in silence. The only way we can truly honor these victims is to admit our failings as a society, identify the problems that led to this tragedy, and work to solve them. Immediately. Now is the time that something must be done. We need to face the truth. In the United States, we do have a right to bear arms. That doesn’t mean that everyone should, or that anyone should be able to buy semiautomatic weapons that are made to kill. And if we have a right to bear arms, then certainly we should also have a right to comprehensive, compassionate mental health care, so that those weapons are less likely to make it into the hands of people who want to use them for destruction.
Here is a petition urging Congress to address the issue of gun control immediately. Here is another petition urging the Obama Administration to make mental health a national emergency. They take a matter of minutes to sign, and if they receive enough signatures, the President is required to respond to them. Here is a list of local organizations working to help those affected in Newtown. And, please, remember that no matter how far removed they may seem, it is the job of your elected officials to listen to you. Find their contact information here, and tell them you want to see real change now. We will never be able to stop all the violence in the world. But we can do everything in our power to prevent it.
There was a lot of confusion and misinformation as the details of the Newtown shooting unfolded. Click here for the latest updates. I won’t write the killer’s name here, as I think it is important to understand what led to his crime but not to make him a household name. The names of the victims, however, are: Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeline Hsu, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison Wyatt, Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Nancy Lanza, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rosseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto.
Days before the Newtown shooting, a gunman opened fire in a mall in Portland, Oregon. He killed two people, injured one, and took his own life.
And just one day after the Newtown shooting, a gunman shot off 50 rounds in a mall parking lot in Newport Beach, California. Luckily, no one was injured or killed.
22 children were stabbed outside a primary school in central China. No one was killed.
Egyptians voted on a new draft constitution. Preliminary results indicate that the majority of voters support the new constitution.
The United States and Germany are sending troops and missiles to the Turkish border, as a warning to the Syrian government.
On the Web
President Obama spoke at a memorial for the Newtown victims. See his speech below.
Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.