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Tuesday, December 18, 2012


The killing of twenty 5 and 6 year olds and 7 adults and a killer suicide makes one think about things one might not enjoy thinking about.

Is it the automatic weapons? Is it all guns? Is it mental illness? Is it a deranged and untreated or mistreated individual? Is it poor parenting?

As parents, don't we all wonder if that last one is relevant Did the killer's parents unknowingly  raise him to believe killing would get him something he craved and couldn't get? Did he need help with mental issues which went unmet? Did his mother live in denial before her beloved son shot her in the face?

And why babies?

I don't know. I know the sadness filling me is hard to describe. I didn't know anyone connected to this massacre. I do know many children and love more than a handful. I am a mother, grandmother, aunt and friend to a bunch of children and many of them go to schools of some sort. I need to believe they are safe there. I need to, but I don't. I live in small town USA, much like Newtown, CT, I imagine. It was safe here, too. It used to be. It isn't now.

We, Americans, have to change something now. We can't feel this pain or sadness for a couple of weeks and then go back to how we were last week. We have done this so many times and this must be the end. What do we change? Where do we begin? What can I do?

First, I believe I can make a difference. I am a woman with a voice and an opinion. I don't have to win this one. I don't have to be right. I just have to be heard because once I am heard, there is more of a chance someone else will chime in and then another and a dialogue will ensue. There is a possibility that by speaking out and throwing something out into the universe someone might actually find a way to change us. Change how we deal with each other.

I've said a lot this past week-end about guns and God. I have allowed my mind to spit out whatever was angering it or upsetting it and most of what I've said, I do believe, but I know that the US will not go back to where we were 20 years ago. We will not allow God back into our schools because now that we have removed Him, too many people will fight and scream that He has no place there; that parents must be the God teachers. I understand this, it's hard to take away something non-believers won. Like it or not, this country used to have God in all aspects of life and our Presidents still often speak of God's blessings and our Congress begins with a prayer each session and there is the "In God We Trust" on our money and "One Nation Under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance. God Bless America is sung at all baseball games. He was accepted as part of our heritage, but not shoved on people who worship another God, or none at all. Whoever your Divinity is, that is your God. If you don't have one, then why is it so offensive when I speak of mine? I am not offended when you speak of not having one. I am not offended when you respectfully decline from partaking in any prayer offered at a gathering. Why are you offended when I respectfully pray? I don't get it. I'm not asking for anything we haven't always had in this country, I'm just wishing we hadn't given in to the vocal minority, the 20% of Americans who don't want any mention of God in any public building nor any public gathering and certainly not in their schools. They worry about the effect on their vulnerable children. I worry about that, too.

I worry about all the violence our children are seeing and participating in to the exclusion of all other possible activities.

I worry that they are not receiving the adult supervision while playing video games of murder and mayhem and bombings and blood and gore. I worry that they are not getting the adult input to impress upon them that these are make-believe, but real guns and bombs are deadly and the victims don't come back tomorrow to die again. I worry that without an adult who is grounded in reality to teach the difference to a child whose mind might not be formed yet or isn't exactly right, there will become a fascination with death and no consequences. You boot up the next day and everyone comes back to be blown up again. If the child with a bit of anything that isn't mainstream plays nothing but these games, how do they learn the reality of guns and bombs and death. The consequence in video games is that you win when all others die.

Why do parents buy these games? Could there be a better choice? Could you possibly monitor your child's computer time so that even the online versions could not be played? Yes, you could, but do you?

They buy them because the kids want them. They buy them because they like playing them, too. They believe they are just having fun with their kids.

They are not JUST having fun with their kids. They are creating a way of thinking inside their child that may never cause a problem or it may cause a fascination no one saw coming. A break with reality that no one ever thought this child was capable of. It could create a strong, well backed by experience, way to get even with someone or a lot of someones that caused him pain which he never got over. Most likely, statistically him; testosterone seems to be part of this.

Why would any parent want to expose their child to that possibility?

Is it guns? I don't believe it is. It's guns in the wrong hands. I subscribe to the saying that if guns were illegal only criminals would have them.

Is it mental Illness? It could certainly be a factor, but not every person with a mental illness is violent and homicidal.

Is it video game? A lot of kids play them with no problem, or so we think.

What can we remove from this list?

We are a gun strong country. We have no need for automatic weapons in the hands of the citizenry, but they are already out there. So what we can do is stop selling the ammunition for them. Sell only to the military and the police. That would be doable and a large fine associated with mandatory jail time would keep suppliers from selling much.

We can provide better mental health options from early age to death. We can build better facilities where treatment is not extravagantly expensive and where help is there for the asking and trained people can and will work with families to find solutions. We need to do this now. Not in 5 years. It needs to happen now.

Violent video games and violent movies could be banned. They could be removed from our purchasing venues and the internet just by placing a giant price tag on them which would make them unattainable for the average kid's parents. We could make them illegal. We could just stop supporting the makers of them and they would soon disappear.

We could also start talking to our neighbors and making sure we all know each other and know what kind of people live near us. I'm sure you once knew all your neighbors. I know most of mine now, but we don't hang out. We know each other and we call to check on each other from time to time and we take the time to know each other.

Be aware of what your child is doing and think about what possible benefit there is in those games. There is none. Why are you allowing that in your home and more importantly, in your child's mind?

If you have guns in your home, are they safely locked? From a teenager who lives in or visits your home?  How safe are they? Remember mental instability doesn't equate to ignorance. Many very highly intellectual children have mental illnesses to varying degrees and watching you unlock and remove and a gun and then seeing you load it and use it, the lesson is easily learned. Any teenager can imitate what you do after seeing it once.

Gun ownership is not an evil thing. Nor do I think we need to remove guns from our homes, if you desire to own one and can pass a screening and training course given by a well-qualified instructor. I do think as a gun owner, you must take the necessary steps to secure them from your children. ALWAYS. No child should be able to hold or remove a gun in your home. No ammunition should be near the gun unless both are in a safe made for the purpose of securing both. Experts have recommended using locks with combinations. Others say a key lock with your key always on your person, like a chain around your neck. Never on your key chain or a key rack located in your home. I have heard of people who keep their keys in another safe along with important papers. Something very difficult to open is the idea. Never count on any gun being unloaded and therefore, not a problem.

I do not have the answers. I am just emptying my head of all the things I am trying so hard to sort and figure out. I just want people to stop thinking that parenting is about feeding, clothing and entertaining their children. I want parents to understand that having a child is a lifetime commitment. Having a child is not giving birth to your new best friend, but rather a responsibility of another human, forming ideas and values, shaping a moral code by your own example, that will most affect your child forever. Others will also add here and there and they will probably not be your clone, but you will be the basis of their morality for life.

How you treat other people and how you handle anger and disappointment will teach your child.

You will have many years when they are grown to be their friend, but it doesn't start until they have left your home and become independent of your support and your rules. They may well move back in as adults. You can be friends then. You can still parent when they want you to, but mostly you will be friends. So raise a child that you would want as a friend. A friend you would invite happily into your home.

Writing this very long piece has made my mind more settled. I know there will always be deranged people who do deranged things, but I hope we learn to curb and maybe even stop some of the future episodes simply by parenting better. By saying no. By making them learn to handle disappointment. By allowing them to lose. No one always wins. Everyone must learn to lose and learn from losing. We all lose sometimes, we don't all go on a shooting spree because life isn't fair. But some do. Parenting does make a difference. Be the parent who says no, who limits everything and is involved in your child's online life and please burn those violent video games, they have no place or purpose in your love filled home.

And teach your children to pray to someone, if not my God, someone else. Teach them to meditate and hear their own thoughts. It's a lifesaving technique. I know it has saved mine.

If you are still reading, thank you. Now please feel free to leave your own thoughts below. No limit on length. I don't plan to reply to any. I am just looking for your thoughts to soak up all the ideas and opinions you might offer.  My own thoughts are suffocating me.



  1. I often wonder if people realize that the origin of what we now have as video games came from the military to teach eye/hand coordination and various mental exercises as well. - Just a thought. - And I couldn't agree with you more. We must start from the inside out, from the bottom up, from the core of who we are.. In our homes..
    This is a GREAT post Jo and I thank you for spilling forth so many of the same thoughts that have been swirling around in my mind as well and I'm sure I am not alone in this..
    Peace to your soul my friend..

  2. I don't have the answers Jo...but like you I have a lot of thoughts. Thank you for a well written piece, and yes, I'm going to share some of what I'm thinking.

    First of all, Nancy Lanza was a victim in this shooting. Thank you for pointing out the correct numbers above. I find it shameful that the media doesn't count 27 victims here, when clearly she was the first victim.

    Second of all, Adam Lanza was no longer a child, technically, by age he was an adult. If he lived at home because of some mental illness, then perhaps he wasn't cognitively or emotionally and adult, and that leads me to my third point.

    From most of what I've read so far--Nancy's friends had reported that she was always looking out for her son's best interest. I am sure more stories will surface as time goes on--but wouldn't any good mother or father of a special needs, mentally ill, or physically challenged child at least try to do what she or he thought was best for her/his child, even after they've attained the age of adulthood if they needed it? Gosh, I would certainly hope so

    I've read one account that she was trying to help him get into college and she was planning to move to the same town in case he needed her close by to help manage things. If that is true--then outwardly, it appears she was truly dedicated to his future success.

    So what went wrong? And that is the part we may never understand. I won't pretend to understand mental illness, or sit here and say that Adam Lanza suffered from some form of it. I don't know his particular case. I know mental illness exists, it is a real problem, and it has to be dealt with, and generally by professionals. Cont'd--

  3. --Cont'd:
    From a realistic perspective as a mother, I can tell you it would feel shameful to have to admit to anyone, let alone a professional, that I have a son and or daughter that may need help for mental illness, because of the judgement that comes with it. Not only that, I could very easily see that I may not recognize the help I was affording my child was not enough to suffice--that a professional level of help was needed. I draw this from experience of having a child with PDD-NOS. While I sought help outside my own expertise--it was only after I was broken down enough to seek out the answers. It was not easy to admit my 3 year old child was having issues and I could not handle my own baby. I was judged harshly by outsiders that didn't understand a meltdown from a child on the autism spectrum. You know, today, people are more understanding through awareness...which is wonderful. It wasn't so wonderful 12 years ago.

    I do not claim to know what Nancy Lanza thought about her son, if she thought his problems were not as bad as most, if she realized or knew he had a real mental illness, etc. I can just tell you as a parent, this sort of thing is never easy to deal with...because it has the label "FAILED PARENT", many times, unjustly applied.

    The only thing I question about Nancy Lanza, not having known her, which I hope they uncover during the investigation, is how did she allow her son to get his hands on those guns? We have guns in our home. I promise you, our children can NOT unlock the safe to get at them. I am not even sure they realize we have a safe hidden in a wall. And we never store the guns loaded. It would take me a few minutes to unlock safe, retrieve a gun, grab ammo, load the gun, and defend myself if the situation presented itself. I think these extra steps are a great thing because it would force me to consider my actions as I went through the motions. I have never needed to go through that scenario and the guns stay tucked away, out of sight, and not even a thought in our children's minds.

    So, Adam Lanza, an adult by age, was able to get his hands on his mother's guns. I wonder how she kept them, what he had to do to access them, what trouble he had to go through to get to them, if any at all? If she knew he had a mental illness, why would she not "tuck them away" and if she did take measures to keep the weapons away from him--how clear was his thinking, to still retrieve them and use them for such a horrific crime? A lot of unanswered questions, I hope they can uncover.

    That said, I am not for more gun laws. We have enough on the books they just need to be enforced. I am for education regarding gun ownership and responsibility. I also understand what a sitting duck is and would never want to be in a situation where the criminals find a way to get a gun and I'm not allowed to have one.

    I whole heartedly believe that those with criminal intent will ALWAYS find a way to harm others. Timothy McVeigh only needed to buy fertilizer, gasoline and something else easily accessible to perpetuate the attack on the OKC Building, killing 19 children, among many others. Terrorists found a way to use box cutters to hijack planes during the attack on 9/11 killing nearly 3000. Criminals will ALWAYS find a way to inflict harm. Just as our school bulletin was put out this morning it said, "Let me remind you that no matter how many policies and procedures we have in place, we unfortunately cannot stop these kinds of events from happening. We will however, do everything in our power to make it as safe as possible." Criminals will ALWAYS find away.

  4. Cont'd again:

    So where do we direct our focus? Great question!! I'm guessing we start when they are young and we do our best to instill values essential to good character and good morals. I'm guessing we do our best to recognize when a child needs help beyond our immediate capabilities, and find ways to help them get the help they deserve without judgement. I guess we pray all of our efforts aren't exerted in vane and they carry through to adulthood, which results in a kinder, more stable future generation. I'm guessing--because right now the answers are not all that clear to me.

  5. I am still so overwhelmed by it all I can't make a coherent statement. But I find myself nodding along as I read yours. Thanks for that.

  6. Jo, thank you for such a thought-provoking post. I am sure there is no single or simple solution, but here in the UK we have very strict gun-control. That's not to say criminals can't obtain guns illegally, but 'ordinary' law-abiding citizens here do not feel the need to own a gun. I personally know of no one who has a gun. And, although we do have gun-crime here, it is very small compared to the shooting incidents in America. In the last 20+ years, we have only had 3 mass shooting events, and only one of those was at a school.

  7. What strikes me is how we all have the same love and concern, although very different ideas about solutions. I can tell how much you care and that is ultimately what I will be left with about your post. After that, though, I can't really agree with some of what you propose. The data we have suggests that limiting access to guns does in fact reduce violent crime. I know American people don't like this, but they can't back their claims up with any statistics I can find. Countries with stricter gun laws and which change their laws to restrict access to guns suffer less violence. While I think personal freedom is very important, I don't think it is more important than the right of a child to live or a parent to raise them. By the logic of "criminals will get them anyway," why do we make anything illegal? Clearly, we believe it makes it harder and it does.

    Mentally ill people are not necessarily violent; in fact, they are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators, but the instigators of these acts are, in fact, usually mentally ill, so that is an important place to look at the source of our problems. Our society is completely failing the sufferers of mental illness, their families and their potential victims. Ask any family member of a mentally ill person, especially a violent one, how much help there is.

    To tell you the truth, in the wake of all this, I am bone-tired of the conversation for blaming parents and blaming secular culture. Europe, which is much more secular than we, suffers far less violence, so I think if our problem is culture (and I think it is!) there is just no evidence that it is a specific lack of God. Religious people are not more moral than non-believers. I'd like to see any evidence that they are. I think what's true is that our society leaves parents on their own, especially parents of troubled kids, and that the more troubled your kid is, the more you will be blamed. It makes it very difficult to get help.

    In the end, though, although clearly you and I could not come from more different perspectives as to guns, God in schools and the like, our common desire to see children be safe in this country is, I hope, what will win the day. So I thank you sincerely for writing this thought-provoking piece.

  8. Jo...just wow. I too am overwhelmed by this. It has joined the other things festering in mind this past week or so. I have looked for a way to get it out...posts on FB, posts on FB that get deleted before I ever let them go live, blogging and re-blogging because the first 2-3 posts were just too much.

    I don't subscribe to the traditional Christian beliefs. But I know there is something bigger than all of us, something that gave rise to the idea of Christ at all. On that topic, we whole-heartily agree. Freedom of religion was based on the notion that everyone was Christian though they could celebrate it with any religion they chose. That concept has been twisted and misinterpreted beyond anything that is good for a society. When a culture does not believe there is anything bigger than itself, they are left to only worship themselves. So far, that hasn't worked out real well for us.

    I'm tired. My heart hurts. I cannot even fathom the priorities of my own family who rewards and praises the felons and manipulators and judges the rest of us, much less this self-serving society I live in. Like you, I know for sure only that I can make a difference in some small way. Thank you for posting this and thanks for the chance to vent a bit myself. There really is nowhere to take this ache I feel. Much love my friend.

  9. I don't know what the answer is, however, we must find a better way to protect our schools than what they have been doing. Metal detectors at the door and a policeman on duty. Who knows? This was a thought provoking post and I agree with a lot of what everyone said. I personally don't think people need guns period. They cause more harm than good. Having guns around just opens up the option.

  10. Another great thought provoking write. My views are quite different. I believe the world is filled with good, but there is also "evil"! It is here and most times we can't recognize it until it's too late! There is no way to eliminate all the different ways an evil person can use to kill!! Media is another big problem but we need to know these things happen, but as soon as it is common knowledge similar acts will follow! I am not smart enough to offer any answers.

    I really don't think taking away the guns will work but I also don't like to think about armed kindergarten teachers! Stopping the media is also not the answer even as much as I dislike Fox News!

  11. BTW, the above comment is your "old" friend Gary Smith!

  12. Tara pretty much covered everything I was going to say, so I'm just gonna do the ditto thing.

  13. Jo, I don't agree with you on guns, but all your other points I think are so well made and valid. I just don't see any reason or right for any private citizen to own the kinds of weapons that are used in these mass killings. It only makes sense that if access to them is restricted or banned, there will be fewer of these massacres. Does anyone really think this guy could have gone into the school with a knife and stabbed all those children? I do believe our society and culture are far too drenched in violence that masks as entertainment. I believe that parents--too many of whom seem to be intimidated by their kids--need to take a stronger hand and more responsibility for what their children are exposed to, in games, movies, TV, music. I also agree about the forced absence of God in our public society and discourse. When I was in school, we said the Lord's Prayer every morning, and no one ever heard of things like this and like Columbine happening. Maybe we need to make sure to teach our children the Ten Commandments (because what more do you really need?), even if we don't call them that. Call them precepts for a good life if you want. But give them that basis of positive values to build their lives on. Too many kids today seem to be swimming aimlessly and desperately searching for solid land to stand on, and our society isn't giving them that.

    1. A man in China attacked school children with a knife on the same day. There were no casualties.

  14. Thanks for allowing us to read your thoughts, and yes, I stuck it out to the end.

    As long as there are tests, there will always be prayer in school. Our system has a moment of silence where people can do what they want with it. Many pray. I like it this way, rather than an organized prayer, because once a prayer is recited, it immediately becomes a Christian prayer. That feels awkward for those of us of other faiths, and I am strongly against organized prayer in school for that reason.

    Also, an organized prayer leads to comments from classmates that set kids apart or in harassing situations.

    "Why are you not bowing your head?" In my faith, we do not bow our heads when we pray.

    "You are not reciting the prayer." We do not pray to Jesus. How would others feel if we led a prayer in Hebrew? Moments of silence accomplish all that is needed.

    Also, there is no reason for anyone, outside of a battle field, to possess an assault weapon. Our founding fathers pictured a single shot pistol which took time to reload and never imagined the weaponry of today when writing the second amendment. These types of weapons should be banned, removed from people's homes, and a hefty fine and jail time should be imposed on anyone in possession of such a gun. There is nothing to debate on this. Even a hunter is cheating in his sport when using such a powerful weapon.

    Finally, God bless the families and people of the Sandy Hook community. As a mother, I can't imagine what these people are going through. Please forgive me for taking a lighter approach to this tragedy on my blog.

  15. I don't think anyone has the answers to the questions you and many are asking. But I've always believed that guns are so bad news.

  16. I do not claim to understand but I believe the problem is a combination of many issues.


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