Friday, December 21, 2012

A Reflection on Newtown

At precisely 9:30am this morning, the nation participated in a extended moment of silence. Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut requested the country's effort in order to commemorate the horror that occurred at this very time one week earlier. On a brisk yet not unpleasant, early winter day, children went into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut to learn just like any other Friday during the school year. Suddenly, the hallways erupted with the echoes of gunshots, and fear filled within adults and children in the building alike. Coming into last Shabbat, it seemed that this event occurred in no ordinary December. The menorah and Christmas lights shined a little dimmer than the past few nights. Many media pundits called the Newtown shooting the worst travesty since 9/11. The 24-hour news cycle this week politicized the tragedy to a great extent, but they also showed the pictures of these children. MSNBC showed a photo of Daniel Barden on last night's broadcast, a little boy who aspired to fight fires one day. The gunman who walked into that school killed 20 innocent souls, flowers yet to bud, and he also took the lives of eight, brave adults, trying to protect their children. President Obama said it very nicely in his address to the nation last Friday that this event touched the lives of all parents, a majority of American citizens, regardless of politics. He then stated that his administration's silence on this issue ended last Friday. The shootings that occurred this year exposed the next term of Congress as an immense opportunity to change the country's policies on guns. In taking on this challenge, I recommend the nation restrict guns to a stricter point than their current status, keeping in mind and respecting the right to bear arms as part of the Bill of Rights.

 The nation proposed two directions in response to the Newtown shootings; 1.) impose stricter gun control or 2.) endorse an armed police presence in every school, perhaps even every classroom in the country. When I went to DC earlier this month, I participate in the L'Taken (To repair in Hebrew) seminar for Jewish youth of the Reform Movement. The weekend taught me much about the political process in Washington, but I took one class that taught me in particular about gun control. I came to understand why guns divide the country so greatly, and I learned how to achieve compromise with people whose views tend to lean conservatively on this issue. Unfortunately, I see no possibility of Washington fulfilling my dad's wish; taking all of America's guns off the street. Just as we uphold the first amendment so highly as an unbreakable foundation of our country, the constitution secures Americans' right to bear arms. The seminar explained passable legislation, which upholds the second amendment by controlling guns rather than so powerfully restricting them. In my stance on this issue, I grant the regular hunter the right to go onto a shooting range and participate in the sport as they wish. In addition, I find it fine for a person to hold a gun in their home if they feel it necessary for their protection. I disagree with its necessity, upholding studies that prove the greater safety of not possessing a gun in the home than owning one, but I respect that some people choose to arm themselves in the case of an emergency. However, I request that the only people who own a gun in either of these entities are mentally stable and licensed by the government to hold this fire weapon. At the L'Taken Seminar, they showcased legislation that restricted the purchase of weapons online or without a license at a gun show. Believe it or not, guns kill people, and the government needs to permit one to safely own such a powerful device. Most violent gunmen buy their firearms from the Internet or non-license required gun show. To supplement this legislation, I hope that the federal government takes action in January to mandate a waiting period that includes mental testing before anyone purchases a gun. Though most difficult to control, I finally recommend the government somehow require citizens who own guns to lock them in a safe when not in use. Adam Lanza obtained his weapons from his mother because they were in his house. Without any boundary between the gun and non-owners, this man horrified the nation last Friday. In proper licensing, background testing, and safekeeping, I believe the amount of gun violence in America will quickly decrease, definitely preventing anything as wretched as the ruthless murder of twenty children and eight adults.

 For others who wish to maximize gun use in American society,I deplore your efforts, as I feel, to show just how immature our nation compares to others. Today, the NRA suggested we provide armed security in American schools. I find it irrational to supply more guns to a society already plagued by such weapons. As a student, I see it equally irrational to guard a school like a military base or a prison. In DC, we lobbied to Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts about Israel. We asked that the representative encourage the government to host similar mediatory meetings between Palestinian and Israeli leadership. In response, Rep. Markey's aides told us the congressman believes in the state of Israel, but he prefers to provide military aid rather than organize peace talks. Counterattacks to Palestinian missiles defend against one act of terror, yet diplomacy stops the destruction and death on both sides time and time again. A society that encourages protection over peace restricts its people. Imagine if mice operated guns as officially as humans, and we started with these mice in a single cage. To avoid their killing of each other, we place cages in between the mice. We protected the creatures, but now they live separate of each other because their society perpetuated protected hate over fearless peace. Shootings happen in many other places besides schools too. Do we need an armed guard in every movie theater, mall, and barber shop in America? Should helicopters fly over our parks "just in case"? Taking guns out of people who mismanage them limits the number of deaths at a much greater rate than placing cages in our own American mouse cage.