The Shooting In Newtown, Connecticut: A ReflectionDecember 21, 2012
This Christmas, like previous ones, will be a time of celebration and reflection, with the odd family dispute thrown in. This Christmas, for the residents of Newtown, Connecticut, will be a time where children are buried by their parents; mothers, sisters, friends and lovers are buried by their loved ones; a young man is added to an increasingly long list of mass shooters, and gun control becomes the topic of fierce debate – again.
It’s a week since news came through about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut and quite frankly, I still can’t get my head around it. The children who died and the teachers who died trying to save them from the man who was determined to destroy everything in his path – and had the tools to do it – was an event that shocked the world. The children were aged between six and seven with a world to explore and potential to be realised. You can often see hope, guile and wonder in these little people: the qualities long since gone from the lives of many grown-ups. All of that was wiped out, along with the adults who were charged with helping them.
Hearing of this, my memory went hurtling back to a similar event, here in Blighty. In 1996, I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news of the mass shooting in a school in Dunblane, Scotland. Fifteen children between the ages of five and six and one teacher died at the hands of Thomas Hamilton who later killed himself. The regulations regarding the private ownership of firearms were tightened up and there hasn’t been a school shooting since. Now it doesn’t stop those who obtain firearms illegally and we’ve had some mass shootings in the last three years, one by Derrick Bird who killed 12 people with a legally owned shotgun. I’m not sure if Raoul Moat had a legal firearm, but he’s one of the most notorious mass shooters (as if there’s any other). But it does restrict the ownership and on the whole, we’re safe here.
I recognise that not having the second amendment in the UK makes it a very different kettle of fish to the US, but tighter controls on what firearms you can have and who has them must make a difference. Maybe then there’ll be no more shootings in cinemas, Sikh temples and on campuses (alarmingly, the usual sites for these tragedies). President Obama has a great opportunity to make a real change here in his second and final term. He’ll have opposition for sure from the all-powerful NRA and others, who in spite of what happened last week, cling to the second amendment like a man on a piece of driftwood in the ocean. But he has to stand firm. America can’t have another incident like this. Or can it? I read that membership of the NRA has gone up since Newtown. Well, then, ladies and gentlemen. Those people had better hope their loved ones are nowhere near a campus, religious house, school or hospital when the next person who goes off the deep end comes-a-hunting. I also read this week that the NRA is ready to “offer meaningful contributions” to the efforts that’ll make sure there are no repeats of incidents, such as Newtown.
I think I just saw a pig flying past my window…