This morning saw an unimaginable act of violence occur. 28 people are dead after a shooting at anelementary school in Conn., 20 of whom were children. The parents of these kids will now never see them grow up. It has been said that there is no greater tragedy than that of a parent who must see their children lose their lives, and this fact weighs heavily on my mind as I consider how to respond.
At the same time, however, a greater tragedy is starting to form in the immediate wake of this shooting; that the deaths of these children will become just more cannon fodder for the zealots on either side of the debate over guns in the United States.
To both sides, the loss of life appears only as a tool to further their own political objectives. The pro-gun lobby is going to use the deaths of these children as a justification to try and make every gun legal and readily available to anyone and everyone who wants one. The pro-gun control lobby is only going to use this event as an example of why guns need to be banned, period — no exceptions for anyone under any circumstances.
This immediate assumption might be cynical, but in as soon as I heard the news that there had been a mass-shooting I could already see how everything would play out. Amongst all of the shock, outrage, grief and expressions of support and prayer, there are the people who are quick to jump to the what-if’s and if-only’s.
“If only one of the teachers had been carrying a concealed weapon, they would have offed that psychopath before he even started shooting,” some might say.
“What if the man had not been able to buy a gun at all, what if someone somewhere had decided that he should not have been sold a gun at all,” others may speculate.
In the comments sections of Facebook, retweets on Twitter and in passing from person to person, the retorts are quick to come cascading in.
“Yeah? Well it would not have mattered if guns had been banned because this guy was a criminal and if guns are banned only criminals would have guns!”
“Oh really? Well if guns were banned then this mand would never have gotten a gun in the first place and those kids would still be alive!”
It only escalates from there. The rhetoric only ratchets up until both sides are ignoring the plain facts of the matter in the pursuit of the conflict between pro- and anti-gun. And in all of that the rhetoric, the tragedy and the grief is lost and will eventually be forgotten.
This needs to change. In the coverage and discussion of shootings, and the eventual discussions surrounding gun policy, the lives of the victims and their families need to be held sacrosanct.
These are not statistics to be used and exploited. These are not examples to be thrown around lightly. These are people’s lives; their grief and their loss must never ever be forgotten in the wake of these tragedies.
So as our country mourns and sends our sympathies, prayers and support to the families of these children, do not allow your own passions to overshadow the reality of their loss.
Today of all days, we need to leave the vitriol and the arguments at home. It is neither the time nor the place to march to the field of battle over guns. And when the time does come to have that discussion, we need to remember that on this of all issues we need to be civil and remember that every example we cite and every statistic we talk about carries the weight of a family’s grief.
There is no doubt that something must be done to prevent another shooting such as this from occurring again, but the manner in which that solution is discussed and hashed out must not become another battle.
The grief of mourning families have been exploited for political arguments in the aftermath of every shooting this country has ever experienced. If any meaningful solution is to be found, it lies in a compromise built upon a civil dialogue.
I believe that such a dialogue is possible, if we only lay down our anger and passion and focus on what actually matters: safeguarding children’s lives.
Remember the families, and their grief. Treat their loss with the respect that it deserves.
Editorial Editor Caleb Hendrich is a senior journalism and political science double major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.