Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Change is vital

 Like many citizens of the world, I have been horrified at what happened last Friday at that small school in Newtown.

As a parent with two adult children I can’t even begin to imagine how the parents of the victims – both children and teachers - must be feeling.  That it all happened just before Christmas just deepens the tragedy.  How do you get over something like this?

The answer I fear is that you don’t.  As I looked at the photos of the children – they seemed so alive, active and happy.  One little guy looked like a bundle of fun and pure mischief.  How can his parents ever fill that void in their hearts where they held him so close? I grieve for the families involved and hope that with time their pain will lessen.

Perhaps because I grew up in the UK where our police officers don’t carry guns, I have to question why the rules in North America are so lax.  Anyone can get a gun, and they do.  All these shootings of late just prove that there have to be stricter rules about gun ownership.

When someone suggested that if the principal had had a gun, the outcome could have been different – I’d say yes, a lot worse.  Imagine a young child “playing” with that same gun and shooting a friend by mistake.  No.  I don’t believe having more access to guns so you can “protect yourself” is the answer.

You have to hope that both Democrats and Republicans in the States can put their differences aside, and for once, take action for the common good.  They need to come together to do something about gun control and about the mental health system. And it has to be both; doing one without the other won’t work.

There are too many people out in the community with serious mental health issues that are just like a time bomb waiting to explode.  We need affordable programs and services to identify and treat them.  And I am not sure prescribing strong anti-depressant drugs is the answer either.  Too often patients take themselves off the drugs cold turkey and the outcome can be tragic.

As parents we also have a role to play in terms of what our children watch, read and play.  Too many movies, TV shows and video games are focused on violent activities.  We have a responsibility to censor these activities; otherwise children become insensitive to the violence around them.

I remember years ago touring a social housing complex in Chicago, where the psychologist explained to us that every day someone was murdered in the complex and as a result, when children heard a gun shot, they didn’t run away but carried on with what they were doing.  It was a regular occurrence and they were desensitized to it all.

We must not get like that, where we take for granted that shootings will happen.  We need to take action now while the memory of December 14 is still with us.  Only then will there be a positive outcome from this tragedy.

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