The president shed tears Tuesday at the White House, as he pushed for new executive action to prevent ‘gun violence.’
He spoke of mass killings that took innocent lives, but the first time he broke down was when he uttered the words “first graders.”
No sentence should include the words “killing” and “first graders.” The 6 and 7-year-olds gunned down by a crazed killer in Newtown, Connecticut, days before Christmas in 2012.
The memory of those little faces, is too much to bear. The father of Daniel Barden introduced the president today.
I looked up little Daniel to remember his face. He was an angel. Only a monster could snuff that life.
The Newtown killer Adam Lanza was deeply disturbed. He spent hours in his basement trolling the Internet, searching guns, ammo, playing ‘school shooting’ games. Yes, such games exist. He claimed he was tormented by dreams that babies were trying to kill him.
Nancy Lanza’s life was a nightmare. The divorced mom was tied to her home by a son who couldn’t communicate or socialize or go out. He wouldn’t even stay in a hotel, so when they went away she rented an RV. She tried to help him by getting him into a mental health program at Yale, a school in South Carolina, but nothing worked.
They connected on one thing. She had guns and they had gone to the range together. Why in heaven’s name she thought this was a good idea for her disturbed son, we will never know.
On December 14, 2012, he took his mother’s legally purchased gun from their home and killed 26 children and teachers.
The report done after the killing by the Connecticut Office of Child Advocate, said that by 10th grade, Lanza had become a virtual shut-in who was "increasingly preoccupied with mass murder" and was egged-on by "a micro society of mass murder enthusiasts with whom he was in email communication." At the time of the shooting he was anorexic and at 6 feet tall, weighed only 112 pounds.
He was a powder keg.
Under the president’s new action, would Lanza’s mother be prosecuted for allowing her mentally ill son to use the gun? Not likely, he put 5 bullets in her head, before he went to Sandy Hook Elementary.
Would $500 million in spending on mental health services have stopped this killer? His mother would not likely have been eligible for funding, she lived in a nice house in Connecticut. Under current rules, you can’t institutionalize someone if they’ve not committed a crime, which Lanza had not. Will any of that money go to build new facilities for people like Adam?
Donald Trump recently said, “there are a lot of sickos in the world, who need to be locked up.” It’s his typical rough language, but it’s true that if Jared Loughner (Gabby Giffords’ shooter) or Seung Hui-Cho (Virginia Tech) or James Holmes’ (Aurora theater) families or doctors had been able to commit these young men, more than 100 people would be alive or unharmed today. Not to mention the hundreds of broken hearts attached to all those fallen innocents.
In this country, we’ve gotten away from institutionalizing and we’ve moved toward assimilating and drugging the mentally ill. If we are going to get serious about “gun violence” we should get serious about facing the facts of the violent mentally ill. In each of these killers’ lives, someone knew they were dangerous. No one wants to talk about putting people away. But it’s time to put some of the half billion towards properly run institutional options.
The president said today that of the 30,000 killed each year in this country by “gun violence,” two-thirds are suicide. That leaves roughly 10,000 that includes the deaths from the kind of rare but heart-breaking mass shootings we saw in Newtown.
But that 10,000 also includes gang and drug related violence.
The second moment that moved the president as he spoke today dealt with that brand of murder.
Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and yet the murder rate keeps going up. There is a societal issue here that also needs to be addressed. Families that need to be pulled together. Faith that needs to be strengthened. It requires the “fierce urgency of now” to quote Martin Luther King as the president did Tuesday, but in referencing background checks.
Imagine if President Obama walked the streets of Chicago, and spoke with the passion he had today. If the evil he took on there was not just gun violence, but the scourge of gangs and drugs and the falling apart of families. What if he teared up when he looked young men in the eye and told them to do what it took to hold their families together, and raise their children. What if he talked about the deep pain of being abandoned by a dad. Who could do this more powerfully than he?
He has spoken on the topics to be sure. He has highlighted the “My Brother’s Keeper” organization which has done good work in this arena. But it has not been a major tenet of his presidency.
I’ve heard disappointment about this from African-American friends. If you shed tears for violence in our inner cities, you must fight this essential part of the sad puzzle.
It would be a powerful legacy.
The tears for lost children. Let’s take on not just background checks, but detachment, the lack of community and quiet pain and illness that exist in the streets and the dark basements of our country.
Then perhaps we can begin to turn the tide that makes America a place that suffers more than its fair share of this brand of tragedy.