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A Dead Child and Childish Things

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It rained hard in Chicago on Tuesday.

About a dozen teenagers took refuge under a canopy, to wait out the storm.

One of them was Hadiya Pendleton, age 15. A majorette in the King College Prep High School band, she'd only recently had the honor of performing for festivities at the inauguration of President Obama.

A man with a gun vaulted a fence, ran toward the place Hadiya was standing and fired into the group. A bullet ripped through her back, killing her. The shooter escaped.

The death of this latest child killed by gun violence happened one day after pro-gun activists heckled Neil Heslin, father of 6-year-old Jesse Heslin, one of the 6-year-olds massacred in Newtown, CT. Heslin was testifying at a hearing on curbing gun violence in the Connecticut state capitol.

Hadiya's death happened one day before Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association got in a shouting match at a U.S. Senate hearing on guns. LaPierre was arguing against universal background checks for gun purchases, something the Washington Post reports 88 percent of Americans support.

Childish. Absurd.

In his inaugural address, President Obama said this:

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

The scripture the President was referring to say this: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13: 11, American King James Version).

We are in the midst of an important discussion now, about how to prevent the senseless slaughter that has claimed the lives of innocent first-graders and their teachers in Newtown, a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl in Tucson, moviegoers in Colorado, college students at Virginia Tech, my own sister and brother-in-law in their home in Winnetka, Illinois, and now, this latest victim: a vibrant, promising high schooler with a lifetime of possibility before her.

It is time for the adult participants in that discussion to grow up, to listen politely and speak respectfully, to seek consensus rather than conflict, to work together to forge a solution. We owe it to the children who have died, to all children.

We owe it to Hadiya Pendleton, a child who helped celebrate the inauguration of a president, who deserved that chance the president spoke of, the chance all children deserve: to pursue their full measure of happiness.

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