With the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I am praying that we have reached a cultural tipping point to be solution-oriented to reduce the possibility of this kind of tragedy occurring again.
In 1992, I wrote the Peace Angels Project because I read in the LA Times that 1,000 children a year were being killed by street weapons in LA County. I had one 8 year-old son looking up at me as I read those words.
Although the press has covered these sentences many times, writing this on December 18, 2012 has the same impact on me.
We live in a country of sound bites. We make friends and we make enemies. Someone agrees with us or they are not worthy to befriend. We put each other down for being Democrat or Republican, wealthy or poor, educated or not. Our racial and sexual differences we may tolerate, but in the real divisions we draw a hard, hard line.
Welcome to America where our greatest polarization comes from whether we have a right to bear arms or not. We do. Fought for by our forefathers as the first time in human history, the regular person has the right to defend him/herself and to defend his/her country.
Today, we have more mass murders per year (approximately 20), but with fewer children/people are being killed overall. That being said, the number of children being killed each year fluctuates by area. Meaning that these mass killings are striking all social strata throughout the country, thereby affecting us all.
We Americans have a culture of violence based upon a combination of freedoms, all of which we will always want to keep.
In order to shift that to a culture of peace, we need to expand our thinking to include those who think differently than we do and, by the way, listen and potentially respect them.
Three elements will shift these tragic events:
1. Gun control -- who is allowed and who isn't and what type of weapons they are allowed to carry (concealed/not concealed).
We must ask the hard question of whether targeting certain types of guns is really the appropriate answer. In truth, this effectively will limit law abiding citizens from access to certain weapons for self-defense and other lawful purposes. But it will not address the crux of the issue, which is the mental stability of the persons who carried out this and other heinous acts. Denying this man had a problem is what culminated in unspeakable violence.
Criminals and the mentally ill should not be able to access weapons. But they must first be adjudicated as such to protect against the government stripping our rights without due process.
2. Information about persons suffering from mental illness needs to be recorded by the federal government as well as the state government so that red flags on an obsession with violence can be noted before there is a tragedy. But again, to ensure due process, the mentally ill must be adjudicated as such.
3. School security officers need to be armed.
We have high security at banks. It doesn't make sense that we don't have armed security to protect our most precious.
We live in this country, at this time in history. We need to own who we are as a nation.
There are two kinds of people who live in our country: those who own the responsibility to defend themselves and those who rely on others to defend them. Either is our right.
The NRA has programs and funding to train people to use weapons and to mentor people. Perhaps these programs may also weed out individuals who should not have weapons. This last information could and would be useful if the NRA were allowed to provide this information to communities.
The Mayors Against Illegal Guns have programs to get illicit weapons off the streets. Most law enforcement agencies have these programs as well which is very helpful to get illegal weapons removed from our society.
Non-profit organizations help with awareness, on both sides.
Our government agencies that have authority over weapons within our country are working continually to promote order under legislation.
All of the points of interest coming from all sides are doing so with the intent of saving lives and maintaining our freedoms.
1. Children must be taught to run and what signs to look for in a perpetrator situation.
2. Our communities must stop ignoring and denying the signs of mental illness and addressing that problem head on.
3. Take the polarization out of your conversation and inquire. It could be that those thinking differently than you on this issue have information that can help your community.
4. Respect. Respect. Respect. For yourself, your community, and your country.
I was sitting with the head of the U.S. Delegation in Washington, DC at the time of this terrible and tragic shooting at Sandy Hook. We had just completed a two hour meeting going over this very issue. I had asked him what he wanted people to know. He said to let people know that some very good people are working very hard on saving lives.
In response to my beautiful child looking up at me as I read that a thousand children a year were being killed in LA County in 1992, I wrote what became known as the Peace Angels Project to melt down weapons (weapons meaning not any one kind -- decommissioned nuclear stainless, guns, knives, swords, canons, etc., etc.) into inspiring, provoking, Peace Angels shiny enough to see your reflection in. Why, you may ask? Because we need to Remember that it is us who make peace or war. It is also us that can overcome and remember our human greatness.
We had to make changes post 9/11. We have to make changes now.
Unfortunately, doing all of the above will not stop the violence completely. We know, with pure and utter horror, that it is the individual who acts and that is beyond our control.
Having said that, there is a lot that we can do, only if we bring in elements that we have as a whole country. Are we brave enough to love our neighbors as ourselves?
My son always tells people: "My Mother Black on Black." Because that is what I wear until we find a way to cherish our children and each other and if not stop, reduce the killing in our country and in our world.
The Peace Angels exist to promote Love.
Lin Evola, center, speaking at a weapons-destruction event at TAMCO Foundry at Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., where 7,000 illicit weapons were destroyed.