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Sasha Cagen Headshot

We Are All Parents After Sandy Hook

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I do not have children. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, I feel like a parent. A protective mother in fact. I see all adults as parents. We all have a responsibility to create a safer world for children. How can we stand by and allow 5-year-olds to get gunned down at school?

Guns are tools with a purpose. Their purpose is to kill. The United States has 88 guns per 100 people, which is vastly more per capita than the populations of other developed and nondeveloped countries. We do not live in a war zone. If having more guns would make us safer, we would be safer already. And yet we have more deaths by firearm deaths than almost any other country. At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns. That doesn't include people who are accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. The United States is responsible for over 80 percent of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, those of us who believe the value of life is more important than the right to carry a gun can no longer be polite, nonconfrontational, or resigned about the gun control issue. We need to speak out and create change. We cannot afford to have another gun massacre of children. Crimes are opportunistic. Adam Lanza was able to quickly kill 20 kids and six adults because his mother kept powerful weapons in her home. When guns are plentiful, as they are now in the United States, they will be used. Accidentally and on purpose. Not necessarily by "criminals." By people. Not all of them are mentally ill. Only 4% of violent crime in the U.S. is committed by people who are mentally ill. Guns will be used by people who are angry, people who get out of control, people who are drunk. People who are not so unlike the rest of us.

We do not need to endlessly analyze the root causes of fear and alienation that have created this epidemic of gun violence. That's what the gun-supporters in the NRA want us to do, to get lost in the "complexity" of the issue. The solutions are simple. Other countries have given us a blueprint of what we need to do. We need responsible regulations on gun ownership that treat guns as serious, lethal devices. We don't need perfection. We need progress. We need universal mental health care and universal health care and universal seatbelt use for children but we dilute the energy of the moment if we bring up every other issue. We owe it to our children that we create a safer environment where semiautomatic weapons (and all guns) are not so prevalent that disgruntled people keep bring them to gun down kids at school.

I support legislation like the laws passed in Australia. Australia's law worked. "In the last 16 years, the risk of dying by gunshot in Australia has fallen by more than 50 percent. The national rate of gun homicide is one-thirtieth that of the United States. And there hasn't been a single mass shooting since Port Arthur." (Port Arthur was an equally horrific mass shooting in 1996 in which 35 people were killed. That event galvanized the prime minister and the country in their revulsion to gun violence.) Read more here.

We are all those kids' parents and we need to focus our efforts on this issue now while the issue is hot. If not now, when?