If the December 14th Sandy Hook School shootings were truly a "tipping point" in the debate over gun violence, then last Friday's episode at Newtown's Starbucks, the town in which I happen to live, tipped the scale even further.
For this I wish to thank Starbucks.
By implementing a corporate policy that allows for guns in their stores, Starbucks set in motion a misguided plan on the part of some gun-rights advocates to organize a gathering at our local Starbucks involving the carrying of unconcealed weapons.
Swaggering into a still traumatized community with their second amendment hardware proudly displayed, these gentlemen, in an effort to show the residents of Newtown that law abiding, latte drinking, vigilant folks regularly pack heat, revealed a lack of empathy so profound and absurd that few residents even bothered to show up in protest and those who did simply held candles.
Although meant to illustrate that responsible gun owners are not violent (as if we didn't already know), this firearm flaunting actually served to heighten awareness that the subject of gun ownership needs serious modernizing.
I suspect one of the reasons that, despite residents' outrage and dismay, few came out to protest, was that most have moved on from the irrationality of the "us vs. them" -- "gun enthusiast" vs. "gun reformer" mentality. One need only read the news each day to know that gun violence is nothing short of a national crisis in need of intelligent and compassionate conversation.
Dr. Jamie Bruno's child was in the Sandy Hook School at the time of the shooting. Although previously aware of the pervasiveness of gun violence, it took this tragedy for Dr. Bruno to awaken to the reality that gun violence has become, plain and simple, a "public health crisis," not unlike previous epidemics such as cigarettes, alcohol and seat belt related injuries and deaths.
Utilizing this awareness, Dr. Bruno has since become a co-founder of The United Physicians of Newtown (UPON). UPON is made up of over 100 doctors from Newtown who have united to act as one professional voice for our grieving town.
With the help of physicians such as Dr. Bruno, courageous politicians, motivated victims of gun violence and, yes, even gun-toting Starbuck patrons, this issue can hopefully now be successfully and judiciously addressed.
Establishments such as Starbucks that don't allow smoking but do allow guns can thus re-evaluate such decisions with a more contemporary perspective.
One local resident on Friday made an impromptu visit to the Sandy Hook Promise office to share her voice.
Married to a former SWAT team officer, her family has a thorough understanding of and respect for weapons.
Nevertheless, the events taking place just a few doors down at Starbucks inspired this woman to passionately speak out about basic human decency and common sense.
Out of respect to our community, Starbucks did close its doors last Friday at 4:30, a gesture many residents appreciated. Nonetheless, had it not been for the actions of these gun enthusiasts, residents such as this woman may never have reflected on gun-related policies.
Awareness is a good thing.
It is foolish to think that showing off one's guns to a traumatized town could in any way remedy a rift.
We can choose to ignore arrogant and insensitive visitors to our town. What we can't ignore is a public health crisis.
The episode at Starbucks demonstrates the pointlessness of fixating on the second amendment -- not to mention the distress such fixation can ignite.
Again, thank you Starbucks for the opportunity to see through the nonsense and to contemplate what this is really all about.