12/18/2012 10:11 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Symbol of Hope in a Time of Grief


I woke up on last Saturday morning to a glorious sunrise which comforted me, somehow, after the horrific shooting deaths of children in Newtown, Conn., the day before. The sunrise reminded me of the beauty and joy which children bring to us careworn adults. I was newly aware of the hope children embody, and how much I cherish their splendid innocence. And the coming of the new day spoke to me of the new beginnings, always, which follow tragedy. The deaths of these little ones, and the ones who died trying to protect them, can be redeemed only if we learn from this heartbreaking event: We must do everything within our power to prevent mass shootings -- and the everyday gun violence which has become commonplace in our society.

How bad is it? The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence reports that 30,000 people are killed by guns in the U.S. each year, or 82 a day. Thirty of those die from one person shooting another, and another 52 die from suicide or accidents. You will hear people say that "guns don't kill, people kill." This is a nonsensical argument. Yes, there are other ways to kill, or to commit suicide, but none so lethal as guns. Easy access to guns gives people both the likelihood and the enormous power to kill.

We know from looking at the record of other countries that gun regulation makes a huge difference. Consider what happened in Australia after they had a mass killing of 35 people in 1996. The country banned rapid-fire long guns, did a buy-back of 650,000 guns, and passed tighter rules of licensing and safe storage of guns. These measures reduced the number of guns in private hands by one-fifth -- mostly the type of guns used in mass shootings. In the 18 years before the law, Australia had 13 mass shootings -- but none in the 14 years after the law was enforced. Moreover, the murder rate in Australia fell 40 percent, and the suicide rate with guns has dropped by more than half. We can learn something from the Australian experience, if we care to.

Gun control is not only a societal issue but also a personal issue for me: Three members of my extended family have been killed by guns, one killed by accident while hunting and the other two murdered. In one of those murders, a 14-year-old boy shot and killed an adult. In the other, one family member shot and killed another. I grew up in the Deep South, at a time when multiple guns hung on every wall. The guns that killed were handy, and they were used. Perhaps this latest horror in Connecticut, this really unspeakable event, will be the catalyst for gun regulation.

So amidst our collective grief, I offer this sunrise as a symbol of hope. May we learn, and may we change.

Marilyn is the subject of a documentary film, "Raw Faith," now available on Netflix.