Grasping Thorns

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose." ― A. Brontë

Month: December, 2012

Pastors Who Like Guns

Because today is Sunday, I’ve decided to write about a perplexing religious response to the Sandy Hook Massacre.

Some pastors like guns.

I’ve seen, through social networking sites, both pastors and their families (wives and adult children) indicate support not only for the NRA and “2nd amendment rights” (never mind that the 2nd amendment is about well-regulated militias) but also for the proliferation of assault weapons . . . as self-defense.

Because, they argue: assault weapons = powerful = the best gun for self-defense when a criminal, who might have an assault weapon, knocks at your door. Yes. This is a paraphrase of an actual argument.

When I told my friend, Natalie, about it, she — as always — got to the heart of the matter in record time:

“Well that’s just nonsense. The ONLY way an assault rifle is effective for self-defense when guys with assault rifles knock on your door is when 1. You’re not taken by surprise and are as prepared as, if not more prepared than, your attackers; 2. You live in a fortified house that’s going to stand up to a barrage of bullets from multiple guns; 3. You answer the door ready to shoot every single time you answer the door. The person who satisfies all three of those is likely to be a paranoid schizophrenic who is more likely to shoot up a school than save his family. Number 3 will result in shooting a Girl Scout selling cookies.

And, really?!, when do guys with assault rifles ‘knock’ on your door? And when are guys with assault rifles coming after you in your house? When you’re a criminal and the police aren’t so much ‘knocking ON’ as ‘knocking DOWN’ your door. That’s when. Meanwhile the ‘logic’ that s/he should get to own an assault rifle just because criminals might get one is, frankly, f*&^ed up. Criminals get all sorts of dangerous things–that’s why we call them criminals. Are we going to legalize crack because criminals can get it? Meth labs? Plutonium? WMDs?”

An atheist, Natalie isn’t as bothered by the fact that these arguments are coming from people who identify as Christians. But, coming from a more conservative Christian background and identifying as a (very) progressive Christian as an adult, I don’t know what to do with a response that seems both violent and fear-based from people who are supposed to be peace-loving and working toward making things here on earth as they are in heaven, a la “The Lord’s Prayer.” Call me crazy, but: I imagine there would be less, not more, guns in heaven.

But, not all pastors like guns, of course. Our pastor, Dr. Roger Ray, does not. And, I’ll close with a sermon I recently read, by Rev. Stephen E Carlsen, Dean and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral (thanks to Elizabeth Broadbent for directing my attention to this one). The sermon, entitled “Don’t just grieve. Do something” is available, in full, at:

Here’s an excerpt:

“By nature I am not prophetic in my preaching. I prefer to be pastoral, to be theological. I have come to the conclusion that I am a poor pastor if I merely ascend this pulpit after these shootings, one after another, and merely comfort, merely mourn, merely sooth. I’m done with that.

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So, with many other exhortations, [John the Baptist] proclaimed the good news to the people.

The Good News is not always comforting. Sometimes it provokes us to change our ways. That is the Good News for us on this sad occasion: not just to comfort, not to sooth, not to mourn, but to provoke. We need to mourn but not stop there—to go on and work at stopping this carnage. We can start by common sense measures.

My son just got his learners permit to drive a car. We had to fill out much paperwork, to register, to show proof of insurance. He had to pass an eye test and a written test. He needs to keep a log of his driving. Six months later, he can get his license after a driving test, but it will still be restricted for a long time afterward. No driving friends for months. He like us all must wear his seat-belt. If we accept this level of regulation to drive a car, why not restrictions on guns?

No one needs assault rifles, large capacity ammunition clips, hollow point bullets—not for sport, not for hunting. Get rid of them. Letting nearly everyone carry concealed handguns is lunacy. Letting them in schools and universities, and in bars, [which] was approved by the Michigan legislature on Friday, is bordering on evil . . .

Don’t just grieve. Do something. This is not a reality that we must accept. Start today.

I use my authority as Rector today to declare that guns are not welcome in this sanctuary . . . Turn your assault weapons in to the police for disposal. If you hunt or shoot as a sport, unload and lock away securely any firearms. On the public level, pressure timid politicians to enact common sense laws. Learn, speak out, vote.

You brood of vipers! John said. This is going to happen again. I will again ascend this pulpit and speak out until this scourge, this culture of death, this cult of violence is purged from our land.”

At this cultural moment, we have “men of God” falling on both sides of the gun-control debate. I’ll be standing alongside the ones who are furthering the kingdom of God.

I’ve never cared for vipers.


A Response to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

Recently, I’ve seen Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s name appear on Facebook, with increasing frequency. A retired lieutenant colonel with an interest in the psychology of killing, he seems to have gained hero-status among my right wing, pro-gun Facebook acquaintances as the “voice of reason” in the gun control debate.

I decided to visit his Facebook page, and once I made it past the fan mail, I stumbled upon his December 19th post, which he introduces as his “most recent writing. Not yet published, but submitted in response to a request from Fox news.”

I find his Fox news commentary problematic, and I’ve responded, in bold, Natalie Leppard style (although I make no claims to be the badass that is Natalie Leppard):

So, the brutal, merciless, savage mass murderer of first-graders in Connecticut was another in a long line of avid video game players who turned their sick fantasy into our tragic reality. Surprised?

Surprised that Lanza played video games? Um . . . no.

Surprised that you, Lt. Col. Dave, are blaming video games, solely, and ignoring the more glaring issue? I’m referring, of course, to the fact that Lanza was so easily able to put down his video game controller and pick up the guns and high capacity magazines about which he was fantasizing.

Yes. I find your focus both surprising and disappointing.

I train military and law enforcement nation-wide, on the road almost 300 days a year for 15 years. I was an Army Ranger and a West Point Psych Professor. An author of many very successful books on this subject. This is the perspective that I come from…

Good for you.

Bottom line: From a military and law enforcement perspective, violent video games are “murder simulators” that train kids to kill. They act just like police and military simulators, providing conditioned responses, killing skills, and desensitization, except they are inflicted on children without the discipline of military and police training.

Research on the background of our juvenile mass murderers show they have one thing in common: they ALL dropped out of life and filled their lives with nothing but violent movies and violent video games. The sickest video games and the sickest movies are very very sick indeed. And the sick sick kids who immerse themselves in this “entertainment” are very sick indeed.

Jonesboro in the middle school, Columbine in the high school, Virginia Tech in the college, and now this generation gives us Sandy Hook as adults…

First: When I scanned and saw the word “sick,” I was hoping that you’d make a case for providing more accessible healthcare for the mentally ill. But, no. You didn’t go there.

Second: Have you talked to the US Army about this, Lt. Col. Dave? Maybe they should take down the video games they have developed and made available (free of charge) as recruiting tools.

See:America’s Army Video Game Blurs Virtual War” from NPR’s Morning Edition — although, trust me, I’ve been trying to get Scott Fisk (my husband) to stop playing this damn game for years.

Third, and thanks to Natalie Leppard for this one: The Virgina Tech shooter did not play violent video games according to the report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel:

From page 45: “[Cho] was enrolled in a Tae Kwon Do program for awhile, watched TV, and played video games like Sonic the Hedgehog. None of the video games were war games or had violent themes.”

From page 55: “Cho’s roommate never saw him play video games.”

The Sandy Hook massacre has been building for years. And there is much, much worse yet to come. (They are NOT “shootings” they are massacres … five died in the “Boston Massacre” which touched off the American Revolution … six murdered in the “St. Valentines Day Massacre” … many times more were murdered in Sandy Hook and we hide the reality from ourselves by calling it a “shooting” … “shooting” is what happens on the range … a “shooter” is the guy who got lucky during deer season! These are brutal mass murderers, committing savage massacres unlike anything seen in human history.)

I’ve heard people call the Sandy Hook tragedy both a “shooting” and a “massacre.” But, a “shooter” is one who shoots, whether he shoots deer or people.

And, again, you’re missing an obvious point, no? Perhaps the reason the Boston Massacre had fewer fatalities is owing to the fact that a musket and an assault weapon are . . . not the same.

Perhaps the reason the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre had fewer fatalities is owing to the fact that Capone and cronies targeted those seven (not six) mob associates specifically.

Are you really suggesting the  main difference between the Boston Massacre, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and the Sandy Hook Massacre is that the latter is complicated by the presence of violent video games? So, the Boston and St. Valentine’s Day Massacres would have had higher fatalities if video games were involved?


This has all been building up for years. Consider the stats on officers murdered in the line of duty in the US:

’08: 42
’09: 48
’10: 56
’11: 72

Anyone see a pattern here? Medical technology is holding DOWN the murder rate. The number of murdered cops should be going down every year.

You know what I see? A challenge to Wayne LaPierre’s argument that a “good guy” with a gun is the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun. Cops are good guys with guns, and they’re getting killed at an alarming rate.

These are criminals who practiced killing cops since they were six years old, every day of their lives, playing Grand Theft Auto, and now they are primed to kill cops as adults.

If we intentionally tried to raise a generation cocked and primed to kill, we could not have done a better job.

The answer? Parents MUST enforce the rating system. They MUST understand the danger. To do that, they must be informed by our media! And the schools must begin to educate their kids! Go to to learn about a school TV-turnoff curriculum pioneered by Stanford Med School and demonstrated to cut school violence and bullying in half!

An “M” (mature, 17 and above ONLY) rated game is the same as an “X” rated movie! The people who manufacture the game say so. Their own industry says so! A “T” (teen) rating means no child under 13 should play the game. Period. It is a very tragic, horrendous situation when adults let their children immerse themselves in M rated games! Just like, sex, gambling, porn, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, guns, and automobiles: these are all things that adults must not give to kids!

Totally cool, as a parent, with enforcing the video game rating system. And, I’m glad to see you mention “guns” as things not to give to kids either, although I find it interesting that it’s so long-coming in your list, behind sex, gambling, etc. But, it’s there nonetheless, and actually made an appearance before automobiles. Hurrah!

Not all of the kids who play these sick games will become killers, but they will all be desensitized to human death and suffering, intentionally and realistically inflicted by themselves, for their own entertainment…

If YOUR child is one who commits a brutal crime, and YOU let them play these sick games, then the blood is on your hands too… (And YOU may well be the first one to die, as with this most recent incident.)

Or, you could more accurately say: if YOUR child is one who commits a brutal crime, and YOU took him to shooting ranges and made guns available, then the blood is on your hands too . . . (And YOU may well be the first one to die, as with this most recent incident.)

Adam Lanza’s mother bought two things: guns and video games. The guns are more directly responsible for her death, since a video game isn’t a murder weapon.

This is NOT business as usual in America. Never lose your sense of outrage that every kid in America has to do lock-down drills, practicing “hunkering down and hiding” for when kids come to kill them. Never lose your sense of outrage that all of our cops practice going in our schools and shooting our kids with “active shooter response plans.” These things are necessary, they work, they deter violent acts and they can save lives and hold down the body count when it does happen, but they are not normal. This is NOT just another day in America. This is NOT “business as usual” in America… Something is very, very wrong.

Oh, don’t worry. I’m outraged. You know something else that holds down the body count? Gun regulation.

And it is a world-wide phenomenon! Germany has had two mass murders in their high schools with body counts that beat Columbine. England had a massacre in the kindergarden class in Dunblain Scotland, tragically forecasting Sandy Hook. Canada had the Taber, Alberta school massacre. Finland has had three school massacres. In Norway the killer got on an island and killed all their kids. In China killers are going in the classrooms with knives and gutting and hacking the kids. In Belgium a sicko got in the day care center and hacked 12 babies in the cribs, dressed as the Joker [from] the Batman movie. (All those European gun laws made THEM real safe, eh?)

Violence is a world-wide phenomenon, Lt. Col. Dave. But here’s the difference. Those other countries you mention? Most responded with stricter gun regulation, which has made them safer.

See NPR’s report: “Around World, Massacres Have Spurred Gun Control.” Here are some excerpts, for your convenience:

On Dunblain:

“In March 1996, a 43-year-old man named Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in this central Scotland town of 8,000 people and shot to death 16 kindergarten-age children and their teacher with four legally held handguns. In the weeks that followed, people in the town formed the Snowdrop campaign — named for the first flower of spring — to press for a ban on handguns. Within weeks, it had collected 750,000 signatures. By the next year, the ban had become law.”

On Canada, Germany and Finland:

“Gun laws also were strengthened in Canada after the 1989 slaying of 14 female engineering students in Montreal by a woman-hating gunman, and in Germany after a 19-year-old expelled student killed 16 people, including 12 teachers, in Erfurt in 2002.

Even gun-loving Finland — with 45 firearms for every 100 people — tightened its laws after two school shootings in 2007 and 2008, raising the minimum age for firearms ownership and giving police greater powers to make background checks on individuals applying for a gun license.”

And, I find it interesting that you fail to mention Australia’s 1996 massacre — perhaps because you’d have to mention the tighter gun regulation that followed, and the decade-long study of that regulation. You’d be forced to admit that:

“In Australia’s case, the change appears dramatic. There were a dozen mass shootings with at least five deaths in the country between 1981 and the Tasmania massacre; there have been none in the 16 years since.”

Finally . . . on China and Belgium:

In response to: “China killers are going in the classrooms with knives and gutting and hacking the kids.”

I assume you’re referring to the fact that on December 14th, a Chinese man wounded 22 schoolchildren in a knife attack. Key word: wounded. While horrific, none of the children were, in fact, “killed.” So, your attempt to use violent language, like “gutting and hacking,” to make the Dec. 14th attack in China seem as bad, or worse, than Sandy Hook is disingenuous. Granted, China has had a string of knife attacks since 2010 but none with a fatality list like Sandy Hook.

In response to: “In Belgium a sicko got in the day care center and hacked 12 babies in the cribs, dressed as the Joker [from] the Batman movie.”

There were three fatalities in the Dendermonde nursery attack, one adult and two children.

Horrible? Yes.

But, perhaps Noah Pozner’s mother, Veronique, says it best:

If Adam [Lanza] had shown up at Sandy Hook with a knife or a less powerful weapon, he may have harmed some people but it would not have been the mass carnage we saw . . . It takes nine months to create a human being. And it takes seconds for an AR-15 to take that away from the surface of this earth.”

And we though[t] it wouldn’t happen here!?

And you think it’s over now? The worst is yet to come. We will reap what we sow for a generation to come…. Until we stop teaching our kids to kill.

Lt. Col. Dave, I’m working hard for it to be “over” in the same way it is for Australia. And, maybe that will happen . . . if we’re wise enough to follow the examples that are right in front of us; if we’re generous enough to prioritize our children over our gun obsession; and if we’re brave enough to say “no” to the NRA and demand change.

Shame on you, Lt. Col. Dave. Man up and advocate for sensible gun regulation. I’ve linked the Brady Campaign web site for your convenience, and I’ll even do better than that. Here, I think, is where you would sign (under gun owners and NRA members):

P.S. Natalie Leppard, researcher extraordinaire, offers her two cents and a couple of articles for you (the PBS one mentions you by name):

Commercial in-home video games have only been around since the early 70s. The violent first person shooter games often blamed for massacres have only been around since the early 90s. There has not, however, been a significant rise in mass shootings since the 1980s. Further, video games are only vaguely associated with “feelings of hostility,” not definitively “violence” or “violent acts.”

And, mass shootings have been around for much longer, of course.

In 1966, Charles Whitman killed 16 and wounded 31 from the University of Austin clock tower.

In 1949, Howard Unruh killed 13 people while walking around his neighborhood in Camden, N.J.

In 1891, an elderly man took aim at a group of school children in NY, killing none.

In 1764, four gunmen shot and killed a teacher and 10 students at a school in PA.

Can’t blame any of those on video games . . .

Further, violent crimes by youths (the people who play video games 24/7) has decreased dramatically since 1980–with the rise of violent video games:

From PBS; Myth #5 has your name on it, Lt. Col. Dave:

How many rhetorical fallacies does the NRA commit? Count with me.

A Guest Blog Post, by: Dr. Natalie R. Leppard


The National Rifle Association’s 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters join the nation in horror, outrage, grief and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut … who suffered such incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime. Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent.

This was a nice sentiment until the last two sentences wherein the NRA “trie[s] to exploit tragedy for political gain” by pointing out they think the other guys are doing just that. “Holier than thou argument”: failed. Attempt to rest on authority . . . AND an ad hominem attack. Off to a brilliant start!

Now, we must speak … for the safety of our nation’s children. Because for all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, no one — nobody — has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?

Actually, NRA, everyone has been addressing just that. All that talk about gun bans . . . some of which doesn’t even mention the NRA . . . or do you only read/watch things that mention you by name?

The only way to answer that question is to face up to the truth.

Yes. Let’s do that. But, I’m betting my Christmas bonus the NRA will do no such thing.

Politicians pass laws for Gun-Free School Zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

Slippery Slope argument and Scare Tactics alert. This couldn’t be better illustrated than by the horrible shooting that happened on a road on 12/21/12 in Pennsylvania that killed 3 people in addition to the gunman. Not a Gun-Free Zone. Other recent mass shootings have been carried out at a Seal Beach, CA hair salon, a San Ysidro, CA McDonald’s, a Carson City, NV IHop, a Tuscon, AZ parking lot, a coffee shop, an Air Force base, an Army base, shopping centers and malls, private companies . . . MotherJones has a map ( These are certainly not all gun free zones.

How have our nation’s priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.

Red Herrings! I’m thinking about it and the logic does not track. I protect my important documents by locking them in a safe. Should I do that with children? I protect myself when walking in the dark by carrying an adapted set of brass knuckles. Should I give a child a set? I protect my car by setting an alarm. Should I put an alarm on children? I protect my pets by having them micro-chipped. Should we micro-chip humans? I protect my identity by shredding papers . . . In other words, we protect different things in different ways. There is not and cannot be a general solution.

Further, the examples given are terrible. Between Jan. 1, 2011 and Mar. 31, 2011, according to the FBI, there were 1,081 bank robberies, 268 used a firearm, and there were 21 deaths (3 of which were of the perpetrators). Now, according to NRA logic, the other deaths were thwarted by armed guards. Except there were only 39 guards on duty during those crimes. So, what stopped deaths in the other 229 robberies? The goal of the criminals: they wanted money, not lives. The same holds for the other examples, except the office buildings. And, well, if you look at the Mother Jones map, you’ll see that quite a few shootings took place at office buildings, armed guards or no.

We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.

This also just does not track logically. You’re comparing apples and oranges, NRA. This isn’t an issue of “caring” and using language like that is emotional blackmail. False analogy!

Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!

Scare Tactics! Slippery Slopes! Sentimental appeal! Oh dear. Yes, NRA, let’s call the mentally troubled “monsters.” Meanwhile, “leave them utterly defenseless” seems to say we need to arm children so they may defend themselves . . .

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school he’s already identified at this very moment? How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave — while provoking others to try to make their mark? A dozen more killers? A hundred? More?

They may have waited a few days but the NRA came out swinging with the offensive comments. Apparently they missed the “let’s help the mentally ill” portion of the conversation everyone else has been having. So, again, Scare Tactics! Slippery Slopes! Sentimental appeal! Try a new slant, NRA.

How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?

SERIOUSLY!!! Even with the slight connection to the mental health conversation–this is quite the offensive non sequiter-ish strawman. The NRA sure is advocating for a LOT of constitutionally problematic solutions when there is one constitutionally supported solution staring them in the face.

And the fact is, that wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country.

What? And people kill bunnies too! While that’s terrible, it has nothing to do with this conversation unless a gun was involved. But, the NRA is talking about people (“killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members”), not the crimes or the weapons. This is a whole slippery slope of a false causational non-squitor-ial faulty analogy.

Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% — to the lowest levels in a decade.

Well, prosecutions go down when crimes go down and the overall violent crime rate has decreased.

So now, due to a declining willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years!

Nope. Lie. MOST violent crimes are decreasing. When looking at the trend line of the bigger picture, it goes down.

Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.

What? Invite Mad Max and we’ll have a Thunderdome. NRA. We’re talking about school shootings and kids, remember. You’re so off track now I’m not sure you can recover.

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?

Nope. Didn’t recover. Went further into the crazy. A May 2012 article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence ONCE AGAIN indicated that there is no provable correlation between violent video games and violence.

Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

How many of your members play shooting games, NRA? How many of your members are going to watch Jack Reacher this weekend, NRA? Plus, try to come up with more recent films; you look really out of touch. Again, no correlation has been proven or substantiated with data.

OH WAIT! Fun fact!! There is an “NRA Gun Club” game for Play Station 2!! So, um, pot, kettle, NRA. . . I’ve lost track of fallacies . . .

But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography? In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes — every minute of every day of every month of every year.


A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18. And throughout it all, too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.

STRAW. MAN. We’ve got a whole field of scarecrows by now. Get the guns, we’ll shoot the crows.

The media call semi-automatic firearms “machine guns” — they claim these civilian semi-automatic firearms are used by the military, and they tell us that the .223 round is one of the most powerful rifle 5 calibers … when all of these claims are factually untrue. They don’t know what they’re talking about!

They might not know what they’re talking about with the specifics but at least they’re staying on topic. And the media isn’t the group making legislation.

Worse, they perpetuate the dangerous notion that one more gun ban— or one more law imposed on peaceful, lawful people — will protect us where 20,000 others have failed!

20,000 other what? Gun bans? I’m SO confused.

As brave, heroic and self-sacrificing as those teachers were in those classrooms, and as prompt, professional and well-trained as those police were when they responded, they were unable — through no fault of their own — to stop it. As parents, we do everything we can to keep our children safe. It is now time for us to assume responsibility for their safety at school. The only way to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away … or a minute away?

Well, here’s an article about how armed people on-site don’t actually stop shootings. Thank you, again, Mother Jones:

Now, I can imagine the shocking headlines you’ll print tomorrow morning: “More guns,” you’ll claim, “are the NRA’s answer to everything!” Your implication will be that guns are evil and have no place in society, much less in our schools. But since when did the word “gun” automatically become a bad word?

You think we’re waiting until tomorrow? Welcome to the 21st century NRA. Meanwhile, I don’t think any serious participant in the conversation is advocating for a ban on all guns. So, no, “gun” is not automatically a bad word.

A gun in the hands of a Secret Service agent protecting the President isn’t a bad word. A gun in the hands of a soldier protecting the United States isn’t a bad word. And when you hear the glass breaking in your living room at 3 a.m. and call 911, you won’t be able to pray hard enough for a gun in the hands of a good guy to get there fast enough to protect you. So why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect our President or our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect our children in their schools?

The Secret Service agent is trained to use a firearm. A soldier is trained to use a firearm. The “good guy” to protect me is a police officer, I assume, who is trained to use a firearm. A gun used to protect our children is bad because armed people rarely stop mass murders even if they are trained with firearms. Scroll back up to that map I mentioned above–it includes an army base and an air force base. That’s a lot of trained, armed people and they couldn’t stop the crazy with guns.

They’re our kids. They’re our responsibility. And it’s not just our duty to protect them — it’s our right to protect them.You know, five years ago, after the Virginia Tech tragedy, when I said we should put armed security in every school, the media called me crazy. But what if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, he had been confronted by qualified, armed security? Will you at least admit it’s possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared? Is that so abhorrent to you that you would rather continue to risk the alternative?

It is not your right when it endangers other people. What if Lanza were looking for a gunfight and you were at a school armed? You’re putting a school full of children in the middle of a war. Further, again, armed people do not stop mass murders. And, no, I will admit no such thing because, if you add in a person with a gun, you’ll have to add another fatality. The crazy with the gun knows he’s going in to kill people; the person “defending” children will be taken by surprise and, likely, killed.

Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life to shield the children in her care? No one — regardless of personal political prejudice — has the right to impose that sacrifice.

Sigh. Even your NRA dude in Congress says it’s time to stop grandstanding.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no national, one-size-fits-all solution to protecting our children. But do know this President zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget, and scrapped “Secure Our Schools” policing grants in next year’s budget.With all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget,we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school? Even if they did that, politicians have no business — and no authority — denying us the right, the ability, or the moral imperative to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.

Didn’t the NRA stop Clinton’s COPS initiative which would have done this? Yes, yes they did.

Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer — relying on the brave men and women of America’s police force.

Again, you stopped a program that would have increased police by 100,000 in 1994.

The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now.

So, we’re not going to pay them?

I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.

Convenient of them to call on Congress to act soon when the President already did that.

Before Congress reconvenes, before we engage in any lengthy debate over legislation, regulation or anything else, as soon as our kids return to school after the holiday break, we need to have every single school in America immediately deploy a protection program proven to work —and by that I mean armed security.

Where did we prove that? Oh, right, no where.

Right now, today, every school in the United States should plan meetings with parents, school administrators, teachers and local authorities — and draw upon every resource available — to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now. Every school will have a different solution based on its own unique situation. Every school in America needs to immediately identify, dedicate and deploy the resources necessary to put these security forces in place right now. And the National Rifle Association, as America’s preeminent trainer of law enforcement and security personnel for the past 50 years, is ready, willing and uniquely qualified to help.

Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now. We did it for the nation’s defense industries and military installations during World War II, and we’ll do it for our schools today. The NRA is going to bring all of its knowledge, dedication and resources to develop a model National School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants it. From armed security to building design and access control to information technology to student and teacher training, this multi-faceted program will be developed by the very best experts in their fields. Former Congressman Asa Hutchinson will lead this effort as National Director of the National School Shield Program, with a budget provided by the NRA of whatever scope the task requires. His experience as a U.S. Attorney, Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency and Undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security will give him the knowledge and expertise to hire the most knowledgeable and credentialed experts available anywhere, to get this program up and running from the first day forward.

If we truly cherish our kids more than our money or our celebrities, we must give them the greatest level of protection possible and the security that is only available with a properly trained — armed —good guy. Under Asa’s leadership, our team of security experts will make this the best program in the world for protecting our children at school, and we will make that program available to every school in America free of charge. That’s a plan of action that can, and will, make a real, positive and indisputable difference in the safety of our children —starting right now. There’ll be time for talk and debate later. This is the time, this is the day for decisive action.We can’t wait for the next unspeakable crime to happen before we act. We can’t lose precious time debating legislation that won’t work. We mustn’t allow politics or personal prejudice to divide us. We must act now. For the sake of the safety of every child in America, I call on every parent, every teacher, every school administrator and every law enforcement officer in this country to join us in the National School Shield Program and protect our children with the only line of positive defense that’s tested and proven to work. And now, to tell you more about the program, I’d like to introduce the head of that effort — a former U.S. congressman, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas and former administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Honorable Asa Hutchinson.

This last part is just a commercial for the NRA and Asa Hutchinson. Meanwhile, way to go NRA, instead of waiting for government action (as you demand is missing and call for) you step right up to implement your faux plan. The results of all of this: the NRA will sponsor this program, Hutchinson will come to the conclusion that armed guards are needed, and the NRA won’t do anything about it because they cannot legally put armed people in schools. Instead of working WITH the government, the NRA has, once again, taken it upon themselves to grandstand and lobby for guns while being fully aware that this amounts to little more than a campaign speech, full of nonsense and empty promises to enrage their base.

This Is Neither Who We Are Nor Who We Want To Be

People handle grief in different ways. I’ve been handling my individual share of anger, confusion and grief since last Friday, Hermione-Granger style. Reading. Asking questions. And, then, reading some more. Part of this is because it is, quite simply, the way I work: I lose myself in grief by taking in information, processing it, and then exploding, if you will, with an outpouring of words rather than tears. But, part of this is also due to a promise I made to my 8-year old daughter when I told her about Sandy Hook. Her reaction, calm in her belief that her Dad and I were “on it” and would “make it right,” shook me nearly as much as my realization of what we’ve become: a nation plagued by domestic terrorism. I’m shaken, I suppose, because I don’t share her confidence that her Dad and I can fix this — although I know I’ll keep my promise to do everything within my power to “make it right” regardless of the outcome.

And I’m sensible enough to know that there isn’t one easy answer, that there are a number of reasonable solutions that could affect positive change. As Dr. David P. Gushee, professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, argues: “Only a comprehensive solution will do. Every aspect of this problem needs to be considered with the best and most creative thinking available.” He offers and invites conversation about everything from more accessible mental healthcare to stricter gun control, from fostering a sense of community to fortifying public spaces. (I have one friend, an engineer, who is particularly interested in this last solution, since he says that we have the technology to produce and install bulletproof glass and doors, panic buttons, etc.).

These seem to be reasonable solutions that give me hope.

And, then, today I saw a photo of an armed teacher circulating on Facebook, among my more conservative Christian friends, with the caption (below):

“This is an elementary class in Israel. Teachers are trained, locked, loaded, and ready to protect the children in their care. In America, the most protection many students receive is a condom in sex ed. What are your thoughts? Would we be better served to continue in our current direction or should we train and arm our educators as they do in Israel?”

The first thing you should know is that Ron Cantor in Israel Today calls the photo seriously misleading (and even doubts that the woman is a teacher at all): “Israel’s successful gun ownership laws both serve to make sure upstanding, brave and mentally sound citizens have access to guns, and that those who present even a minor threat are prevented from possessing one. It would be a mistake to use Israel as the poster child for more weapons in the US, as our success here is much more connected to limiting weapons and enabling strategies such as gates, fences and armed guards (not armed teachers), to protect our children. Sorry to disappoint, but the truth is important.”

I’ll engage with the caption, though, and tell you my thoughts about the issue: No. We do not want to train and arm our educators. Teachers are not soldiers. This is neither who we are nor who we want to be.

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, we can — and we should — and we must do better. To replace mass shootings with gun fights between a shooter and teachers is unacceptable. Children should not have to experience a mass shooting, in which they’re hurt, or a mass shooting, in which they’re not. I don’t want my children to experience a mass shooting. Period. Children who live in fear of a mass shooting when in public, regardless of whether their teacher is armed or not, are not free.

Dr. Firmin Debrabande, an associate professor of philosophy, explains the myth of a “free” armed society:

“Guns undermine . . . community. Their pervasive, open presence would sow apprehension, suspicion, mistrust and fear, all emotions that are corrosive of community and civic cooperation. To that extent, then, guns give license to autocratic government.

Our gun culture promotes a fatal slide into extreme individualism. It fosters a society of atomistic individuals, isolated before power — and one another — and in the aftermath of shootings such as at Newtown, paralyzed with fear. That is not freedom, but quite its opposite. And as the Occupy movement makes clear, also the demonstrators that precipitated regime change in Egypt and Myanmar last year, assembled masses don’t require guns to exercise and secure their freedom, and wield world-changing political force . . . [P]ower does not lie in armed individuals, but in assembly — and everything conducive to that.”

We should not arm ourselves as though we’re James Holmes and Adam Lanza, because that is neither who we are nor who we want to be.

We want to be better than that, to be an example of nonviolence to our children, and — yes — to make them feel safer but in ways that prevent rather than engage with violence: again, click on the link to Gushee’s article, above. We want to be more like Australia, or Britain, or Japan.

To do otherwise would make us comparable to the small-town Maine community in Stephen King’s 1996 television mini-series “Storm of the Century.” Although it’s been years since I’ve seen the film, I remember the deal that the supernatural villain, André Linoge, struck with the community, paralyzed by fear. He offered to spare the town, which he would otherwise destroy, if they would give him one child to raise as his evil protegee. Despite the hero’s protestations — “we do not give our children to thugs” is the phrase I remember — the town concedes, under the false hope that they had prevented a greater evil, that they had saved more lives.

But, they had failed to be brave. They had lost themselves to fear, becoming complicit to what they would otherwise spurn as inconceivable. I’ve seen, in countless Facebook comments, that what was “inconceivable” decades ago — to arm teachers — is “necessary” now. No, it’s not. There are other options. Let’s not forget who we are.

A conversation with my 8 year old about Sandy Hook

Arina on the rocks

On Friday, my 8 year old daughter and 3 year old son had taken advantage of the half day of school and were at their grandparents’ house, already enjoying the long weekend.

Last night, my husband and I made the two hour trek to pick up Arina, so that she could attend my cousin’s birthday party with us. On the way to the party, Scott and I told her about Sandy Hook. We knew she’d likely hear adults talking at the party, or she’d hear about the tragedy at school on Monday, and we wanted her to hear the upsetting news from us first. The conversation went as follows:

Me: Sorry we’re late, Arina. Mommy’s been trying to change the world again. [a family joke, referring to my activism]

Arina: That’s okay, Mom. How are you changing the world this time?

Me: Something bad happened on Friday, something really upsetting, in Connecticut.

Arina: What happened?

Me: A sick man got a gun, and went into a first grade classroom, and he killed the teacher and the kids.

Arina: What?! He shot them?

Me: Yes. I want you to know, though, that Mommy and Daddy, and other adults, are going to try and make things better, okay? Because this shouldn’t have happened, and we want to work together to do everything we can to keep it from happening again.

Arina: Okay. Good.

Me: This is hard, though. We’re telling you about it, because we want to be honest with you. Some parents may not have told their kids yet, because it’s so hard to talk about it, and some people are so sad that they’re having trouble thinking about it or talking about it at all. So, if you want to talk about it, come talk to us or Nana or Pop, or we’ll call Aunt Nat or Aunt Tracy if you want to talk to someone cooler than us, okay?

Arina: Okay. Mom? How old were the kids?

Me: 6 and 7. First grade. Your age when you were in Ms. Carrington’s class.

Arina: What?!

Me: I know — it’s so horrible and so sad, but we promise we’ll try to make things better. Do you have any ideas?

Arina, after thinking a moment: Well, sick people shouldn’t have guns. Or drunk people.

Me: Yeah — that’s good. Also, I think it would be good to make it harder, if not illegal, for people to have certain kinds of really powerful guns, that do so much damage in a short amount of time.

Arina: What happened to the guy who did it?

Me: He shot and killed himself too.

Arina: What?! But, if he was going to do that to himself anyway, why didn’t he just do that first? Then no one else would have been hurt.

Me: I don’t know, Sweetheart, but he was sick. He probably didn’t think the way other people do.

Arina: Why didn’t he go to the doctor?

Me: I don’t know, but maybe that’s something else we could do, make it easier for sick people to get help before they do something bad.

Arina: I’m going to start paying more attention at school — looking around, you know, to see if people are around who shouldn’t be around. That would give us more time to get away.

Scott: That’s not your job, Arina. Your job is to go to school and have fun. Let us, Mommy and Daddy, take care of that. And we’re on it. Okay?

Arina: Okay. But who takes care of you guys?

I told Arina not to worry, that her Dad and I would take care of each other. And, despite the horror and shock of it all, she seemed relaxed after the conversation, because she believes us, her parents, when we tell her that we’re going to do everything we can to make the world safer for her, a place where she doesn’t have to be afraid to go to school. She doesn’t just have hope — that’s not a strong enough word — she has absolute certainty that we will be able to do this. Because we’re parents, and protecting our children is what we do.

I think this is why I’ve found some of the conversation in which I’ve participated through social media so frustrating, some of the sentiments expressed so unconscionable.

I know I should be thankful for the responses, however disagreeable, because they indicate that a conversation is at least happening. But, what am I to think and do when this is the conversation:

Response #1: we shouldn’t even be having a conversation because these things will happen, and we can’t stop them.

I call this cowardice. Perhaps we’ll fail, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. I have many faults — I’m, at times, fickle and selfish and short-tempered and more — but I think I can say with my favorite writer Emily Brontë that “no coward soul is mine.”

I reject the idea that any number of mass shootings is “normal.” One mass shooting is one too many.

So, I scorn response #1.

Response #2: we shouldn’t be surprised this happened, because we’ve taken God, or prayer, out of schools (i.e. the “Mike Huckabee” response).

I call this blasphemy. To suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that Sandy Hook was punishment from God is to align yourself with Job’s friends, whose similar understanding of God angered Him.

I imagine the families of the victims from the 2006 Amish school shooting, rolling their eyes at Mike Huckabee, along with most of the rest of us.

So, I scorn response #2.

Response #3: we should ban abortion, birth control and gay marriage, all of which have discouraged procreation and lead to a lack of respect for life (i.e. the channeling-Jerry-Falwell response).

I call this . . . honestly, I’m at a loss for words here. I guess I call this a contradiction in the extreme, especially when I remember the following, recent tragedy in Ireland: “Woman Dies After Abortion Request Refused.” And, I call it disrespectful in the extreme when I see the wonderful, loving same-sex couples and their families, whose example and influence make this world better not worse.

This post not only came across my Facebook newsfeed, but also was accompanied by seventeen “likes” (and counting).

So, I scorn response  #3.

Response #4: we should reform our gun control laws.

This seems not only sensible but also necessary. This seems a place where compromises could be made. I said as much on Facebook, and linked articles advocating for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and for closing the gun show loophole.

The discussion that followed was both predictable and shocking by turns:

— Seven people, at least, objected as though I had said we should ban all guns, handguns and hunting rifles included. I had to reiterate, several times, that I had not proposed something so extreme, that I was seeking a compromise position.

— One person brought up 9/11, when 3000 people, he said, were killed by men with box cutters. I reminded him, of course, that 3000 people were killed when men with box cutters used planes as bombs. I also reminded him of the regulatory measures passed afterward. We’re no longer free to walk on an airplane, as before, with shampoo and nail clippers. The regulations now in place are an imposition certainly, but an imposition with which we’re all willing to deal, because we have the hope of being safer because of it.

— And one person asked which assault weapons I’d like to ban, because many kids learn to shoot with semi-automatic rifles.

This last post prompted one of my friends from New York to ask the following: “OMG! Have you befriended some sort of local militia down there? I think one fellow (surely respectable, loves his mother, etc…) asked (in one of your other posts) which guns you’d like to ban because some are what ‘most young kids learn to shoot with’!? TELL me we’ve wandered onto the set of some SNL sketch! TELL me Land Shark is coming up next! Because this can’t be reality. If it is, I really don’t think I own the right shade of olive drab.”

My Dad explained what the “surely respectable, loves his mother” fellow meant: that kids are taught to shoot with assault weapons, because they have “less recoil.” This, of course, begs the question: why are kids too young to handle recoil being taught to shoot, or why are kids being taught to shoot, period?

These are people who aren’t in favor of an assault weapons ban, despite the fact that research suggests it could make a difference, because they’d  rather not have to teach their children to shoot with a hunting rifle instead.

These are people who aren’t in favor of an assault weapons ban, because they enjoy having a variety of gun choice too much to be bothered by the argument that limiting this enjoyment may make our schools and our children safer.

I call this opposition greed, and I call it selfishness: a classic example of wanting more at the expense of others.

Response #5: we should reform our mental healthcare system.

I would be less angry, maybe, about the refusal to compromise over gun regulation, if those opponents would throw their support behind mental healthcare reform.

I asked one of my Facebook commentators, who had offered the trite “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” the following:

“Okay — if you believe that, are you going to help those people, then, get the care they need, when they need it? — before they do harm to themselves and others.”


And, this is the “Christian” response. These are the people who claim  to follow the way of Jesus, which is peaceful and nonviolent. These are the people, who claim to read the Bible as “literally” as possible, who fight tooth and nail against gay marriage (which Jesus never condemned) and universal healthcare (which Jesus actually performed), but who do not feel that when Jesus disarmed Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, He disarmed all followers who came after him. They reject the idea that, to Jesus, peace obtained through violence (or the marketing and widespread distribution of weapons) is only an illusory “peace” and one not worth having.

And, this, is a Christianity I scorn — most of all, because it is one that thwarts my attempt to keep my promise to my elementary-school aged daughter, but also because it is a perversion of the life and example of Jesus.

On his way to work Friday, my husband, Scott, told me he heard the following on NPR: “China school knife attack in Henan injures 22 children.” Injures, not kills. He thought, carelessly, that China was having lots of problems and that he was glad to be in America. And, then an hour or so later, the Sandy Hook news broke, and he had to admit that — if our children had to have been in one of those two elementary schools on Friday morning — he’d opt for Communist China over “Christian” America.


The Right Time

On Monday, Jon Stewart said the following in a Daily Show segment entitled “Any Given Gun Day:”

“I think I get the rules now . . . you can talk about guns, just not in the immediate wake of any event involving guns, but with approximately 30 gun related murders daily in the United States, when will it ever be the right time to talk about the issue?”

An avid Daily Show watcher, I appreciated Stewart’s point — a defense, if you will, of the criticism Bob Costas received for daring to bring up the issue of gun violence and to lobby for tighter gun regulation in the wake of the NFL tragedies. Costas was not only criticized for his “insensitive” timing, but also for stepping outside of his role as sportscaster, and for making the argument during his halftime segment of “Sunday Night Football.”

I often post Daily Show clips on my facebook page, and although I enjoyed the clip and agreed with Stewart’s points, I didn’t post it — because, activist that I am, I wasn’t on my gun regulation soapbox that day. To my shame, I tend to be fickle with my social justice issues, vacillating between advocating for the poor, for animals, for marriage equality, for victims of violence, etc. Sometimes, my husband will ask about “the social justice issue of the day,” and I feel the reprimand (however unintentional) and know, in my heart, that all of these things (and more) are important all of the time.

Today, tragedy struck at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I feel, as many others, sick to my stomach, like I’ve been punched — very hard — in the gut. And I’m not even a parent, a grandparent, a sibling or a friend of those involved.

I know that people grieve in different ways and that they need to be able to feel without judgement, without being told that it’s wrong to feel so, or think so, or talk so.

I’ll try not to step on those expressions of grief that are different than mine, while unleashing, through the therapeutic process of writing, my own full expression:

It’s the right time for me to talk about gun control (may it be better regulated). And mental health care (may it be more accessible). And social responsibility (may we treat each other more kindly). And education (may we understand each other more fully). It’s the right time for me, because my empathetic imagination finds the grieving parent in the situation and forces me to imagine what I would say to him or her, which is always some variation of the following:

“I’m so sorry this happened to you. This should not have happened to you. Puny and insignificant person that I am, I promise to do what I can to keep this from ever again happening to you, or to someone you love.”

This leads me to wonder, then, how I can keep that promise, how I can turn my grieving into something productive and useful. This involves 2 things:

(1) Analyzing the situation, and focusing on *something* that *may* help. Of the many complex issues involved, I tend to focus most on more responsible gun regulation, simply because — through my reading and research — I know the most about it.

Do I think that tighter gun regulation would keep a gun-related tragedy from ever happening again? No.

Do I think it would make it less likely to happen? Yes, at least in this magnitude and with this frequency.

My mind has been turning to both the Daily Show clip and a blog post I read in The Chronicle of Higher Education after the Aurora, Colorado shooting. The post, written by David Barash, is entitled “The Mathematical Argument for Gun Control” and features commentary from Dr.  Michael Shermer. The post appealed to me, because Shermer uses math, which I’m slow to understand, in an understandable way. He argues, “the freedom of a few people to own WMM’s (Weapons of Mass Murder) conflicts with the freedom of the rest of us to enter the public sphere without the chance of our ultimate freedom of life itself being cut short,” and he provides some convincing mathematical equations “that should give even the most freedom-loving libertarian and conservative pause.”

Maybe it’s the right time for all of us to differentiate between weapons for hunting animals and weapons of mass murder, and pass some legislation that reflects this understanding. Maybe it’s the right time to make owning a gun at least as difficult as registering to vote, buying antihistamines, or getting a credit card; see Charli James’s “Eight Things More Difficult Than Owning a Gun.”

Trust me, I’m being generous here, because — at the present moment — I’d rather go all “China” on the issue and ban guns, so the comparable headline would be more likely to feature the verb “hurt” than “kill;” see another Friday event “China stabbing spree hurts 22 schoolchildren.”  But, I recognize my emotional state now, and am willing to compromise period.

(2) Using my angry, confused, heartbroken voice to engage others, who have their own ideas, their own *something* that *may* help; and to move together as a collective, grieving community towards sanity, which I define as some active good in the world.

However inarticulately I’ve managed this, I’ve used my voice, at least, with this blog post.

Because, of the many things about which I’m unsure, I have one certainty:

The worst we can do is to stand idly by.

And, the second worst, I think, is to forget.

Forgetting is so easy for those of us who don’t have the constant reminder that is a missing family member. But, I’m going to try to be better and do better this time. Because I know a truth that some of my Facebook friends seem to miss. And, I’m referring to those who always write about how “blessed” they are (this often follows some declaration of family togetherness . . . like “watching TV with my babies. I’m SO blessed!”)

These posters are good-hearted and  well-intentioned, I  know. But, nonetheless, this turn of phrase seems very Book-of-Job-like, as though if one person is “blessed by God” to be enjoying their children, another person, a Sandy Hook parent perhaps, is cursed by God. And, if there is one thing we can learn from the Job story, it’s this: the way to make God angry is to suggest that He works that way, rewarding the “good” and punishing the “bad.”

No, Mike Huckabee.

I’m going to try to be better and do better this time, because this wasn’t “some tragedy” that happened to “some person.” It could have happened to any of us, and if we do nothing about it (and, perhaps, even if we do), it will happen again. But, we owe it to those in the Sandy Hook community and ourselves to try some preventative measure or — preferably — measures.

And, no, my Christian friends: praying doesn’t count, unless praying causes you to *do* something else, because — after all — that’s how we know when prayer really works.