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In Memory of the Victims in Newtown

December 17, 2012

shawnkennedyBy Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

I could scarcely watch the news coverage of the horrific shooting that occurred in the small Connecticut town of Newton on Friday. It was just too awful. Children no older than seven, all shot, along with several teachers, by a young man who had already killed his mother and who later took his own life after causing unimaginable carnage. When the first reports emerged and newscasters were speculating on the number of people killed, I recalled then-mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reported response to a journalist who asked him how many were killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center: “More than we can bear.”

As nurses, we are no strangers to what happens when violence occurs. We see the results of it every day in our workplaces. Individuals, families, and communities are changed forever, and often we as caregivers are, too. What begins as an ordinary day becomes a tragic milestone: future events are remembered as “before” or “after” the event.

I’m tired of hearing “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yes, but some guns make it a heck of a lot easier to do so, and in large numbers. We’ve had Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Aurora movie theater, a Portland mall, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others on an Arizona street, and now Newtown.  And as I was writing this, the Chicago Tribune reported that a 60-year-old man in Indiana was arrested after threatening to set his wife on fire and kill people at a nearby elementary school. He had 47 guns in his house.

What are we waiting for?  Automatic weapons are too readily available; we need sensible restrictions on the purchase of automatic weapons. These are not hunting or sport shooting guns; they are rapid-fire machines designed to kill multiple targets in a short period of time. Some question whether anyone other than law enforcement and the military should be in possession of these guns. What does it say about us as a nation that we allow the greed of special interest groups and the politicians who cater to them to continue to block what is clearly for the common good?

In a Sunday column, Nicholas Kristof points out that, in the 18 years before Australia enacted gun control legislation limiting the sale of rapid-fire rifles, there were 14 mass shootings. There have been none since the law was passed.

There are more than 3.1 million nurses in this country. Although we are largely fragmented, choosing affiliations with many different organizations, this violence should bring us together with other health care colleagues to support changes in legislation around ownership of automatic weapons.


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5 comments

  1. I agree we need to review automatic weapon legislation, however, the same day as the Connecticut shooting, a man in Beijing, China, stabbed 22 school children with a knife. Thankfully, a knife is a less effective weapon for mass killing than automatic rifles. This kind of event is common in China, according to this NYT article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/world/asia/man-stabs-22-children-in-china.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes&_r=0

    Societal violence, and access to help for mental illness need inclusion in this conversation too.

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  2. Late entry: Oops, I made an error. The stabbing did not occur in Beijing. Sorry, it’s been a stressful week around here.

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  3. Is this really “in memory” of the victims as your title suggests? Maybe you intended it that way at first, but you wasted no time spinning it into a political statement of your own. Guns is not the problem. Taking the right to self-protect out of the hands of citizens is the problem. Ever notice that criminals target places where they know no one can fire back? Churches, schools, movie theatres? New laws will not stop criminals. They never have. Never will. They’ll just leave the law-abiding and innocent among us less protected and more vulnerable than they already are. If politicians are important enough to be protected with gun-carrying police and secret service, so shouldn’t innocent children?

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  4. I think that this issue should be approached with the same evidence that you would like used with any other topic. The gun laws have allowed these assault weapons since the 1960′s. Therefore it does not follow any logical thinking that access to these weapons is the key to these recent shootings. As someone who has studied this issue in PhD studies I would ask you to seek the evidence and to look at the true underlying issues of lack of access to mental health services. As with suicide means restriction is one piece of the puzzle but knee jerk reactions calling for us to do something may not be the right thing.

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  5. I do believe this article is in memory of the Newtown victims and their families- and all who loved them and heard of this horror. (Which pretty much makes the entire nation as well as the international community who have all extended condolences.) Unfortunately, when assault weapons are available as easily as they are in the U.S., I believe there will be no changes in mass killings. Please note the mass killing that took place in Australia- and it took them 14 days to pass legislation against assault weapons. I don’t know any reason a citizen needs to possess a firearm that has only a single purpose- to kill as many targets as quickly as possible. Is this truly “self defense?” I adamantly and respectfully disagree….

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