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December 21, 2012 12:19 PM Age: 7 yrs

Newtown Tragedy Forces Hard Questions

Category: Larry Checco
Source:  Larry Checco, featured commentator

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Five days after the horrific Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, I happened to learn that someone I hadn’t spoken to in nearly 25 years lives there.  I always liked Jim (not his real name) and innocently decided this might be a good excuse to renew our acquaintanceship over the phone.

Was I ever wrong!

“Hello,” a hollow, aged voice answered the phone.

“Is this Jim so-and-so?” I cheerfully asked.

“Yes,” came back a voice soaked in sadness and fatigue.  I began to dread I had ever made the call, but it was too late now.

I told him who I was, asked if he remembered me (he did), and how he was doing.

“I thought things would be getting better by now, but they’re not,” he somberly responded.  And without my ever asking about the shooting, he began unfolding his story.

Turns out Jim’s six-year-old grandson had been in the room adjacent to the one in which most of the shooting had taken place.  The shooter had killed three of his grandson’s best friends. 

“If the police had not come when they did, I wouldn’t have my grandson today.” 

It wasn’t what he said; it was his voice.  It carried the weight of a world I was being inextricably drawn into.  The media who won’t leave “us” alone, hearses containing small bodies in front of places of worship all over town, the ensuing funeral processions, the makeshift memorials that only serve to remind “us” of the horror of that awful, awful day. 

“It’s getting worse, not better,” Jim said again in a haunting voice I cannot properly describe.  “I can’t go to the funerals.  I just can’t.”

I was now a member of those in deep grief, asking how such a thing could happen. Why yet another deranged young man could have access to weapons made for battlefields, not quaint New England townships.

The answer is less mystery and more about money.

There are nearly 300 million guns in civilian hands in the U.S., almost one for every man, woman and child—including 6-year olds.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry had a US$31 billion impact on the economy last year, up from $27.8 billion in 2009, due to job creation, sales and taxes levied on guns. 

By the way, the National Shooting Sport Foundation is headquartered in Newtown, CT.  Yes, that Newtown!

Since 1998, the National Rifle Association has spent US$28.2 million on lobbying in Washington to keep all sorts of guns on our streets.  That includes semi-automatic weapons like the Bushmaster rifle the gunman used in Newtown to kill 26 people, including his mother, 20 six-year-olds and six of their dedicated teachers and caregivers.

The NRA’s real clout, however, is employing its more than US$200 million annual budget to mobilize its 4 million members whenever the issue of gun control rears its head.  Since the Newtown shooting, its membership has increased by 8,000, according to an NRA source.

Fact is, guns are a growing business in this country.  Over the last two years the industry claims to have created 26,325 new “good-paying” gun-related jobs, and despite all the senseless tragedies, in the wake of Newtown, more people, not fewer, are stocking up on weapons and ammunition.

As a society, is this the way we want to grow our economy?  At the risk of are children being slaughtered?  At the added risk to all of us, for that matter. 

Jim said he’d get back in touch with me after things settle down a bit in Newtown.  I suspect I won’t hear from him for quite some time. 

Contents © 2012 by Larry Checco, All Rights Reserved.

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