Responding to the Sandy Hook Elementary Massacre

By  Douglas C. Sloan

A list of who was lost:

CHILDREN                           BIRTH     SEX    AGE

Charlotte Bacon                      2/22/06   female  (age 6)

Daniel Barden                         9/25/05   male     (age 7)

Olivia Engel                             7/18/06   female  (age 6)

Josephine Gay                      12/11/05   female  (age 7)

Ana M. Marquez-Greene       4/04/06   female  (age 6)

Dylan Hockley                       3/08/06   male     (age 6)

Madeleine F. Hsu                   7/10/06   female  (age 6)

Catherine V. Hubbard             6/08/06   female  (age 6)

Chase Kowalski                    10/31/05   male     (age 7)

Jesse Lewis                             6/30/06   male     (age 6)

James Mattioli                        3/22/06   male     (age 6)

Grace McDonnell                 11/04/05   female  (age 7)

Emilie Parker                           5/12/06   female  (age 6)

Jack Pinto                               5/06/06   male     (age 6)

Noah Pozner                         11/20/06   male     (age 6)

Caroline Previdi                      9/07/06   female  (age 6)

Jessica Rekos                          5/10/06   female  (age 6)

Avielle Richman                    10/17/06   female  (age 6)

Benjamin Wheeler                   9/12/06   male     (age 6)

Allison N. Wyatt                    7/03/06   female  (age 6)

ADULTS

Rachel Davino                         7/17/83   female  (age 29)

Dawn Hochsprung                  6/28/65   female  (age 47)

Anne Marie Murphy              7/25/60   female  (age 52)

Lauren Russeau                               82   female  (age 29)

Mary Sherlach                        2/11/56   female  (age 56)

Victoria Soto                         11/04/85   female  (age 27)

Nancy Lanza                                          female

Adam Lanza                                           male     (age 20)

This is not God’s doing.

This is not of God. This is not by God. This is neither a divine act of commission nor a divine act of omission. God wants every person to have a long, happy, healthy life. The only divine message in this horrible act is that this is not how God wants us to live and it is not the life that God wants for us.

Whether it is the World War II Holocaust or this massacre or the 5-week death of a friend by pancreatic cancer, I do not know why God does not intervene. It is an unfathomable and indecipherable mystery – the contemplation of which leads nowhere, solves nothing, and is incapable of lessening the sharp ache in our hearts. We do not understand. We know we will never understand and it makes our heartache just that much more pointed and more poignant.

It is a time for grieving. It is a time for seeking and offering mutual comfort. It is a time for tears and vigils and prayers of grief and services of remembering and gathering. There can never be enough hugs – yet, we will seek and offer hugs. There can never be enough words – yet, we will tell and listen to memories and emotions. There can never be enough silence – yet, in silence we will gather as one community as often as it is necessary.

There can never be enough questions – yet, we will ask questions – of ourselves and of those we elect to positions of governance.

For the school year 2010-2011, the enrollment at Sandy Hook Elementary was 575.

According to the FBI, for children aged from newborn to 12 years, by year those murdered were:

2010 – 627
2009 – 634
2008 – 702
2007 – 695
2006 – 663

Every year for those five years, more children were murdered than the enrollment of Sandy Hook Elementary. While over half of them were white, over a third of them were black. Where is our grief and outrage and vigils and questions for any of those children?

Instead of gun control, let’s talk about gun responsibility. As a community, state, and nation, we have a responsibility to determine:

  • who is allowed to manufacture guns and what kind of guns?
  • who is allowed to sell guns?
  • who is allowed to purchase guns?
  • what training should be required of those who are allowed to purchase guns?
  • what is the responsibility of gun owners to keep their guns out of the hands of those who are not allowed to have a gun?

According to the FBI, from 2001 through 2010, there were 70,975 murders and 47,856 (67.43%) of those murders were with firearms. The next identifiable murder weapon was “knives and cutting instruments” which was responsible for 9,075 murders or 12.79%. For the first decade of this century, firearms were used to commit 5.27 times as many murders as knives. When a single type of weapon is responsible for more than 2/3 of the murders, it is time to be much more responsible about the availability and control of that weapon.

Finally, the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre was not an act of evil. To use the label “evil” is to wash our hands of our communal responsibility. We desperately need to put in place a system to identify and intercede for those who pose a threat to themselves or others whether it be by their mental incompetence, emotional incapability, or potential for violence.  As important as it is to increase the legal requirements for gun responsibility, it is vastly more important to implement a public mental health system that respects due process and individual rights and utilizes the best psychiatric and psychological diagnostics and therapies and oversight.

Either response, but especially both of them – better gun responsibility and a public mental health system – would be a far better memorial than any marble or granite edifice. Let our response be both healing and constructive.

Amen.

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