A Responsibility We All Bear

By Martin Brown

Balloons hang from the Sandy Hook School sign after a mass shooting in Newtown, ConnecticutFalling asleep last night was not easy. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing twenty empty beds.

I imagined the unspeakable sorrow of forty devastated parents, and eighty brokenhearted grandparents. I envisioned a small army of brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, playmates, and neighbors.

I have for far too many years witnessed the pain of gun violence: first, at age twelve, when my hero John F. Kennedy died.

A few years later, there was a deranged shooter up in the tower high above the campus of the University of Texas Austin. With a high-powered rifle, he killed thirteen and wounded thirty-two, before being shot and killed by police.

Two years later, the brilliant Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed by a lone gunman while standing on a balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

Seven weeks later, the courageous Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down moments after celebrating with supporters a key victory in the 1968 California Presidential Primary.

There was a troubled man heavily armed in San Diego who turned a McDonald’s into a killing field. There was a disturbed student at Virginia Tech who in 2007 set the record that still stands for mass mayhem killing 32, wounding 17, before shooting and killing himself.

From Columbine to Aurora, the chaos has grown. From a Saturday morning “meet your Congresswoman” in a Tucson shopping center, to yesterday’s elementary school shooting, high power, rapid fire automatic weapons have become the weapon of choice for the mentally disturbed and their ease of use has created an ocean of blood and a river of tears unprecedented in our history.

So last night I thought about the very young children, twenty in all, who left empty beds and devastated loved ones in homes scattered across Newton, Connecticut.

I thought back to when my son was five and I took him to see the Christmas windows in San Francisco’s Union Square. He saw a man dressed as Batman playing a saxophone and collecting money on a street corner; he tugged at my sleeve and pulled me close to ask, “Why is Batman playing a saxophone?” That age of innocence is precious. Seeing the wonder of the holidays through the eyes of small children is equally precious. This year in Connecticut, far too many will just be seeing loss, pain, and the signs of a world gone mad.

We cannot allow this to continue: powerful organizations, lobbyists, and gun manufacturers have been able to buy and arm-twist our elected representatives into a conspiracy of silence. If that does not end after this tragedy I don’t know when it ever will.

We went hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and never found them. But they were right here, for sale at WalMart, and our local sporting goods stores. Rapid-fire automatic weapons that can end the lives of a classroom of children in less time than it takes to boil an egg.

It’s easy to say, “Shame on the gun lobby, and shame on the politicians for dancing to their tune.” Yes, their shame is certainly well deserved. But if we don’t rise up as a people and say, “ENOUGH!” then shame on us.

This is our nation, and these are our children. We’ve been told for decades about the sacred right to “bear arms.”

Let’s start talking about the sacred obligation to bear responsibility.

* Photo credit: Reuters /

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Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for SingleMindedWomen.com, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.