Thursday, December 19, 2013

MIlitia Ought Not Be a Dirty Word

A few months ago, I stood on the State House steps during the Guns Across America rally in Boston when a Marine Combat Veteran recited the following:

Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American . . . . [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.

When I reflect upon the words of Tench Coxe, I can't help but wonder how he’d react to what’s going on today. Nowadays, when the word militia is used, it conjures in the minds of the uneducated, images of overweight men playing Army in the woods, of paranoid folks espousing anti government beliefs or worse, of domestic terrorists.

The venerable Mr. Coxe would no doubt be ashamed of the media treatment of the word militia, but I have a feeling he’d take heart in the crowd assembled today. Today, we come together as citizens, as friends, as family, as neighbors and yes, as militia.

See, for all the bluster about the use of the word militia in the media and in political circles, there is no doubt as to the definition of the word –

Nowhere else in the constitution, does “the people” mean “the government.” Nowhere else in the constitution, does “the people” mean “the police!” Nowhere else in the constitution, does “the people” mean the “National Guard.”

Militia is YOU. Militia is ME.

Militia is every time we see an Amber Alert and actually keep an eye out for that license plate or child gone missing.

Militia is every time we help our neighbors during a hurricane or snowstorm.

Militia is every time we check in on our elderly neighbors during a heat wave, when nobody else goes to do it.

Militia is strong communities of like minded men, women and children, taking a STAND against unjust laws written by unjust politicians.

So I call upon you today, I call upon the true spirit of the militia to band together, go back to your communities, go back to your families, your friends and mobilize.

Take action now, as a community and yes, as militia, as a force for good and fight.

Fight these laws with your words, your letters, your phone calls and your visits to local senators and representatives. Fight these laws with letters to the editor, with blogs, and with your friends at GOAL, the NRA, and other organizations dedicated to the second amendment.

Fight hard, but above all, fight now with your actions – show those in the media and in politics that we are not the sum of their stereotypes.

Tenche Coxe was every bit the Patriot as the Marine Corps Captain who repeated his words at the rally in Boston. Neither relished the thought of war or bloodshed, but both knew the price of protecting our freedoms.

We have an opportunity today at this critical juncture in time to stem the tide of tyranny peacefully.

We can do this now so that we may never again have to take the actions our forefathers took later.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"If it Saves Just One Life"

In the wake of the tragic events in Newtown, CT last year, a lot of the impetus for new gun control has been justified by politicians, activists and pundits saying "if new laws save 'just one life," it’s worth sacrificing the rights of law abiding gun owners.


As someone who is relatively new to the realities of fatherhood, it strikes me as reprehensible that children, more specifically dead children, are used as a rallying cry or podium with which to stand on to justify further infringements of civil rights. Does this mean that if I oppose such legislation, that I am less of a father? Does it mean that I don't care for the safety and welfare of children?


No. Not by a long shot. And its time that gun owners, especially those who have children, come out swinging on this issue and counter these disgusting displays of emotional diarrhea masquerading as common sense and compassion. Gun owning parents need to be front and center on this issue and have a clear, decisive answer to this extremely and irresponsibly loaded question when asked.


And the answer, in no uncertain terms is a resounding no. 


Even if your flawed, opportunistic legislation saves one hundred lives, it’s not worth sacrificing the rights and legacy that men and women, people exceedingly more esteemed and honorable than any of these politicians and pundits, fought and died for since our nation's inception. The Second Amendment is a Constitutionally guaranteed civil right, but it is more than that - when the framers put pen to paper establishing the right to bear arms, they recognized that self-preservation and preservation of our freedoms is a concept far greater than being able to possess a rifle - they recognized that its a fundamental HUMAN RIGHT to have the ability to defend life, liberty and yes, property from the evils of tyrannical regimes and the evils inherent in the human condition.


I expect and await disdainful responses to my position: I embrace them. I embrace them not because I don't care about the life of my son or the security and safety of children. In fact, my position is rooted in intense respect for his rights and for the rights of his and successive generations of his peers. I have no idea how Charlie is going to view the politics of the Second Amendment and I will allow him to make up his own mind on the matter. What I will do however, is teach him that life is a precious and fleeting commodity, more valuable than any amount of money and more important than the whims of an opportunistic legislator who says otherwise.


No amount of carnage should ever justify the repression of human and civil liberties. The Constitution made it so these liberties are non-negotiable and not subject to any opinion polls or majority (mob) desires. With all due respect and deference to those whose families have suffered as a result of gun violence, their pain in no way justifies rolling back our rights. What it does justify and require, is a conversation based on a deeply and national introspection of that state of this country and its humanity.


You see, gun violence is not the result of our ownership of firearms or exercise of the Second Amendment, it is the symptom of a society whose reliance and pursuit of material gain has superseded any semblance of humanity or respect thereof. Maybe its technology, maybe it’s the national addiction to reality television and or celebrity worship - better and more advanced minds than mine ought to examine these topics in greater detail. What is patently obvious to me is that we have devolved culturally, to a society that cares only for individual gain. At the height of the Roman Empire, blood sports united all classes to cheer on the mindless carnage at the Coliseum. Today, one can't have a drink at a pub without a crowd of people entertained by the sight of modern day gladiators brutalizing each other in a UFC cage match. As Americans, we glamorize violence and celebrate the worst behavior of our celebrity culture and do so at the cost of our very souls. Ironically, most of those who cheer for the bloodletting would never serve in the armed forces, let alone be involved in a physical altercation themselves - that in and of itself, is very revealing.


Anyone who knows me on a personal level knows that I am not a religious man, in fact, I often identify as an Atheist when the question of religion is brought to bear. As irreligious as I am however, I do have tremendous respect for the teachings and dogma contained in most of the major religions we protect and celebrate under the Constitution. Such beliefs and teachings ought to ground people in the notion of tolerance and respect for their fellow man. It is for that reason, I find it strange, that in a nation so religiously diverse, with so many that are teaching tolerance and the love of one’s fellow man, that we are so insular and uncaring when it comes to those we don’t know. Religious or not, we ought to have the decency to care for one another and to look out for the most vulnerable in our communities, instead of relying on an often inept and callous government “authority” to do it for us. Community is not a special department in any municipality, but an unwritten social contract signed by all members of the human race, American or otherwise.

As a community of gun owning parents, as Americans concerned about the very nature of the freedoms we see threatened every day, we have an obligation to speak for our children. When confronted by emotionally charged questions such as these, we must stand with pride and conviction and deliver an answer that preserves the rights of future generations. I intend to speak for my son, in telling them that no amount of tragedy is worth even considering the sacrifice of his liberties, that his life is worth defending, that his freedoms, all of them, are worth fighting for.

I urge everyone to do the same.

Friday, September 20, 2013

My Testimony to the Massachussetts Panel on Homeland Security and Public Safety

I come before you today out of great concern over several bills being considered by the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. While there are some welcome ideas and proposals that would seek to end backward practices like mandating permits to carry pepper spray and to limit the discretion police chiefs have over firearms licensure in general, I am disappointed to note that in the wake of immense tragedies, my elected officials have taken it upon themselves to draft bills that they know have very little to do with improving public safety and everything to do with enhancing their own public profiles.

Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I consider myself an astute observer of both politics and the media, so I get it – being a politician now, more than ever is a career.  Staying in the spotlight is crucial to maintaining that career and passing bills that get people talking at the dinner table, on social media and on the morning talk shows is just another form of self-promotion, especially for those who have ambitions for higher office.

 Again, I understand, but when such promotion comes at the expense of civil rights, we have a problem.

Chief among the bills that I have concerns with, is the following:

House Bill 3282 seeks to mandate liability insurance for gun owners.  For many reasons, I find this bill troubling and offensive – for one, in a state that already has backlogs of 6 months and longer to process firearms permits and renewals, I can just imagine the additional time, frustration and cost this will add to an already lengthy and arduous process.

Insurance for firearms ownership is also troubling from a civil rights perspective. Whether the opposition likes it or not, whether they believe in it or not, owning a firearm is indeed a civil right not only enumerated by the Constitution of the United States, but upheld several times in the Supreme Court, notably through the Heller and McDonald rulings, respectively. 

With this in mind, I’d like to know what other constitutional rights Representative Toomey wishes to see insured prior to my exercising them? Should those outside the State House, protesting for and against these bills be required to have a policy that insures against injuries that might result from scuffles or hurt feelings?

Should Jim Braude or Rush Limbaugh have proof of insurance in case what they say on air gives a misguided individual the idea to harm others based on the opinions they espouse? Should churches, mosques and temples and those who attend them, be insured against thought crimes or hate crimes because some of their practices and expressed beliefs might offend others?

Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t write these down, they aren’t suggestions!

Another issue I have with this bill is that by all definitions, it is an exercise in class warfare. Some of us will be able to afford to purchase the additional insurance, but many won’t. With the already high costs of homeowner’s insurance, car insurance and the ever increasing costs of healthcare, family budgets are being stretched to their absolute limits. How is this fair to someone who just wants a firearm to protect their family? Or to the generations of hunters, collectors and enthusiasts who we all know are not contributing to the net effects of crime and violence in the Commonwealth?

To answer simply, it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair and again, forgive the cynic in me, all this really appears to be is an attempt to make firearms ownership in the Commonwealth difficult, if not impossible to achieve. 

SB3282, like similar bills mandating expensive security systems, new storage requirements for certain classes of firearms and magazine limits to 7 rounds are just a sad charade by certain legislators to give the appearance of “doing something” while accomplishing nothing. These bills will have no net effect on reducing crime because they target the wrong people.

As a law abiding gun owner living in the Commonwealth, I underwent the process of taking the necessary classes, submitting letters of recommendation, getting fingerprinted, having my background checked by the Massachusetts State Police, interviewing with my local police chief, paying my 100 dollar fee and then waiting several weeks so that I could finally, and in the eyes Commonwealth, lawfully exercise lawfully my right to keep and bear arms.

I think you’re asking enough of us already. You know who we are, you’ve checked us out. We’re your neighbors, friends, family members and your constituents. Instead of making our lives harder, why not pursue actual criminals with the same zeal you do those who actually obey the laws?

What disappoints me most about these bills is that they show an incredible lack of creativity and ignore the complexities surrounding gun violence.

I was just a sixth grader when 12 year old Tiffany Moore was shot to death in Dorchester in 1988. I can recall vividly the nuns at Saint Mary of the Hills School trying to explain to my classmates and I why bad things happen to good people.

What I remember most about that tragedy however was how the community reacted to it versus how things are today. Tiffany’s death served as a rallying cry that woke up entire neighborhoods to the realities of crime and caused a groundswell of everyday people to work with the police, with church groups and civic leaders not only to report crime, but to address the underlying issues that caused crime to begin with.

What resulted in the years after Tiffany’s death was in every sense of the word, a Boston Miracle: those caught with illegal firearms were prosecuted swiftly and severely.

Homicides in the city dropped as the worst figures in the city’s gang culture were given well deserved and lengthy prison sentences.

In effect, deterrence was achieved.

The Boston Miracle wasn’t a success because a politician used kids as cheap props to push gun control.  It succeeded because everyday people knew what the stakes were and committed themselves to working with both law enforcement and with their respective community groups. They knew then that the stakes were high and that they were real and instead of relying on empty slogans or blaming the NRA, these people worked together to fight crime, look after each other and provided real alternatives to kids who would otherwise fall prey to the lure of gang life and violence. 

I urge you to look to the past, take the best elements of the Boston Miracle and build upon it. The worst criminals, the repeat violent offenders, gun traffickers should all face justice that has no compromises. There are already laws on the books that address these crimes, so there’s really no need to create new ones.

So I ask you, where is that kind of leadership today?  Where are the men and women of action? Why are our elected officials not looking to successful models of the past and using them as the basis of a sound strategy today? 

I hate to say it, but I think it’s because it involves too much hard work.  Apparently, it’s a lot easier to just draft a new law as opposed to rolling up your sleeves and doing the work your constituents elected you to do.  So with all due respect to Representatives Toomey, Linsky and Senator Creem, I’ve about given up on trying to convince you to do the right thing – your ambition makes it impossible to have a rational conversation on the matter.

To the other elected officials, I urge you to look to the spirit of the Boston Miracle and act. If you’re truly concerned about violence, as I am, you know that it’s going to take a hell of a lot more than empty gestures, speeches and feel good laws that affect only those who had no intention of breaking them in the first place.

I ask you, as my elected officials and representatives in government to act – not as politicians seeking to retain your jobs, but as my neighbors and friends.

I ask that you encourage your constituencies instead of relying on government to take care of them, to work towards building secure and sustainable communities. To look after one another and to take an active interest in the well-being of everyone in the community.

Community, like charity however, begins in the home and begins with the family. We need over and above community activism, for parents to be parents and positive role models for their children. Stay active and aware of your kids and their lives. Encourage them to be good citizens and to care for younger children. You, as elected officials, can be instrumental in supporting parents in that mission.

In closing, I wish to thank you for your consideration and attention. Know this however – we have no intention of backing down or surrendering our ideals for a false agenda. Last April, nearly 2,000 of us stood outside the State House to protest these laws. We are committed to protecting our rights from knee jerk legislation such as has been proposed today. We’re going to stay out there, we’re going to get louder, I hope that this committee has the courage to listen.  

13 Shot in Chicago and Its All My Fault

13 people were shot last night in a Chicago area park.

Yet as a law abiding gun owner, living thousands of miles away, this is my fault.

13 shot in a Chicago park, and somehow I'm to believe that more laws will have prevented this carnage.

13 shot in a Chicago park and we're still hearing the cacophony of media whores desperately attempting to leave the bloodstains at the door step of the National Rifle Association.

The incongruous nature of these responses has me wondering if there's any sense left in the United States, if there are any people worthy of being considered intellectual, much less thinking beings to begin with. I own firearms, yes. I use them for self protection and for the sheer joy of owning pieces of history, but somehow that makes me a bad person, someone who doesn't care about the lives of other people.

 The cold hard facts are this, I do care about the lives of others, even those in Chicago, who have to put up with this endless cycle of violence on a regular basis. It has to be tough to be a Chicagoan, I know not all of them are bad, to have to hear about your city being touted as one of the most violent in the United States.

If I were from Chicago, I'd be pretty tired of hearing about the failings in my city's leadership, that have not only lacked the imagination to address violence, but have allowed the social fabric of the city to decay to the point where violence isn't just something that happens in certain areas, but is a way of life for most of the city.

So 13 die in Chicago and here I am in Worcester and somehow its all my fault because I own firearms legally, responsibly and for protection against my own slice of Chicago, should it come to my door. I'm to blame, even though I carry because our leadership has gone so out of whack as to limit CORI checks for employers, allowing known felons to walk among us unchecked. I'm to blame even though our schools are churning out the lowest quality product while proclaiming themselves the "smartest" state in the nation. I'm to blame because I know some of these low quality products will eventually decide that scraping by on minimum wage the rest of their lives is foolish when they live in a culture that glamourizes gang violence and street warfare on any number of cable stations or video games that are available to them.

Yes, its my fault. I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that after a marked decline in gun deaths since the 1990s, that our leadership is not taking advantage of the situation and punishing those who commit crimes. I'm sorry that instead, our leadership has decided to focus on the object, the tool used in crime, instead of failing to actually address the root causes of violence in the United States. I'm sorry that there is more will to appear to do something by passing laws that affect only the law abiding while completely ignoring the cultural erosion that fosters and encourages young men to kill each other.

I have no way to atone for my sins other than with complete and utter defiance. I have no way to seek salvation except to stand true to the principals of my founding fathers, who died to ensure that I'd have a chance at pursuing happiness just as the ghetto-poor kid in Chicago does. I have no way to make peace with this until I make certain that those in fear of violence have some measure of keeping themselves safe.

 I am sorry. I am sorry that I have not fought hard enough to protect our Second Amendment rights, not just for myself, but for that same ghetto-poor kid on the South Side, for his parents for his family. Perhaps if they were aware that freedom means so much more than being free of government oppression, but from the societal failings of those around them. They too, have a right to be free from the tyranny of gang violence, police apathy and social decline.

So I am sorry for what happened in Chicago and what happens in the Chicagos across the United States on a daily basis. I am sorry and will seek forgiveness not from our government or the courts but from Jefferson, Washington, Adams and Franklin. I've failed to live to your vision and sacrifice and in so doing, let down those I should have looked out for. The true ethos of the American ideology is that we look out for one another as if they were our own and I'm committed living that vision again.

Until all of us are free to live our lives apart from tyranny, be it the tyranny of power hungry governments or from the ever looming specter of a failed culture of violence, we will never achieve what our fathers bled for. No longer can we sit back and do nothing. No longer can we look at places like Chicago and say "well, its their problem," because it IS our problem.

In the name of the Revolution and all who gave everything to secure my future, I re-commit myself to them and what they fought for.

I urge everyone to do the same.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Open Letter to the NRA and Second Amendment Supporters Everywhere

It’s been nearly one week since the tragedy at Sandy Hook and while the gun control movement has made great strides in organizing people and legislators against the Second Amendment, those opposed to gun control, notably the National Rifle Association have said very little.

Perhaps this is a wise move, given the acrimony that exists towards gun ownership in the United States, no matter how misguided or ill informed. The NRA is supposed to give a press conference tomorrow and as I write this, message boards and talk shows alike are burning with speculation as to what the NRA is going to say, what concessions they stand willing to make to ensure, in their words, that an incident of this magnitude “never happens again.”

Just the thought of concessions by the most well funded Second Amendment machine has sent chills down the spines of gun owners everywhere, who like most Americans, were horrified by what happened in Newtown. More disconcerting however, is the fact that nearly every politician whose campaigns benefited from being vocal about gun rights has either changed his tune or stated outright their support for a renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and other changes such as magazine limits and bans on Internet sales of ammunition.

My advice to the NRA – heed the call towards discussion, but do so in a rational way. Now is not the time for chest thumping and posturing. Now is not the time to make allusions to a physical fight for the Second Amendment that even the most zealous of your membership knows you aren’t about to do. No, now is the time for the adults to come to the table and represent the nearly 4 million members in a light worthy of their membership dollars.

This new approach has to be one of tact and discipline. The first play, not responding immediately to the carnage, was both wise and respectful. You didn’t climb up and push the President or the gun control movement off of their 26 coffin podium and wave the bloody shirt. Good job – now its time to clean house. Step one, Wayne LaPierre needs to dial it down a notch: speak of the history of the Second Amendment and why its still relevant today. Speak of those who are still alive because they had a firearm to equalize themselves against a credible threat. Also, speak to the progress that has been made in extending concealed carry laws to nearly every pocket of the nation – remind the politicians and the President that Americans are lining up every day to attain training and licensure to carry concealed weapons. Tell them, tell the country and the world that in no uncertain terms, will Americans cede their rights to defend themselves.

Next, I urge you as an organization to represent us in a way that doesn’t make us cringe. As much as I am a fan of songs like Wango Tango, Cat Scratch Fever and Stranglehold, I think its time to say goodbye to Ted Nugent. While I admire his passion, the Motor City Madman has a history of making bizarre and downright threatening statements. Who could forget that during the last presidential campaign, the visit that the Secret Service had to pay him for making statements that could easily be construed as a threat to harm the President? Its time to say goodbye to crazy. Crazy only makes the membership look, well, crazy.

While I don’t support bans on military style rifles or high capacity magazines, there is merit in promoting changes to the existing NICS check to include data from the courts when it comes to flagging those who were adjudicated mentally deficient. As a gun owner and a citizen walking the streets, I’d feel better knowing that some effort was being made in keeping any firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, let alone those with high capacity magazines. While we’re on the subject of background checks, private sales should also be subjected to the NICS – as a matter of personal policy, I’ve given up on private transfers of firearms without them. Its better to know who and dare I say what we’re selling to and in this litigious society, it really doesn’t hurt to cover all liabilities. The NRA has always promoted safe firearms handling for the good of the operator as well as those around him. The same philosophy needs to apply to firearms sales – I know this will irritate many gun owners, but it just makes sense to know who you’re selling to and to know that the buyer is in fact safe to take purchase of your firearm.

For the membership of the NRA, GOA and any individual passionate about our right to keep and bear arms, it is time for you too to become active. Engage your communities and demand that your rights are recognized and most importantly, be worthy of exercising those rights. Take classes, learn the laws and store your firearms in a safe manner every time. More important than engaging the community though, we must strive to build communities of like minded people. Introduce yourself to your fellow gun owners at the range, host a Second Amendment information booth at the next gun show that is geared towards educating people as to our history, our rights and most importantly, our responsibilities. If I haven’t said it enough though, engage, engage and engage some more – this is as essential in preserving our liberties as it is networking to form strong, vocal and powerful movements that defend and expand individual rights.

For some, this next part will be hard to read, but if you have family members who are mentally ill, consider what’s at stake when keeping firearms around versus the good of the community. I’m not saying give up your weapons, but if you cannot honestly say that your security protocols will prevent access to that sick family member, either get rid of your weapons or for God’s sake, get that family member the help they need. You have a responsibility to get that person into some form of civil commitment or seriously reconsider owning guns. Lives and our very freedoms are at stake – now is not the time for pride or for denial.

Going forward, I too hope never to hear again of a shooting of this magnitude. I know that the last 10-15 years has seen enormous gains in Second Amendment rights and am committed to maintaining those victories. The eyes of the nation are upon us though, and as gun owners, it is essential that we commit to not only being in the discussion, but that our contributions come from a position of strength and wisdom. With strong, aware comminutes and organizations that are willing to take their leadership role responsibly, there is absolutely no reason we should be in a position to lose freedoms while maintaining the shared goals of safety and security for all.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook Reflections - No Easy Answer

Author's note:

I really didn't want this to be my first post on Bath Salts and Skittles. What I envision for this blog is a free-wheeling discussion on anything I find myself interested in, which can and will include politics, firearms, philosophy, poetry and short stories. Sandy Hook has been in the news non-stop since yesterday, so it would be foolish of me to not share what's on my mind.

It appears that the United States has once again been crippled with sadness due to the actions of a madman. And once again, our media outlets have decided to sell little more than the fear and confusion we've come to expect from them in times of crisis. Not that I wish to condone or somehow mitigate the the immense gravity of what happened in Newtown, gun violence of this type remains statistically rare while coverage of such events has expanded thanks to the advent of the 24 hour news cycle. Indeed, from the time I saw this report at a bar in Dedham, Massachussetts at 1130AM yesterday to 1130AM the next morning, the media has been non stop in its often confusing and inaccurate coverage of the tragedy. Between often repetitive reporting, everything from automobies to pharmaceuticals have been advertised, reminding Americans that even when children have been massacred, the malls are open!
But I digress.
Over coverage of events like these serves many purposes - it gets the information out there, allows the media cosumer to comment on it en masse and in the zeal to be first with the information, news outlets report anything - including uncorroborated reports that are usually retracted later. The confusion that follows breeds fear, the fear breeds condemnation and Monday morning quarterbacking, even as the facts struggle to manifest. In this day and age of Twitter and other social media, everyone is a commentator, everyone is a 'reporter' and everyone is politically motivated to blather on about what they think should be done.

The worst part of the media over coverage is that it gives the killer exactly what he (and its always young men) wants - immortality. Kinkel. Woodham. Harris. Klebold. Cho. Laughner. Holmes. Now Adam Lanza gets to chisel his name in a macarbe hall of infamy. Every time his name is spoken, every time some "expert" tries to "get inside the mind" of the killer on live television, only serves to make famous the killer and whatever his gripe with the world was - no matter how unfathomable.

After such a tragedy, its only natural to be wildly upset. Indeed, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news of two high school students shooting up a school in a Colorado town I'd never heard of before and thinking how sick these people must be. My sadness turned to anger when I learned later on that their firearms were given to them by other adults, who made their purchases illegally for them. My natural thought, at 22, was to think more laws were needed, more legislation to protect people from unneccessary carnage.

That reaction was tempered almost instantly however by reality. I served as an EMT/Firefighter in various capacities throughout college and had seen my share of gun violence and the results of various home invasions, robberies and suicides. I won't go on and shout the word "evil" from the rooftops, but I will say that there are things and people in this world that are not in our control. We'll never be able to stop someone motivated by an addiction from killing to get his fix. We'll never be able to stop every abusive relationship from resulting in a funeral for a battered woman and we'll never be able to stop the randomness with which violent crime seems to occur on urban streets - something that is almost never discussed unless its an election year.

We simply cannot stop random acts of violence every time. People who want to kill, will kill - as humans, we've lived with this reality since Cane slew Abel. We've demonstrated a capacity to kill unmatched by any other species on the planet with every shove, with every punch, and in a wider sense, with every war we've fought.

As an Atheist, I naturally reject the idea that tragedies like these are the result of a lack of prayer in schools. I don't see how praying to a mythical being is somehow going to safeguard our children or society as a whole. While I don't think religion is the answer, I do think awareness will go a long way. Consider the previous school shootings; what is the common thread tying these tragedies together? All were males, all had access to firearms as we all do, yes, but in all cases, inadequately treated mental illness was a major factor in their lives.

Our attitude towards mental health, one forged in shame and mockery, is deplorable. Our culture derides the very notion of a citizen seeking professional help for the demons that possess them. When the few do attain help, its limited; crippled by a lack of available healthcare funds to treat them coupled with an inability to apply meaningful civil committments to the most dangerous cases. This attitude is further exacorbated by an entertainment culture that uses Psychiatric patients as little more than convenient punchlines to jokes or as the deranged villians in violent films and pop-television. Society is so callous to the suffering of the mentally ill that it took nearly 100 years of war for American service personnel to get meaningful help for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even now, knowing what we know, these patients, who we owe more than a thank you to, hurdle a mountain of bureaucracy and machismo to get so much as a modicum of treatment.

Again, I recall my reaction to Columbine. I was working at a radio station in New Hampshire when it happened. I remember wanting to choke the DJ when it came over my monitor, thinking the whole thing was a sick attempt to be Howard Stern. When the gravity of that situation became all too real, I experienced first hand in a press room, the rush to judgement. The attacks on music, culture and of course firearms ownership in the United States. Nothing has changed even 13 years later; society sees fit to blame everyone and everything except the shooter and our own inability to realize that a callous populace no matter how inadvertently, helped create this situation. Make no mistake, mental illness is not and will never be an excuse for such ghoulish acts, but to deny it and blame the usual suspects is nothing more than a recipe for failure.

I am as sickened by the rush to blame the NRA and gun owners for this as I am the talking heads at Fox and MSNBC shoving microphones in the faces of the Newtown children who will be forever traumatized by what they saw and heard yesterday. When something terrible happens, it seems as if Americans have one set reaction and that is to form electronic lynch mobs on Twitter and Facebook. Make no mistake, if your reaction to this tragedy is to politicize something as immovable as Roe v Wade, if your answer is to play the same old song of more gun control while ignoring the mental health crisis facing this country, these children, these teachers will have died in vain.

Over the last 12 years, Americans have made themselves perfectly clear: they do not want more gun control. Indeed, concealed carry is the law in every corner of the country and applications for licensure and training is at an all time high. Its time to change the conversation on violence; focus more on the root causes and less on the object. I beg any reader to realize this is a huge and multi-faceted problem, but to go down the same path of political sniping and spin is an exercise in futility.