On December 21st, to mark the one week anniversary of the horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, bells all over the state and, indeed, all over the nation rang out twenty-six times. One peal for each child and each teacher who died in that massacre. And just today I was listening to NPR and they made reference to the twenty-six people -- children and teachers -- who died in the shooting.
Many of my Unitarian Universalist colleagues, whose steeples have bells, joined in that collective remembrance back in December and many of them rang their bells twenty-eight times.
Somewhere it seems that a decision was made to focus our national attention on the twenty-six people who were tragically murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But before he took his guns to the school, Adam Lanza turned them on his mother, Nancy, making a total of twenty-seven people murdered that day. Why has she been so easily forgotten? Because the guns were hers? Because people have judged her as at least partially responsible for the killings?
And then there's Adam Lanza himself. Twenty-eight people died that day; twenty-eight lives ended. I, and many of my colleagues, are Universalist enough in our Unitarian Universalism to wish that no soul goes unremembered. We do not have a bell in our steeple here at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, but when we read the names of the victims at our mid-week memorial service we read lifted up twenty-eight lives cut short.
Lately, though, I've found myself thinking about Ryan Lanza. I don't know much about this young man, Adam's older brother. I do know that he, too, is a victim of the Newton shootings. His mother was killed that day, and in some ways he lost his brother twice -- once because Adam Lanza shot himself and also because the brother Adam knew committed such a heinous act. And add to this that for several hours that day news outlets were reporting that it was Ryan Lanza who was the shooter . . . I cannot image what all this would be like.
So there were twenty-six people murdered at the elementary school. And there was a twenty-seventh person killed in her home. And a twenty-eighth life ended that day, taken by his own hand.
And while I'm tempted to add Ryan Lanza as a twenty-ninth victim I know that there's no way I could stop there. For there are countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, acquaintances . . . where would the accounting end?
There may well be -- are, in fact -- real reasons to have a discussion about gun safety measures. It is true that "guns don't kill people . . . people kill people." It's also true, as has recently been pointed out, that it's a lot easier to kill someone if you have a gun. I am not anti-gun. I even like (some) violent video games and movies. I even think that the folks who are suggesting putting an armed guard into schools and other public places may be on to something -- why is it that James Holmes passed by several other closer and larger movie theaters, which permitted folks to carry concealed weapons, in favor of the one theater that did not?
I want to be clear that I am not saying that I think more guns is the answer. But neither do I think removing all guns is the answer (even if it were feasible). I do think that the answer will be found when people on both sides of the debate drop their commitment to their dogmatic positions and, instead, focus on something we can all agree on: that we have had far too many victims.
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