Honor the memory of the Newtown children by taking action

I don’t know how to move forward after the shootings of the children in Newtown.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that I have a first grader. Whenever I close my eyes, I have visions of a gunman storming into his school. My son’s classroom is just off the main lobby–it would be his class a gunman would get to first. When I see the list of names, I see my son’s name and the names of his friends instead. I feel the searing, splitting, blinding pain I would feel if he were killed. I don’t know how I would go on living if that happened.

These things happen and after the shock of them we are somehow supposed to move forward. We talk about terrible it is and about coping and then we get back to daily life. But I am stuck. I don’t want to move forward. I don’t want those children to have died in vain.

There are things we can do. We should have done them a long time ago. Let’s do them now.

We have to do something about the guns. When our founding fathers ensured our right to bear arms, I really don’t think they had semiautomatic rifles in mind. There is just no reason for any civilian to own a gun designed for maximum carnage. All guns should be hard to get–and we need to take real responsibility for knowing and controlling who has access to them.

Equally important is making mental health services widely and easily available. Right now, they aren’t. In many areas, there are long waiting lists just to get an evaluation, let alone to get ongoing treatment. We should think about mental health care the way we do about other health care, and put the same energy into making sure that each and every person has access to it–and can afford it. It’s easier to get a gun than to get mental health care in this country. We should be ashamed.

We also need to be more vigilant and proactive when it comes to the people around us. We don’t know many details yet about this shooter, but in other incidents it always seems like people say that the shooter was a loner, or seemed disturbed, or said worrisome things … and yet nobody reached out or did anything. It wasn’t their business, they weren’t sure, they thought somebody else would do something…now, the vast majority of loners and disturbed people and people who say worrisome things don’t go on a shooting rampage. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reach out or tell somebody when we hear, see or know something that worries us. Even if we don’t save a life, we could make a difference. We need to stop minding our own business and start being our brother’s keeper.

Please. In memory of those beautiful innocent children who were murdered, let’s take action. In their honor, let’s do something to stop this from happening again.

Let their deaths be not just another atrocity but the exact moment that we began to change things for the better.

Claire McCarthy is a primary care physician and the medical director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Martha Eliot Health Center.  She blogs at Thriving, the Boston Children’s Hospital blog, Vector, the Boston Children’s Hospital science and clinical innovation blog, and MD Mama at Boston.com.

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  • AKMaineIac

    Mental health issues have never been dealt with properly in this country. So I can agree that this is a primary concern. The business about guns I will never agree with. The people who go on and on about guns find themselves in the company of the people who go on and on about “big pharma” and the “conspiracy between doctors and big medicine” to sell vaccinations, statin drugs, and conceal the cure for cancer so they can continue to peddle chemotherapy.

    Guns aren’t the problem and never have been. The problem is… people want to kill each other. If you think they won’t want to anymore because you’ve taken the guns away from everybody who was willing to give them up, I’m simply not sure where to begin speaking with you about this.

    Criminals and lunatics will always have access to the means for their mayhem. It’s the law abiding and peaceable people out here who own firearms that you’ll be disarming and making it more difficult for them to obtain firearms.

    • Molly_Rn

      Take a look at the rest of the highly industrialized nations that don’t allow guns like we do and I know they have mentally ill people and criminals, but they don’t go on killing sprees with guns because there are no guns freely availble. The arguments in defense of guns just doesn’t hold up to rational thought.

      • Jeff Brosius

        Moilly, Russia is considered a highly developed and industrial nation, and yet they have a gun violence rate nearly 4 times that of the USA.

        Over 55 million households in the US have a firearm. If we assume 1.5 adults (here defined as those of legal age to own a firearm) per household, that’s 82.5 million adults with access to at least one firearm.

        And of those 82.5 million people, how many conducted a mass killing last night?

        Yeah. Exactly.

  • Ambulance_Driver

    “When our founding fathers ensured our right to bear arms, I really don’t think they had semiautomatic rifles in mind”

    When our founding fathers drafted the First Amendment, I also doubt they envisioned it protecting the right of a physician to play Constitutional scholar… on the Internet.

    Your argument is invalid.

  • cnshap

    Thank you, Claire, for restoring my hope. Your heart and your words are also mine. I am a Neonatal ICU nurse and the Mom of two boys ages 6 and 7. I too, imagine their terror as their friends and then they, are gunned down by an assault weapon. Their little bodies torn apart; blood pooling in their airways. No Mom or Dad to cradle them as they lay dying. This is the image seared into my soul since learning of the carnage at Sandy Hook. America, the violent shooting deaths of our children are an EPIC fail. The posts of little smiling faces, arms stretched out toward Jesus are an attempt to distract us from the reality depicted above. To the children of Sandy Hook: I will NOT be distracted. My heart will weep and my body will ache for the horrors that you endured. You will not be silenced.

  • LeftCoastRightBrain

    Following each national tragedy we are infected with ‘do-somethingitis’. Our intentions are well founded, we mean to “do the right thing” and we uniformly enter the world of unintended consequences. In this case our desire to “do something” has returned the congressional dialogue to the Brady Bill and the ban on so-called “assault rifles”. The Devil, as they say, is in the details. Sen. Feinstein’s bill has over 500 exceptions for certain types of weapons. Under her bill the rifle used in the horrible event would have been legal.

    We tend to believe that through legislation or rules we can prevent what is ultimately the unpreventable. This is not to suggest that there are not some changes we can mostly (perhaps even the NRA) agree on. Not sure why any outdoors person in pursuit of Bambi needs a weapon with a 30 round magazine. I’m curious why we allow the sale of armor piercing bullets. I’d suggest to you the only persons wearing armor are law enforcement. Back ground checks for “gun show” sales ought to be mandatory and that’s a huge hole in current law. I find it hard to understand how any sentient being could object to changing that.

    Most of these perps are cowards. They know that a “Gun Free Zone” (school, mall, hospital) will be easy pickings as no one there will be able to offer resistance. Maybe that is something we need to reconsider. Remember Columbine? Those two whack jobs case the school and when the security guards went on their break and left the building they struck and locked the guards out of the schools. Having said they perps are cowards it doesn’t mean they don’t possess the ability to plan and organize their attacks. That piece has led me to the belief that ultimately these unfortunate tragic events are unpreventable.

    Ciao for now

  • Molly_Rn

    The weapon of the day when the 2′nd ammendment was written was the single shot musket. I believe in the right to bear a single shot musket and that is the only weapon allowed under the 2′nd ammendment, if you want to be a strict constructionist like the Scalia. Actually if the Founding Fathers weren’t talking about a militia having the right to bear arms, then why in hell do they put well trained militia so prominent in the sentence?

    • Ambulance_Driver

      The communication tools of the day when the First Amendment was written were oral speeches, quill pens, and the printing press.

      Yet here you are exercising your right of free speech on the Internet.

      Your argument is invalid.

      • Molly_Rn

        What a sad person you are to prefer guns to children’s lives.

        • Ambulance_Driver

          And what a sad and contemptible person you are, that you cannot see the logical fallacy in your own argument, and instead resort to making baseless assumptions and ad hominem attacks.

          You behave like a child.

          • Molly_Rn

            Your argument is invalid

          • Ambulance_Driver

            You state that the founding fathers did not envision anything beyond muskets when they wrote the Second Amendment, and when I point out that they couldn’t have possibly envisioned the medium you’re using to express your First Amendment rights, either, your reply is that I value assault rifles more than the lives of children.

            No statement I have made in this thread gives you reason to assume such a thing.

            So yes, you are behaving like a petulant child.

            What’s your next tactic, “I’m rubber, you’re glue?”

          • Molly_Rn

            You can continue to attack me, but I am finished as I truly feel sorry for you and your intense hate.

          • Ambulance_Driver

            Again, where do you get hatred from? I don’t even know you, and I certainly don’t hate you.

            Do you always accuse people who disagree with you of hating you or being sociopaths?

            People can’t argue without hating each other?

            I don’t hate you, but I’ll certainly agree that debating you is pointless. You’re all emotion, no reason.

  • absolutely_absurd

    Nobody wants to point out the fact that the best way to keep guns away from your mentally challenged kid is to

    LOCK THEM UP! (The Guns, that is)

    There is no reason why the owner of any gun should allow access of
    firearms to a person without a sound mind. Since a lot of you do not own
    firearms, lets use common sense. Would you leave your firearm where
    your kids could get their hands on them? Any responsible human being
    would say no, a child is not qualified(for obvious reasons) to handle a

    You put all the deadly household items like bleach etc… where the
    kid can’t get to them, so why would you keep guns accessible?

    You know, there is a very clever invention on the market today.

    It is called a GUN SAFE. Educate the public and encourage them to be responsible by locking their guns up.

    If Obama really wants to do us a favor and keep guns out of the hands
    of all these troubled teens, sponsor a program that helps people secure
    their guns.

    Make Gun Safes more affordable! Wouldn’t you feel great, knowing your
    tax dollars will someday keep a rifle out of the hands of the troubled
    kid down the street with rage issues?

    “There is just no reason for any civilian to own a gun designed for maximum carnage”

    You are correct, these guns are called “assault rifles”- fully
    automatic weapons. They have been banned since 1934… The problem is,
    the term used in all the new gun legislation. The term “Assault Weapons
    is so loosely defined,
    it can include grandpa’s duck hunting gun. This gun looks Evil…BAN
    IT!! This one looks old, allow it… The guns the media and politicians
    talk about all revolve around the same 100year old design…

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