High angle view of a gun
Although the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was inconceivably evil, it wasn't the most heinous schoolhouse killing in American history.
In 1927, a small-town Michigan farmer was angered about his taxes being increased to support the local school and was distraught that his farm was in foreclosure. He beat his wife to death and then proceeded to the local small school and blew it up, with 38 children and six adults inside. They all died. He then locked himself in his own car and when, people approached, blew himself up, killing the superintendent of the school and a few other bystanders.
Violence has always been a part of the human condition, but it seems it has gotten increasingly difficult for everyone to just continue on with life.
Sandy Hook has haunted me since the day it happened, and it was my mother who reminded me of the Bath, Mich., schoolhouse killings, which got me thinking of other mass shootings.
Charles Whitman murdered his wife and mother, and then killed 14 and wounded 32 at the University of Texas in 1966. There was also the massacre in San Ysidro, Calif., in 1984, when a man opened fire at a McDonald's and killed 21 people, including five children, and injued another19. We suffered with the children at Columbine in 1999 and again this past summer at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come to mind the most. All except the first were during my own lifetime.
I'm just an average human being, living an average existence in an average town and very happy with it. But it seems to me that the violence problem is multifaceted.
Gun control seems to take the forefront on today's newspapers and television programs because of President Barack Obama's recent legislation proposal regarding universal background checks, limits on high-capacity magazine rounds and banning of assault weapons. But we have to take a look at the problem from all sides, in all perspectives, and be willing to open it up for discussion.
We can't, as a nation made up of average citizens like me, continue to turn our heads away or become angered and hide behind the Second Amendment. This is a far bigger problem than just gun control.
It's without opposition that this country's violence has become mainstream, even sometimes blasť. We've become desensitized to human trauma through video games, movies, television programs and even in our daily language.
Our children have become disconnected to human suffering through technology and connected into a self-involved, poor-communicating mass of walking indifference, and we have only ourselves to blame.
We have to take ownership of it in each household and try our best to turn it around.
I know there are great kids out there who are courageous enough to stand up, and aware enough to make a difference. We just have to recognize them, organize them and let them shine. This certainly can't happen, however, without wide-based community support through time, talent, understanding and motivation to make a change.
Mental illness is another facet that has yet to be uncovered. Many state-run health care facilities were shut down or cut back with decreased funds in the 1980s. I assume the people were referred to outpatient treatment, but I wonder how many actually followed through. How many undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and untreated psychological disorders are there in the nation today? How do we reach these people?
Early intervention is always key in recovery and change, but it's that split-second decision of anger that carries the momentum to destruction that you have to watch out for. That can happen at any time, even with treatment and early intervention.
I have no answers. I wish I did, but I don't. I'm not even sure if there is a solution. What I do know, and am positive about, is that we can't turn our heads away this time and go back to our daily, comfortable lives.
There's talk that Obama's proposal on gun control isn't enough. That may be true, but we have to start somewhere.
I know that we're here to protect our children. It's our responsibility to watch over them, comfort them, feed and clothe them, and keep them safe. I'm expected to protect my children, but in a school setting, I didn't expect that I would have to defend them.
- Amy Dehn is an Appleton resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org