The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

December 29, 2012

Carol Wright-Burkett | Another tragedy needing answers

— Five years ago, I wrote a column for the Tribune-Democrat reflecting on the aftermath of the Virginia Tech tragedy. Parents, teachers and the community at large needed answers back then. Today, the ink on my paper bleeds as I again search for answers for a far-too-similar and far-more-brutal event. 

I have no familial ties to Newtown, Conn., nor have I ever had an occasion to visit or drive through what appears to be a very quaint and lovely New England town. However, my heart has been shredded and my thoughts have been held hostage since Dec. 14.

Evidence will be gathered, forensics will give us clues, and witnesses will provide statements, but no matter what conclusions are derived, they will not be sustainable answers. We do not want to face the truths that need to be addressed; we do not want to ask the questions that must be answered. 

Our arrogant avoidance of the truths will shamefully fail the 20 beautiful children and six courageous adults who experienced more horror in  20 minutes than most of us will experience in a lifetime.

The truths are these: Guns can be used to kill. No progun activist can deny this. People can use guns to kill. No antigun activist can deny this.  Mentally ill or mentally unstable individuals can be dangerous. Again, a true statement. 

The answers for Newtown are not singular in nature.  The answers require a culmination of cooperation among all sectors of the community, including our elected officials. 

A gun cannot kill unless it is used by an individual. An individual with a sound mind does not use a gun to kill. A mentally unstable individual may use a gun to kill. Therefore, banning guns or restricting the use of guns without an in-depth discussion of how to care for our mentally ill will serve no purpose, provide no answers, and will certainly leave the door open for yet another Newtown.

This ongoing debate over the Second Amendment will never end and will only continue to spawn volatile hate rhetoric, reprehensible accusations and falsified “facts” on both sides of the aisle. Such a discussion will provide, yet again, no answers. And, yet again, the carnage will be repeated. 

Is winning the debate more important than 20 young lives? 

My 9-year-old daughter overheard me mention Newtown, Conn., and wanted to know how far away it was from Pennsylvania.

I told her it was far away.

She frowned and I asked her why she wanted to know. 

She smiled and said, “Well, I know you love the movie ‘Holiday Inn,’ and I know it is in Connecticut, so I thought we could maybe go visit it for Christmas.”

That is the innocence of a child. She has no knowledge of the events of Newtown, and I will make every effort to keep it that way. 

It is my prayer every night that the right answers will come soon so that my child’s innocence remains intact for many years to come.

Carol Wright-Burkett is a freelance writer from the Johnstown area and an occasional contributor to The Tribune-Democrat.

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