Opinion: Until When Can We Tolerate More Newtown Shootings?

PHOTO:  Mourners gather for a candlelight vigil at Rams Pasture to remember shooting victims, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 in Newtown, Conn.

Jason DeCrow/AP Photo

OPINION

Several days have gone by and it's still difficult to comprehend what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Seeing the pictures of the little ones that died and hearing the stories of some of the parents describing what their children mean to them, it's inevitable to feel their pain.

We're talking about children who were 6 and 7 years old, just beginning their lives, still learning the difference between right and wrong. They were children who might have been scared of the dark or of monsters under the bed. But they probably never imagined that an assault rifle's bullet would ripple through their little bodies and take their lives.

It's not the first school shooting but it's one of those tragic events that become a turning point. There's a before and after. It won't be the same sending our children to school without thinking even if for a brief moment, that we might not see them again. Schools can no longer be seen as a place where our children are safe. A teacher will not only have to prepare to educate children but to protect them as well.

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We can no longer just sit and lament one more tragic event. We have to do everything in our power to prevent it from happening again. Just as so many things changed after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, drastic measures need to be taken to protect us from the devastation caused by weapons. Be it in a school or in a movie theater or in a shopping mall or on our neighborhood streets across the country, the danger is palpable.

More security is a good start but it's not enough. We have to give more importance to mental illnesses, detect signs of a disturbed mind and offer the adequate treatment and protection. As parents, we have to be more aware of the influence that movies, television shows or violent video games that desensitize our kids can have on a fragile mind. But more than anything as a nation we have to make drastic changes when it comes to the access of firearms.

I'm tired of hearing those who defend possession of weapons say that it's not guns who kill people, but the people who kill people. Yes, it takes a human being to pull the trigger but if he didn't have that weapon, the result would be different. The Constitution of this country gives Americans the right to bear arms, but the intention of the Second Amendment written more than two centuries ago was to allow citizens to defend themselves in their homes, not to go out and indiscriminately kill innocent people.

There are a series of measures that can be taken, if not to prevent, to at least reduce the number of deaths by firearms. President Barack Obama addressed the issue during the religious ceremony in Newtown two days after the tragedy: "We can't tolerate this anymore, these tragedies have to end. And to end them we must change." Without directly mentioning gun control Obama said that in the coming weeks he would use the power of his office to prevent tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary.

The president does not have the power to change the Constitution nor write legislation, but what he can do is pressure Congress to change the laws to make it harder to obtain a firearm. In this country weapons that are designed to kill the enemy in a combat situation should not end up in the hands of mentally ill or disturbed individuals. It can't be easier to buy a weapon than to adopt a pet. And it should not be as easy to buy thousands of rounds of ammunition on the Internet as it is to buy a bouquet of flowers.

As citizens we can also make a difference. We can pressure our elected officials to pass stricter gun laws. If we don't, the deaths of 20 innocent children and five teachers will have been in vain. May they rest in peace.

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