While much of yesterday’s news revolved around the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on gun violence, featuring former Representative, gun violence victim, and gun control advocate, Gabby Giffords, as well as the NRA’s incorrigible executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, another poignant hearing was taking place at the site of the nation’s worst gun violence tragedy in recent years: Newtown, Connecticut.
Police officers, church officials, and over 100 Newtown parents attended a final hearing conducted by the Connecticut legislature’s Task Force on Gun Violence and Children’s Safety. And Lawrence O’Donnell, during last night’s Last Word, highlighted what will perhaps come to be known as the most powerful gun control speech to date, given by the father of six-year old Benjamin Wheeler, who was slain on that tragic day. In the words of Lawrence, those mere five minutes of testimony were words “that the Senate Judiciary Committee should have heard….”
Mr. David Wheeler began his speech:
“We lost our son, Benjamin, the morning of December 14 to an unstable, suicidal individual who had access to a weapon that has no place in a home.”
“Right now, professionals in every area pertaining to this crime, from mental health to parenting to school safety, are unable to connect the necessary dots to prevent this from happening again.”
“A far more comprehensive system of identifying and monitoring individuals with mental distress is required and needs to be implemented. That a person with these problems who lives in a home where he had access to among the most powerful firearms available to nonmilitary personnel is unacceptable.”
“It doesn’t matter to whom these weapons were registered. It doesn’t matter if they were purchased legally. What matters is that it was far too easy for another mentally unbalanced suicidal person who had violent obsessions to have easy access to unreasonably powerful weapons.”
“The inability of agencies to share information regarding at-risk individuals’ mental states, personal histories, proximity to firearms – this contributed to the senseless murder of my six-year old son, 19 other children, and seven adults. This is where you must focus your efforts.”
Mr. Wheeler then went on to outline some well thought out and sensible actions that should be – need to be – taken to help prevent these tragedies in the future, concluding:
“Thomas Jefferson described our inalienable rights as life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – the rights with which we are endowed, for the protection of which we have instituted governments. I do not think the composition of that foundational phrase was an accident. I do not think the order of those important words was haphazard or casual. The liberty of any person to own a military-style assault weapon and a high-capacity magazine, and keep them in their home, is SECOND to the right of my son to his life – his LIFE; to the right to live of all of those children and those teachers, to the right to the lives of your children, of you, of all of us – all of our lives – it is second. Let’s honor the founding documents and get our priorities straight. Thank you.”
For his poignant words, Mr. Wheeler received an enthusiastic standing ovation.
As someone who has closely followed the tragic news of the Sandy Hook horror, one of the standout elements that has received little attention is how amazing the parents of the victims are – how incredibly courageous and articulate they are – and how the nation lost some of its most remarkable citizens – present and future.
Richard Marato, father of a Sandy Hook survivor, outlined the hopelessness of the situation:
“Our society is so saturated with guns and violence, I don’t think any one thing can help.”
I embrace Mr. Marato’s sentiment that several steps need to be taken, but reject the hopelessness. As the compelling parents of the Sandy Hook victims have demonstrated, we Americans are bred with the fiercely sanguine penchant of resolve – the idea that we can accomplish anything that needs doing. Enough of our citizens have been sacrificed to the so-called freedom of the Second Amendment, which, instead of providing freedom, has been holding this country captive in the fears and realities of gun violence for far too long. And the one sense we can take away from the senseless tragedy of Sandy Hook is that these children and teachers were not sacrificed in vain – they have begun a movement that will undoubtedly result in a safer nation and stronger country.
Addicting Info continues to send its prayers and well wishes to the extraordinary community of Newtown, and stands behind their fight for the kind of sensible legislation that will save countless future young American lives.