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THOUGHTS ON LITTLETON

6/13/99

  

In the aftermath of events in Littleton, Colorado, we struggle to make sense out of what is an essentially senseless event. It appears to be in our nature to attempt to understand the "why" of every event. So deep is this drive that in the absence of solid evidence for an explanation, we will often accept magical thinking and all sorts of pseudo-professional cant - anything to feel more comfortable in a world that is not completely predictable. When all is said and done, we will never know with any degree of certainty why two young men became so rapt in crazy thinking that they hatched a plan to leave this world in a storm of gunfire.

    There are, however, aspects of this event and its aftermath that we can understand, if we try. Surely, this tragedy should have sobered even the most ardent defender of the right to bear arms into an understanding that something is seriously wrong when children can easily purchase weapons and the ingredients to manufacture explosives. Simply put, a society that will not take steps to take guns out of the hands of its children is a society that cannot claim to care for them. The time is at hand to pass tough gun control legislation to make it more difficult for children to purchase weapons. Members of Congress held hostage by the gun lobby need to hear the outrage of Americans, a majority of whom clearly support tighter restrictions on the availability of guns. They need to hear it now, before the pictures of the horrors of Littleton inevitably fade from our memories.

    As we might have expected, in the wake of the intense media coverage of the Littleton tragedy, school districts throughout the nation have been plagued with bomb threats. Here in Plainview-Old Bethpage, we have had two so far, causing students and staff at our high school to evacuate the building while the police and others searched the school. Not expected, was the number of parents who sought to take their children home after these incidents, fearing for their welfare. Clearly, events at Littleton have awakened deep anxieties for the safety of our children while they are at school. Yet, beyond question, America’s children are very safe at school, safer than they would be almost any place else. The children in Plainview-Old Bethpage are very safe in school. We have had these bomb scares before, and we will probably have them again. Parents need to recognize that our schools take reasonable precautions to protect the children in their care. Promoting anxiety in children about their safety in school is unnecessary and harmful to their well being. Children need constant reassurance of their safety. There is every reason to give that to them. Random acts of violence cannot become the predicate of universal fear.

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