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My thoughts on Newtown

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I’ve wanted to write something since Saturday. I just didn’t feel it was appropriate.

Maybe it’s human nature to personalize things. Maybe the advent of social media has simply provided an outlet for our self-absorption.

I live about 15-20 minutes from the school. I’ve known Newtown my whole life — dating back to travel team basketball. I have cousins on both sides of my family in Newtown. One of my best friends coaches middle school hoops there. Because this was so close to home, it’s only natural to think about those things.

But this isn’t about me. Unless you know a victim, it isn’t about you either. And that’s why, over the weekend, I felt remarkably uncomfortable addressing the subject.

This tragedy is solely about the 26 victims — 20 of them ages 6-7 — and their families. As Shabazz Napier said Sunday, “those are 20 futures that you just don’t know. One of those kids could have found the cure to cancer.”

Those kids could have had the best four years in college, they could have laughed one time until their stomachs hurt, they could have written a song or made a funny YouTube video, they could have been doctors or lawyers or pilots or famous actors or accountants — doesn’t matter. The point is, they could have had lives.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie wants to bring his players to Newtown for a practice and autograph session sometime after Christmas.

“I don’t know if that will help,” Ollie said, “but it’s better than sitting here and doing nothing.”

Yes, indeed. Staying quiet doesn’t help, either, and it took me a few days to realize that. We have freedoms here, some more practical than others. In times like these, we should take advantage of the First Amendment.

So far, a few coaches — notably Jim Boeheim and, earlier today, Jim Calhoun (via New Haven Register) — have spoken out, utilizing their wide-reaching platforms to voice opinions about gun control.

My platform is right here in Fairfield County, where 14 year old Justin Thompson was gunned down about a year ago, where 15 year old Keijahnae Robinson was shot to death on her front porch in July. Barack Obama didn’t visit Bridgeport then, but those were lives lost far too early, as well. In our little Fairfield County bubble, the use of guns — illegal or legal, whatever — has been a serious issue for quite some time. Connecticut Post columnist Keila Torres Ocasio wrote in May, “How easy is it to buy a gun in Bridgeport? At 13, a friend of mine traded two jerseys and a pair of sneakers for one.”

It’s utterly devastating that it took 20 children — all just beginning to form memories of what could have been long, prosperous lives — to revive the conversation.

Let me ask: For what reason does a human need to possess an assault rifle?

…Anyone?

The only correct  answer is “none.” I think (or hope) we can all agree on that. I think we can all support a change there.

The sad truth, though, is that stricter gun control is unlikely to completely stop a psychopath on a twisted mission. It’ll merely make the task more difficult. This is a complicated subject; mental illness undoubtedly plays a role, too. And it’s  a very gray area: Should a family lock up their son/daughter because they feel the person might be capable of committing a heinous act? Should that person be deprived of a life because they might do something drastic? I don’t know the answer to that.

I do, however, know that there are certain steps that can be taken, and that we can all help. Change starts by driving the conversation, and athletes and coaches all over — 75 miles from Newtown or 3,000 — have great influence. They have a unique platform.

Even though this isn’t about them, there’s nothing wrong with using it.

Categories: General

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