Rupert Howell 12/18/12

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown reminds us of vulnerabilities, lack of control

A phone call last Friday alarmed me to just how egregious had been the massacre in Connecticut earlier that morning.

A local father of two beautiful young daughters had watched the tragedy unfold on television while home from work with sickness. Before news of the event spread  he had to make a trip to the elementary school to retrieve his youngest, who had also become sick.

The father ended our conversation but could barely say “goodbye,” he so was overcome with emotion of the day’s tragedy and the feeling of helplessness as a father of young children.

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During the conversation he mentioned that he had almost wished it had been more difficult for him to retrieve his daughter from the school but surmised, “Everybody knows everybody.”

And that’s part of the problem. Friday’s event happened in a small school with serious security safeguards in a state with stringent gun ownership laws in a town that is home to the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Now we are hearing cries for more gun control, assault weapons ban, bans on large ammunition clips, more armed citizens, more guns, violent video game bans, more school security, prayer in schools, greater emphasis on treatment of mental illness, etc., etc.

Remember these mass shootings are not happening in the inner city and they are not necessarily related to drugs and/or money as so much of our world’s violent crime is.

“I have never felt so helpless,” the father said. “What can I do to know that our schools are safe?” he asked.

A conversation later with outgoing South Panola School Superintendent Keith Shaffer clarified that schools are constantly upgrading security, whether it’s fences, cameras, lock-down procedures or staff training. For the past two summers the school staff has participated in mock shooting drills at the high school and junior high.

At least for now the community will have to depend on the teachers, staff, and administrators at our schools as well as school resource officers and first responders to guard our children from such harm.
And Shaffer noted and as Newtown, Connecticut learned, “You can never over plan for evil. . . but an event like this (Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut) makes us rethink it.”