Connecticut School Tragedy: Enough is Enough! When Will We Do Something About Gun Violence and Mental Health?

As we watched one of the biggest school shootings in U.S. history unfold during television coverage, we wondered when will we finally do something to try to prevent something like this from happening again.

A parent’s worst nightmare. We send our kids to school, a place where we hope and expect they’ll learn to love learning and feel safe while doing it. Sadly, our confidence about their safety has been called into question after the school shootings of the past two decades. But hearing 20 children were killed at a Connecticut elementary school and six adults has to shake all of us in our core. How could this happen and what can we do to make sure it never happens again? Can we truly prevent something like this?

We haven’t had a robust and long-term debate about gun violence and mental health services in this country in a long time – not after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, not after the Aurora movie shootings. In each case, after the non-stop cable television coverage, there is talk of gun violence and how we must do something about it and how we must do more to help those suffering from mental illnesses but then the conversations stop. Our political leaders have not made this a central issue. Maybe the time is now.

@CarolACain on Twitter wrote, “Begging President @BarackObama to put harsher gun control policies on the table.”

President Obama, during an emotional statement, said it was time to take "meaningful action" to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. He didn't elaborate, focusing instead on the scope of the incomprehensible tragedy. "I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do." Said the president's spokesman, Jay Carney, “There is, I am sure, will be, rather, a day for discussion of the usual Washington policy debates, but I do not think today is that day.”

“I wonder what it’s going to take to get tough on guns,” wrote Liz Henry, one of our iVoices on iVillage, on Facebook. “How blind do all of us have to be? In order to drive a car, you need a test. In order to own a gun, you need paperwork and 40% never sign a paper. The only thing with less regulation than owning a gun is having a child.” She added, “I was in high school during Columbine, college during Virginia Tech and now I am a parent with a child in elementary school. What happens tomorrow? That's the big question.”

Said iVoice Stephanie Dulli, whose own father was killed by a gun, “I understand that people want their Second Amendment rights and that’s fine but there is no need for extended clips and semi-automatic guns to be in ANY home. You want a pistol? Fine. I disagree but that's okay. But you want to be able to shoot hundreds of rounds? I have a problem with that.”

@CentsibleLife, also on Twitter, said what it will take is a national movement from all of us. “Parents make the change happen. We need to start a movement. Our children should be able to go to school and be safe.” She added, “We need stricter laws surrounding gun shows, and we need to address the lack of mental health care in the US.”

@PostPartumProgr reminds us that we don’t just need to deal with the numbers of guns on our streets. We also have to do more concerning the emotional health of our fellow citizens, and she is so right. Access to mental health services and the steps taken to ensure that those who are suffering emotionally have limited access to guns need to be part of the equation. @ggbenitzpr called for “psychological screening b4 anyone can get any gun.” @Becky_DiStefano said, “Strong laws, education and of course, mental health care...too many guns get into too many of the wrong hands!” Said @noroom2complain, “Its not the guns alone that are killing people, it's the people who are handling them.”

iVoice Beth Engelman wrote on Facebook, “I keep thinking about one mom on CNN who said, 'This is a nice school, things like this are not supposed to happen here.' WE need tougher gun laws and we need to look at ways to prevent strangers from walking into a school and shooting children.”

“Of course we should have tougher laws, background checking and all that,” wrote iVoice Sharon Rowley. “But I have to say that I truly believe that if someone wants to create evil, they will always find a way. And that’s what this is. It’s evil.”

It sure is, Sharon, and now we all face the challenge of trying to talk to our kids about this horrific tragedy. As Beth said, we'll all be doing something else too -- hugging our kids a little harder when we see them.

And in the days ahead, we'll also be doing something else --  looking to see what "meaningful action" President Obama and our other leaders plan to take.

Kelly Wallace, a mom of two, is chief correspondent of iVillage. You can follow Kelly's tweets on Twitter (@kellywallacetv).

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