Sandy Hook legacy

Reverence for life demands broad conversation

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Cliff Vancura/Durango Herald

I am as shocked at what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School as anyone. After watching the initial news reports, I immediately called our daughter in California to tell her how much we loved her and the grandchildren. We cried together. I imagine millions of Americans did exactly the same thing.

As accustomed as I became to violence during my career as a Los Angeles cop, I simply can’t fathom how anyone could systematically shoot and kill so many people, let alone 6- and 7-year-old children. We are rightly outraged as a nation. As The Durango Herald correctly points out in its Dec. 16 editorial, enough is enough. Wringing our hands and doing nothing is no longer an option. We must, all of us, come together to find ways to prevent these tragedies.

As a matter of disclosure, I own the types of guns used by the demon at Sandy Hook. They represent a small portion of my larger collection of sporting arms. They are the same guns I’ve carried professionally and as a private citizen for my entire adult life. These days, I own and carry them for home and personal defense, respectively, because they are the most effective design in meeting those two requirements. I also use them for recreational purposes in various competitions. Beyond being tools, they are simply fun to shoot.

What’s the cost of such fun, one may ask? Too much, is the obvious answer. The availability of such guns, or any gun for that matter, but especially these guns, creates opportunities for the types of tragedies we see too frequently. The time has come to address this matter. The price has become too high for a thoughtful nation to have to pay. Even I, a guy who has owned guns all his life, understands this. It’s time.

Supporters of the Second Amendment need to understand that their right to own firearms is secure. Reasonable regulations on the types of firearms will not be the end of the world. Deal with them.

Gun-control proponents need to understand that the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, like an election, has consequences. Deal with them.

The time has come for a meaningful and practical discussion about this matter.

We are being told by elected officials and media pundits that the basis for the coming discussion will be the reverence for human life we, as Americans, hold so dear. After all, isn’t our greatest obligation to protect our children, our elderly, the defenseless and helpless among us? How is it, they ask, can we as a society let things like this happen? Aren’t we better than this?

No, apparently, we are not. So let’s spare the hypocrisy.

If we are going to use reverence for life as the moral justification for regulating firearms, as I believe we should, we first need to be honest with ourselves. If this truly is going to be about how much we care for each other, then we need to stop and give some thought to a few other fairly significant matters.

Consider how we have continually reduced funding over the last several decades for mental-health research and treatment.

Consider how we now accept homelessness as part of the fabric of American society.

Consider how we tolerate unacceptable conditions that are fairly common in the nursing-home industry.

Consider how we turned a blind eye for decades to pervasive and routine cases of child abuse in organizations such as the Boy Scouts and publicly funded child foster care facilities.

Consider how long we hid and enabled what was happening in the Catholic Church.

Consider how conditions in inner-city Detroit and elsewhere may soon become the new normal in our largest cities.

Consider how a single parent of modest means, with no family support network, has virtually nowhere to go for help in many places across our nation.

Consider the politics that were played and still go on with HIV.

And consider, too, how we now routinely look each other in the eye and refuse to admit that elective abortions are anything but the taking of a life. Twenty children were killed by gunshot last Friday at Sandy Hook. I wonder how many elective abortions were performed across the country that same day.

Public policies and their funding are supposed to mirror a society’s priorities.

If this really is going to be about saving lives and caring for our children, let’s take this opportunity to broaden the discussion. Let’s re-examine other areas in which we can care and provide for each other as a society.

Let’s show the world that yes, we are better than this. Perhaps that can be the legacy of Sandy Hook.

Tom Lorenzen is a retired L.A. Police commander. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. Departments of Justice and State on domestic law enforcement issues and testified in Congress as an expert on law enforcement special operations. Reach him at