Sandy Hook Shooting: The Right Questions to Start an Overdue Conversation

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which has left nearly two dozen or more people dead, mostly children and teachers, struck a blow at the hearts and conscious of our country. Perhaps, now we are ready to have a conversation about how we get closer to a day when tragedies like this never occur.

As a former elementary teacher, everyday that my students walked into my classroom we entered into a silent agreement that Mr. Williams was not only going to teach them, but would also keep them safe from harm. Every teacher enters into that same agreement with his or her students everyday, but today a young shooter in Newton, Connecticut broke that agreement.

It is an agreement that never has to be broken again by a mass shooting, if we are willing to have the right conversations now and turn those conversations into meaningful action. There are at least two major policy issues, both controversial and difficult, that seem to be at the heart of these mass shootings: mental health and gun policy.

While I am not seeking at this time to offer solutions or specific policies, I am suggesting that as a country we should be asking ourselves important questions.

Mental Health: As it concerns to mental health, we might want to consider the following:

— How do we increase access to and the affordability of mental health in the U.S.?

— What mental health solutions could have been promulgated to prevent this tragedy?
— Assuming there are indicators exhibited by would-be mass-shooters, when and how should we go about identifying potential killers?
— Should mental health screenings for school-aged children be as routinely as school administered Scoliosis or Lice checks?

Gun Policy: As it concerns gun policy, we might want to consider the following:

— Did the Sandy Hook tragedy occur because there are too many guns in this country or because the teachers did not have guns?

— Where does our Right to Bear Arms end and our responsibility to keep our children safe begin? Or do they both point in the same direction?
— Do we need more gun legislation or simply more enforcement of the current legislation?
— Is it too easy to get a gun in the U.S.?
— Should we require a psychological clearance for all gun owners? If so, should it only be required at time of purchase or periodically throughout the ownership of the gun?
— Are we willing to give up, or severely limit our right to own guns if it means that we will live in a safer country?

This list of questions is not exhaustive, but it should be the start to a very important conversation that is long overdue in our country. Join me in starting the dialogue.

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Edward Williams

Edward Williams is currently a 3L at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is a 2009 Teach For America Atlanta Corps Member. He graduated from Howard University in 2009 with a BBA in International Business and Finance with honors. He has interned at JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch in their investment banking/sales and trading divisions, and was a 2010 Teach For America Policy and Advocacy Leadership (PALI) Fellow at the National Council on Teacher Quality in Washington, DC. Edward is originally from Savannah, GA.

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