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Child Watch® Column: "Dear God! When Will It Stop?"

Release Date: December 14, 2012

Marian Wright Edelman

The horrendous news from Newtown, Connecticut has pierced our hearts. A black-clad man in his 20s armed with two semi-automatic handguns entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School and made an elementary school for kindergartners through fourth graders the scene of the worst mass shooting in a public school in American history. Twenty children were shot and killed. Seven adults were shot and killed. We don’t yet know how many were wounded. We do know dozens of parents are experiencing the worst nightmare any parent could imagine. We do know more than 500 young children in the school are traumatized.

Once again we are faced with unspeakable horror from gun violence and once again we are reminded that there is no safe harbor for our children. How young do the victims have to be and how many children need to die before we stop the proliferation of guns in our nation and the killing of innocents? The most recent statistics reveal 2,694 children and teens were killed by gunfire in 2010; 1,773 of them were victims of homicide and 67 of these were elementary school-age children. If those children and teens were still alive they would fill 108 classrooms of 25 each. Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?

This slaughter of innocents happens because we protect guns, before children and other human beings. Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents and teachers and children and the entire Newtown community that has been ripped apart by each bullet shot this morning. We know from past school shootings and the relentless killing of children every day that Newtown families and the community will never be the same. The Newtown families who lost children today will never be the same. The families of the teachers who were killed will never be the same. Every child at the Sandy Hook Elementary School this morning will never be the same.

Each and all of us must do more to stop this intolerable and wanton epidemic of gun violence and demand that our political leaders do more. We can’t just talk about it after every mass shooting and then do nothing until the next mass shooting when we profess shock and talk about it again. The latest terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School is no fluke. It is a result of the senseless, immoral neglect of all of us as a nation to protect children instead of guns and to speak out against the pervasive culture of violence and proliferation of guns in our nation. It is up to us to stop these preventable tragedies.

We have so much work to do to build safe communities for our children and need leaders at all levels of government who will stand up against the NRA and for every child’s right to live and learn free of gun violence. But that will not happen until mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, and neighbors and faith leaders and everybody who believes that children have a right to grow up safely stand up together and make a mighty ruckus as long as necessary to break the gun lobby’s veto on common sense gun policy. Our laws and not the NRA must control who can obtain firearms.

It is way past time to demand enactment of federal gun safety measures, including:

  • Ending the gun show loophole that allows private dealers to sell guns without a license and avoid required background checks;
  • Reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004;
  • And requiring consumer safety standards for all guns.

Why in the world do we regulate teddy bears and toy guns and not real guns that have snuffed out tens of thousands of child lives? Why are leaders capitulating to the powerful gun lobby over the rights of children and all people to life and safety?

I hope these shocking Connecticut child sacrifices in this holy season will force enough of us at last to stand up, speak out, and organize with urgency and persistence until the President, Members of Congress, Governors and State Legislators put child safety ahead of political expediency. And we must aspire and act together to become the world leader in protecting children against gun violence rather than leading the world in child victims of guns. Every child’s life is sacred and it is long past time that we protect all our children.

Albert Camus, Nobel Laureate, speaking at a Dominican monastery in 1948 said: “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.” He described our responsibility as human beings “if not to reduce evil, at least not to add to it” and “to refuse to consent to conditions which torture innocents.” It is time for a critical mass of Americans to refuse to consent to the killing of children by gun violence.


Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

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Submitted by murphy at: March 23, 2013
Do agree with the content as presented. Personally have a problem with guns in general with the exception of their use for legal hunting for deer, squirrels, etc. Have never understood where an assault rifle has come into the hunting equation? Do now see where law enforcement personnel have a need for this type of support, with respect to who they will encounter when sent on emergency calls. From my perspective -- the generic issuing of gun permits -- because of the "right" -- has distanced itself from the "privilege" aspect of citizenship. When a person can shoot a neighbor -- just because -- is not enough of an argument for allowing an individual to have access. Children are our future and when is that going to register to anyone out there. Where did the value base go that taught respect for life. When did this communication disconnect come about that made people concerned over how to work through disagreements? Hope, or faith that there is some out there to offer, is the only thing that seems to be a source of leverage. Keep up the excellent work for children and their families. Thank you for your efforts.

Submitted by Carolinesail at: February 2, 2013
I have carried a copy of Ms. Edelman's "Guide My Feet"~Prayers & Meditaions for Our Children~for almost 16 yrs. now! (Throughout my teaching career!) I appreciate the book, the loving prayers, and wisdom she shares in it. I am a HUGE fan~however, we must not forget the 50 million children who have died at the hands of their own Mother's & Planned Parenthood~and our own hardened Hearts, as well!! I pray for revelation, reformation, renewal for our land...to value Human life in all it's stages of development~violence overall has increased since Roe vs. Wade~it needs to be overturned. May we grasp the concept that all LIFE is precious, as we embark to reform our gun laws in 2013.

Submitted by Jean at: December 19, 2012
Excellent article, Thank you.

Submitted by pdambros at: December 19, 2012
Mrs. Edelman, Following the WSJ, I urge CDF to begin a petition campaign that spells out the demands that we must make on our elected officials. Charge CDF reps in each state to disburse the link, to bring it to our families, neighbors, and places of work and worship. Let us not allow these children in Newtown, or the glossed over images of our children dying from gunviolence as your panelists so graphically told during the last CDF conf in OH to be in vain. We must seize the moment and the public sentiment and stay the course. I am also urgingour church leaders to step forward in the pulpit and to align w/CDF to create a list of demands to put soe level of protection into place for all childrenwhether on the street, in their home, or intheir schools. Thank you for speaking out so quickly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully....

Submitted by Debra at: December 19, 2012
I have been a teacher all of my adult life. I join you in doing anything we can to stop Congress from pandering to the lowest and most base and ignorant segment of our society.

Submitted by Anonymous at: December 18, 2012
I totally disagree. It is not the guns that are the problem, but the disenfranchisement of our society. Video games where you get points for shooting people, lack of family values being taught, ignoring the "loose cannons" that we all see in our communities, etc. If this killer of children did not have access to guns, he would have built a bomb, or drove into a playground with his car at full speed, or something else. Furthermore, if you take away our guns we will be sitting ducks for the terrorists to take over our country.

Submitted by Bob at: December 18, 2012
Continue the advocacy for children and make available at your web-site the article written in 1994 "Cease Fire! Stopping the Gun War Against Children in the United States."

Submitted by ch@rlee at: December 18, 2012
I agree with all of the recommendations as a start. Perhaps the issues of depesssion and other serious mental ilnesses and lack of resources and funding for what we have can be addressed later.

Submitted by Educator at: December 18, 2012
Obvious the information in this article comes from pure ignorance. Guns do not kill people, PEOPLE kill people!! Let's get rid of all vehicles since they cause drunk driving.... or get rid of spoons and forks since they make people Fat...maybe if the community paid more attention to Mental needs then we might see changes!

Submitted by Connie at: December 17, 2012
I'll be honest. I live alone and have no children. I own a .38 mostly because I live in a fairly isolated location and had been thinking of buying something a bit "tougher". After this tragedy, NEVER. In fact, I'm thinking of turning the gun I have in to the police.

Submitted by Kate at: December 17, 2012
Please join me and ask all you know to petition the President: Dear President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama: Out of our broken hearts must come some good. We love all our children and we must protect them from gun violence and the impact of untreated mental illness. We must enact a federal ban on all automatic weapons for private use and ownership, so that only law enforcement and military personnel are armed, as in most other developed countries. If Congress cannot get this done, then we the people must join with you to do so. The right of all the people not to be harmed by guns should be a priority over the right to be armed that is vocally demanded by some. We must be creative and urgent about reducing access to guns. Tax bullets, so they are too expensive for gun enthusiasts to want them. Institute a national gun buy-back program, funded with these taxes and by the people. Millions of us gave billions to assure you were re-elected; we would give again to create a voluntary buy back incentive program to immediately take weapons off the street. The time is right, people must think differently about this problem. Create industries for decommissioning and re-purposing guns and ammunition (creative ideas needed here). Jobs, education, job training and community wealth building can come from this. A portion of all resources raised must be immediately dedicated to funding community access to mental health services and early childhood education and family supports. We must find out why young people suffer and lash out so horribly, and treat them. Many, many people all over the world would see the good sense in this and support this kind of bold and humane response to the sorrow created every day in communities small and large by gun violence. Respectfully, Kate Allen Portland, OR

Submitted by Patty at: December 17, 2012
I agree with Marian Wright Endelman's assessment of the situation in America. I wish we could pass legislation banning handguns & assault rifles in this country and then I wish we could have a giant magnet capable of ferreting the remaining guns out there.

Submitted by acritical at: December 17, 2012
Actions cannot be taken off of opinions. Where are the statistics or proof that banning "assault style" weapons or the so called ammunition tax will save a single life? Also remember, once the government is allowed to further regulate one of our rights, it gives them the power to regulate the rest. Can one say Communism? What makes you think that once the right to bear arms is regulated, that soon it will not be the right to free speech, press, or even religion?

Submitted by Ashli at: December 17, 2012
The problem in this case was not the weapon but the person who pulled the trigger. He had aspergers. aspergers is a form of autism. autistic people suffer from maladaptive behavior, obsessions, and aggression towards others. He clearly needed medical attention. While this is a horrific tragedy that has broken the hearts of all Americans, the lack of appropriate medical attention for the mentally ill in this country is deplorable. The news continutes to blame weapons and the mother, but the problem is much more complex than getting rid of weapons. There is a decline in the appreciation of life, a lack of moral responsiblity and if the school had an armed security, think how many lives would have been saved. When you speak of unarming citizens, remember that an armed person is the only person who ever stops an assailant.

Submitted by Monie at: December 17, 2012
Guns fund wars and wars fund people! Unfortunately innocent lives has very little to nil to do with keeping the money train rolling!

Submitted by MandyMom at: December 17, 2012
Just realized you pretty much have to be a gun ban activist before they will post what you say on this site. Hmm... So don't speak your mind if you go against the mindless status quo. First amendment, second amendment, just eliminate whatever you don't agree with.

Submitted by pat at: December 17, 2012
We as a nation must take action now to protect children.. We must use every resouce and voice ..as a nation we have power..this is horrendous...thank you for this post

Submitted by Lisa at: December 17, 2012
Guns do not kill people. Criminals, people who are mentally ill, and people with little morals, kill people. I never thought I would advocate for guns, but I do believe that if the principal, counselor, an office staff member in the building had a gun, we would not have seen such tragedy. I agree, that assault rifles and guns should be controlled; but to call for a ban of all firearms unless in law enforcement is ludicrous. We have let our society go by the wayside by having ever thinning morals and values. If we want to curb violence, start by controlling the media and what we allow in our own homes. Our problems are way beyond gun control.

Submitted by J.Z. at: December 17, 2012
A few thoughts: * Background checkings won't prevent shootings like this. Remember the killer got his weapons from his mother who I believe passed all the checkings. * We either ban all guns or allow everyone to carry guns on street. The current gun rights won't save you from the recent cinema killings. * To those who always say "Guns don't kill people, people kill people", if we extend that logic, "AK47 don't kill people, missiles don't kill people, so on and so forth,..., nuclear weapons don't kill people", it's "people kill people", we can see how ridiculous that argument is! We should ban guns simply because they are all mass destruction weapons. * To those who compare gun killings to knife stabbings, the huge difference is no one can react faster than a bullet and you almost have zero chance at the gun point. I don't believe the same level of killings would happen if the killer was just carrying a knife. Not even close.

Submitted by Camille at: December 17, 2012
Children are precious. It is our responsibility to honor life and to provide safety for all children, families, and communities.