When I tried to explain to my seventh-grade daughter the details of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, I quickly realized by the semi-engaged look on her face that she knew a tragedy had occurred, but that she didn’t have any context for processing the information. I told her that children were shot and killed by someone with guns who shouldn’t have had them, but that didn’t come close to conveying the carnage and devastation that one person inflicted with a high-powered automatic weapon with ammunition designed to maim and disfigure, as well as kill.
I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the nature of her reaction. We don’t let her watch much cable news, she’s just starting to read the newspaper, and she has no first-hand knowledge about real guns. Her only potentially relatable experience comes from the futuristic weapons she’s seen in Star Wars movies. And maybe that new James Bond flick, as well. So I’m struggling with how to talk with her about what really happened to all those who were murdered in Newtown, because as a newly-minted teen, it’s time to start bringing her in to some adult conversations on this story. I hesitated, then realized I was about her age when I began to focus on what was really going on in Vietnam and what those news images looked like.
Many of us have talked about the Newtown tragedy and have varying positions on the plans just announced by President Obama to make it harder for assault rifles to find their way into the hands of shooters like Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho and James Holmes. But the mother of one of the Sandy Hook victims is questioning just how honest we’re all being if we don’t also include in these debates the actual, horrific wounds that guns like a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle cause.
Veronique Pozner, Noah Pozner’s mother, wants to give us some brutally honest context.
For those of us who didn’t suffer a personal loss at the hands of the Newtown shooter, and who don’t have experience with what these automatic weapons and what their bullets do to the human body at close range, consider that Noah was shot 11 times at point blank range. Noah’s mother decided it was important to let the world know exactly what had happened to her son. She told journalist Naomi Zeveloff:
“We all saw how beautiful [Noah] was. He had thick, shiny hair, beautiful long eyelashes that rested on his cheeks. He looked like he was sleeping. But the reality of it was under the cloth he had covering his mouth [in his casket] there was no mouth left. His jaw was blown away. I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”
If we want an open and honest debate about whether and how certain weapons, especially those that are mostly used by the military and law enforcement officers, should be available, then we should include in that discussion the physical reality of any one of us, or any of our children, being shot in the way the Sandy Hook Elementary children were. If we turn away from what happened to those who were murdered and just gloss over the words “shooting spree” and “victims,” we can’t be honest — brutally honest — with ourselves or our children who are old enough to talk about what happened in Newtown to provide the needed context for a conversation about gun control.
Compare the incredibly honest, though painful, description of Noah with the discussion the National Rifle Association is trying to have. In attacking the President’s gun control plan, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has repeatedly claimed that violent video games and movies are more to blame for gun-related deaths in our country than anything else, while just days later his organization announced the release of a smart phone app specifically designed for children as young as four-years-old to practice their shooting skills. Where is the honesty in that?
Where is the honesty in a climate where a fourth-grade student at Sandy Hook Elementary was forced to take down a website she created to start a petition for gun regulation because local police were worried that if she didn’t she could be in physical danger because of threats from gun enthusiasts?
If we can be honest with ourselves, and honest with our children who are old enough, about exactly what happens when someone is shot multiple times with one of the most popular and most sold weapons in America, maybe fewer people would be inclined to buy them and more Americans would be open to reinstating the assault weapons ban:
Maybe that sort of honesty would be an excellent form of gun control.
The conversation we’re all trying to have about guns in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings really boils down to one of honesty vs. dishonesty when it comes to assault rifles. Even the President has made it clear he is not putting the Second Amendment under attack. But NRA supporters don’t want to acknowledge that, because they know that would kill their ability to raise a ton of lobbying money in this moment. It would be nice if they’d be honest about that, too, for the sake of our kids.
Do you think our national conversation about guns would be more meaningful if we talked more about exactly what kind of wounds particular weapons can cause? Do you agree with Veronique Pozner’s decision to talk about Noah’s wounds?
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (now available for your Kindle or Nook!)
Image used with permission from Marie-Claude Duytschaever.