Thursday, January 31, 2013

Repeating My Sandy Hook Promise . . .

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. . . to have conversations on all of the issues . . .

Who would have thought Stephen King, master of contemporary American horror and, some would say, gore, would so deliberately enter the American debate on gun control?

 Not only does his creatively sinister mind wage in on the issue that has been pushed to its tipping point by the Sandy Hook tragedy last month; he does so with precise measures of common sense and just a touch of the macabre. It’s as if this writer of extreme fiction took the Sandy Hook Promise with one hand placed over his heart and the other atop a copy of Carrie.

The acclaimed author of real and psychological horror does not suggest repealing the Second Amendment’s Right to Bear Arms. King's Kindle single Guns, published this month, offers a concise rationale that  boils down the issue of gun violence and control to three “reasonable measures” that would curb gun violence 

  • ·         Comprehensive and universal background checks
  • ·         Ban the sale of clips and magazines containing more than ten rounds
  • ·         Ban the sale of assault weapons such as the Bushmaster and the AR-15

As a longtime teacher of the argumentative essay, I’d give King an A+ on his essay (an accolade he can add to his National Book Award in 2003), not just  because I agree with him, but because he presents his case so well. It’s worth $.99 just to see how carefully he did his homework (research) and structured his argument.*

Yet, it is not King’s rhetoric I am most impressed with. It is the personal narrative that opens the piece about steps he took in the late 1990s, almost fifteen years before Sandy Hook. That was when he pulled Rage, a novel he  wrote in 1977 (under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman), out of print because it had come to be loosely connected to four different teenagers who committed school shootings.

King addressed the difficulty he had making this choice in a keynote address  to the Vermont Library Conference in 1999, clarifying he did not feel that, just because these troubled teenagers had copies of Rage, they committed the shootings. “My book did not break them or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken,” King said.

King’s statement reveals what rational Americans know: there is no simple cause and effect to maniacal acts of violence, acts that take a greater toll when guns are accessible. Yet, even though King believes in the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech as well as the Second Amendment, he agreed to surrender a portion of his right to free speech, because, as he states in Guns, “I did see Rage as a possible accelerant, which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”

King admits regretting having to remove the book from, essentially, the reach of deranged teens, but he goes on to say he did it because it was the right thing to do.

Let’s look at this: In King’s case, the morally right thing for him to do was to voluntarily give up a bit of his First Amendment Right – Freedom of Speech – even as  essential as that right is to a writer.

With King as a model of reasonable concession, it should not be too much to ask an adherent of the Second Amendment, the Right to Bear Arms, to voluntarily give up the bit of the arsenal that has repeatedly become the mass destroyers of innocent lives. Innocent lives like the 20 first-grade children and six adults of Sandy Hook Elementary School who were gunned down because of a lethal mix of mental illness, accessible weapons, a culture’s penchant for violent entertainment, etc., all of which King addresses in Guns  -  just as he is compelled to address  the most real horror he has ever put to mind: the “gore-splattered rooms and hallways (of Sandy Hook Elementary School) when the first responders entered them."

*proceeds of King's Kindle Single Guns goes to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Oh the power of the human spirit. The ability to work that which binds folk to folk and dares to redirect a grieving  community to a teaching community – a  community that has turned its misery into a mission to teach a nation how to untwist heart-wrenching tragedy to straightforward action. Not remain tangled in the mire.

The townspeople of Newtown, CT (where the horror, the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred just one month ago) these grief-stricken townspeople are determined to have the force of their collective good supersede the evil act of a crazed gunman who took twenty-six innocent lives, twenty of them first-graders, the rest administrators, faculty, and staff.

In an attempt to refocus their grief, the town has renamed its Newtown United group - Sandy Hook Promise. This change signals a brave shift of direction from (understandably) down-in-the-dumps to a forward thrust that hopes to reshape a culture that has insipidly glorified violence, forsaken the mentally ill, and refused to take responsibility for reoccurring tragedies resulting from the combination of these two faux pas.

By forging common ground and common sense, Sandy Hook Promise not only sets a new direction, but explains itself in words as apolitical as the promise that commits so many young girls to be responsible for what they say and do, so many boys to keep themselves, mentally awake and morally upright, and so many couples to have and to hold each other, for better, for worse,  'till death do they part.

Help ingrain the Sandy Hook Promise as deeply as these other promises into our culture.

Start by repeating along with the Newtowners:

Our hearts are broken;

 Our spirit is not.
And it is with this knowledge

 that we are able to move forward

 with purpose… and strength…

 This is a Promise

 To support our own

 our families, our neighbors, our teachers, our community

 with dedication and love

 as well as the material and financial needs they will require

 in the days ahead.

This is a Promise

To truly honor the lives lost

 by turning our tragedy into a moment of transformation.

 This is a Promise

To be open to all possibilities.

 There is no agenda other than to make

our community and our nation a safer, better place.

 This is a Promise

To have the conversations on ALL the issues

 Conversations where listening is as important as speaking.

 Conversations where even those with the most opposing views

can debate in good will.

 This is a Promise

 To turn the conversation into actions.

 Things must change.

 This is the time.

This is a Promise

 We make to our precious children.

 Because each child, every human life is filled with promise,

 and though we continue to be filled with unbearable pain

 we choose love, belief, and hope

 instead of anger.

This is a Promise

 To do everything in our power to be remembered

 not as the town filled with grief and victims;

 but as the place where

real change began.

 Our hearts are broken;

 Our spirit is not.

This is our promise.

Continue by sharing this, so that others along with you can officially make the pledge at