Commentary: One child's voice for Newtown

The San Luis Obispo TribuneJanuary 14, 2013 

Dear Mr. Obama,

I am 12 years old and in seventh grade.

I live in California with my mom, dad and younger brother. My brother is in fourth grade. We go to the same school.

We have lockdown drills for if someone enters the school. I always looked at those as drills we just have to do. I will never think that way again. I can’t think of losing my brother or anyone.

In Newtown, Conn., a man went into a school and shot 26 people, including 20 6- and 7-year-olds.

I think that we should not be able to buy guns that fire that fast.

I have been to Virginia, and I got to hold a Revolutionary War rifle. It was heavy, and it took forever to load. I think that people should only be allowed to have slow-firing guns.

Maybe if that man had not had access to a fast-firing gun, some of those people could have been saved.

Please make a law so that we can be safe wherever we are.

• • •

This letter was written by my daughter last week.

We had been watching TV coverage of the shooting’s aftermath, trying to understand how a tragedy of this magnitude ever came to pass.

The kids are 9 and 12, not so young as to know that terrible, inexplicable things can occur in our world at any moment.

They have learned of atrocity and war gradually, absorbing in measured terms the histories of events such as 9/11 and the Holocaust.

Up until two weeks ago, they had not really witnessed live coverage of a major act of violence, especially one that sparked such politicized debate.

Afterward, the seventh-grader asked if it was possible to write a letter to the president, to which I said, of course, absolutely.

She had clearly been pondering the implications of the Newtown shooting. Unfortunately, the story of a crazy person entering the safe haven of a school and gunning down first-graders was an event simultaneously difficult to comprehend and easy to imagine.

Yes, go write, I told her.

This is how our democracy works. Your one voice among many has the power to effect great change. It is stronger than any weapon.

You, armed with a pencil and your conviction, can help alter the course of our national thinking.

You can help persuade the stalwart powers-that-be that the status quo is unacceptable, that we, as a free and peaceful people, deserve better than a life lived under the threat of military-style assaults on any street corner.

And so she did.

We will mail off her letter soon, in an envelope with a stamp, so that this child’s voice can be touched and heard and felt, speaking for 20 others who never will again.

Joe Tarica:

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