Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Friday, May 24, 2013

In memory

Going into the Memorial Day week-end I would like to share this very moving piece written by the mother of one of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims. Memorial Day is a national holiday reminding us of those who lost their lives during one of our nation's wars. One could almost think, with the daily carnage from gun violence, that our nation is at war with itself. Too many deaths. Too many memories. Days set aside to remember are meant to be healing. Only 5 months after one of the nation's worst school shootings, the memories are still fresh. Parents are still grieving and trying to cope with the horrendous loss of a child so young taken too soon in such an unimaginable tragedy. Many of these parents are speaking out in support of stronger gun laws. They understand that if some gun deaths can be prevented, then some laws should be passed. Other parents are quieter and have found other ways to deal with their loss. I found this piece, linked above, written by Jennifer Hubbard, to be a beautiful tribute to Catherine, murdered on 12/14:
"People need to know how much love went out of this world when she died, I finally thought. Just tell them. I willed my fingers to type.
“Catherine Violet Hubbard, age 6, born June 8, 2006, passed away Friday, December 14, 2012, during the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. She is survived by her older brother, Frederick....”
So unnatural for a parent to be writing about the loss of her child. It should be the other way around, shouldn’t it? Catherine should have been a mom herself telling the world what a good mom and grandma I had been, that I had lived long and well and died peacefully after a happy life.
And yet our sweet, loving, beautiful daughter was gone. What more was there to say? Her life was over almost before it had begun, but the void she left felt unfillable.
She could be shy around adults, like lots of little girls. With animals or other kids it was another story, especially with animals. She came alive with love, our own miniature flame-haired Dr. Doolittle. It was as if she couldn’t contain her need to care about every living thing.
How many hours did Catherine spend in the backyard with her friends patiently training our old yellow Lab mix to jump over a stick? Hugging her. Picking her up, though she weighed twice as much Catherine. She had a thing for critters—her pet bunny, her fish, the crickets in our yard on lazy summer nights, even the worms.
Butterflies were a big deal. She’d gasp with delight when one landed on her hand, which they alwaysseemed to do. Maybe it was because she’d whisper to them, “Tell all your friends I’m kind.” Yes, kind. Catherine knew what she was and how precious kindness is in this world. (...) I reread what I had written so far. How could all the beautiful things our daughter was even be expressed in words? I typed: “Her family prays that she, all the students of Sandy Hook Elementary, and all those affected by this brutal event find peace in their hearts.”
Peace, a word I had chanted silently to myself since Friday morning.
Matt looked over my shoulder at what I’d written. “Looks good,” he said.
“We need some kind of memorial,” I said. “People are going to want to send donations.”
I typed it into the form. “In lieu of flowers...” It wasn’t much, but for now it was all my heart could manage.Matt thought for a moment. “What about the animal shelter?” he said. What was it called? A friend did a quick search on her phone. “It’s called the Animal Center,” she said. “Here’s the address.”
I e-mailed the obituary to the funeral home. We’d spent that Saturday meeting with our priest and the funeral director, planning the wake for Wednesday, the mass for Thursday morning. So many decisions. It was impossible to believe that it could all be actually happening.
I felt both raw and numb, like someone walking barefoot across burning-hot coals and not quite feeling the pain. Not yet, at least.
The casket. The cemetery plot. The music. The question of whether to open the mass and the wake to the public. We’d said yes. Scheduling a time for the services. Our church alone, St. Rose, was holding eight funerals. One choice was easy: we’d decided to bury Catherine with her stuffed animals. All of them.
That was the one thing I knew for certain she would have wanted. So you’ll have something to care for in heaven, my love. (...) “We’re going to get through this,” we told each other. I believed that with all my heart. The task seemed overwhelming, though, the healing so impossible. How do you survive a child’s death? I spent hours talking to God. Lord, I know Catherine is with you, but I need to feel her with me too. Please.
One afternoon Matt said, “I’m going to drive out to that animal shelter. We should tell them about Catherine’s memorial.” He took Frederick. I’d just sat down on the couch with a magazine when the phone rang. It was Matt.
“Oh no!” I said. What had we done? I got online, found the phone number for the Animal Center and called them. A woman answered. She sounded kind.“I’m here at the address we put in Catherine’s obituary. But it’s not the shelter. It’s just somebody’s house.”
“We’re animal rescue volunteers,” she explained. “We don’t have a building or anything like that. We’ve been wanting to call you, but felt we should, you know, wait a bit. I think it would be best if we met in person.”
A few days later two pleasant, unassuming women came to the house. Their expressions puzzled me. They looked almost embarrassed.
“Can I ask how much in donations you’ve received?” I said.
“It’s about $175,000,” one of the women said. “The donations are coming from all over the country. All over the world, actually. And they keep coming.”
I looked at Matt. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! “That’s a lot of money,” I said. “What are your plans?”
“Well,” the woman said, “we’ve always dreamed of starting a wildlife sanctuary. A place where both animals and people could find healing. It would be calm and serene. Peaceful. There would be walking paths and places to sit. And there would be opportunities for people to work with the animals.”
Care taker. Catherine’s business card burst into my mind. It was almost as if she were there with us again, a butterfly resting on the back of her hand as she held it aloft: Tell all your friends I’m kind.
Today, six months after the brutal murder of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary, theCatherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary is becoming a reality.“Catherine will love that,” I said, and hugged them both.
We want it to be a place of peace, peace born of terrible, incomprehensible violence. Peace, like the peace of Christ, that is the only answer to evil. Because no amount of hate, no gun or bullets, can kill love. Especially the love of a child like our daughter, Catherine Hubbard."

Memorial Day is the first holiday of the summer season and in my part of the country, often the first time for families to go camping, boating, golfing, sailing, to cabins, etc. because the weather is finally warm enough for these activities. I do remember my Dad every year on this day. He fought in World War II in Italy and North Africa with the 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division. He was always proud of his service but didn't talk much about the horrors he experienced. Some of those memories were buried deep inside and came out in occasional panic attacks which we would now label PTSD. Setting aside a day to honor those who have died in our wars is a good thing. What if we set aside a day to honor the dead from all of the shootings in America since, say, the Revolutionary War? How many would we remember? Since 1968 ( Vietnam War) 1,384,171 Americans have died from gunshot injuries. The death toll from all American wars since the Revolutionary War is 1,171,177. These are the latest gun death figures available. Stunning. Not much more needs to be said.

In memory of a young woman shot in a senseless murder/suicide in Duluth, our local Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter raised money for our Memorial Bell Garden in Duluth, dedicated to victims of gun violence. A photo of the bell can be seen on my blog. Whenever we have a bell ringing in memory of gun violence victims, someone unknown to us comes forward to ring the bell and it often invokes powerful memories and tears. I wrote about our most recent bell ringing on Mother's Day of this year in this post. Two women who attended our March to End Gun Violence, rang the bell in memory of their nephew who had been shot in California. They held a poster with a photo of their nephew as they said his name and rang the bell. It was healing and cathartic for them. As always, I remembered my sister, shot more than 20 years ago, by ringing the bell in her name. It's important to remind us, not only of that person but of the many others who have died. That is why memorials in Washington D.C. like the wall for Vietnam war casualties, the Korean and World War II memorials and others are so important and so visited.

I hope you will remember and reflect on those who have died from gunshot injuries this week-end and contact your elected leaders to ask them to support strengthening our gun background check system. The fact that they have done nothing about this carnage, especially after 12/14, is just plain irresponsible and insane. The fact that the corporate gun lobby has blocked us from passing common sense gun laws should be of great concern. We are better than this as a country. If we don't think the painful, poignant and beautiful piece, written by the mother of a 6 year old shot on 12/14 is not reason enough to pass gun laws to prevent others just like it, something is terribly wrong. Enough is enough.

In memory of Catherine Hubbard and all who have lost their lives to a bullet........ We remember you also this week-end. In your memory, we will make sure that we act to prevent and reduce gun deaths and injuries. For if we don't, what kind of country will we have become?

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