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It Really is Time For Change

Local Commentary

Posted: February 28, 2008 8:23 p.m.
Updated: April 30, 2008 5:03 a.m.
I think most of us understand that there are times when we are too close to a situation to see clearly. We are familiar with the sayings "He cannot see the wood for the trees" and "She cannot see the trees for the forest."

When this happens, most of us understand that there is a need to step back and try to take a fresh look at the situation, from a new vantage point, as it were. We also recognize that this is an extremely difficult thing to do as we tend to see the world through the prism of our own experience.

Last week was yet another tragic week in the history of the nation's schools. Six students died in a hail of gunshots in Northern Illinois. What a tragedy. Not to diminish what the brave men and women of the nation's police face daily, but it seems to me that it is almost more dangerous to be a student today than, say, an LAPD officer.

Something must be done. Not just something, something new must be done. This nation simply cannot allow this to continue.

Unfortunately perhaps, the right to bear arms has become a political football and at the same time a distraction from the real problems. On the one hand we have the conservative, or libertarian, camp refusing to give up the right to bear arms because, as they rightly say, guns don't kill people, people kill people.

On the other hand, we have the liberal camp that wants to restrict, or remove, a person's right to bear arms because, as they rightly say, without a firearm, the damage caused by a lunatic on the rampage would at least be reduced.

Both sides have valid arguments supporting their position. My questions for these two camps are these:
* How long are you going to insist on being right?
* How many more students have to die before you are willing to concede that something different needs to be done?

Nothing about the frequency of school assaults is going to change until we, as individuals, decide that we will not tolerate this killing any longer. Having made that decision we will then need to commit to making changes, regardless of the cost. We need to ask ourselves if our individual rights and freedoms are more valuable than the rights of another person to life.

I know, conservatives will think I am advocating restrictions on the right to bear arms, so let me balance that with this comment, just to annoy the liberals. Consider your pro-choice stance in light of the above and perhaps you will now feel the way I made the conservative reader feel a moment ago.

My point here is not to provide solutions or suggest quick fixes. There aren't any. It is simply to try to make people shake themselves out of their NIMBY - not in my backyard - mindset and start to think about making real changes. Real changes. Political platitudes and smoke and mirrors cannot fix this problem.

None of the present crop of presidential candidates, like their predecessors, regardless of the depth of their commitment and skill of their oratory, has a silver bullet - pun intentional. Real change begins in the hearts of individuals. That means me. That means you.

Imagine receiving a call from your son or daughter's school while at work today. The conversation goes something like the following:

"Hello, Mrs. Anderson?"


"Hello Mrs. Anderson, this is Paula Smith, the counselor at Elizabeth's school."

"Oh, hello, Ms. Smith. How can I help you?"

"Well, Mrs. Anderson, we've had a terrible accident at the school today, and we'd like you and Mr. Anderson to come down here as soon as you can."

Or perhaps:

"Hello, Mr. Davidson?"


"Hello, Mr. Davidson, this is Paula Smith, the counselor at Joseph's school."

"Oh, hello Paula, I remember meeting you."

"Hi. Yes, I remember meeting you, too. Mr. Davidson, we've had a terrible accident at the school today involving Joseph, and we would like you to come down here right away."

"Oh, is everything alright?"

"Well, I can't say much more at this point, but it is urgent that you come down here right away. We need to talk to you about Joseph."

Which parent or grandparent do you want to be, that of the victim or the perpetrator?

Robert Heller is a Valencia resident. His column represents his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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