If Newtown Shootings Showed Us Anything, It’s That Guns Kill People and It’s Time For Reform

There were news trucks outside my daughter’s elementary school on Friday. I’m guessing they wanted some local reaction to the shooting massacre of 26 people—including 20 babies—at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in bucolic Newtown, Conn., which is all-at-once a world away physically from our southern, urban enclave in Atlanta, and socially right here in our backyard. President Obama was dead-on when he said kids who died by the hand of Adam Lanza “are our children.” But neither Nick nor I needed the local Fox affiliate asking our 10-year-old how she felt about the mass murder of first graders. That was our job. It would have been infinitely more interesting if reporters would have gone down to one of the local gun shops—or hell, the local Walmart or pawn shop or wherever guns are readily and easily available for sale to practically anyone with 18 years of breath and cash—and had some of our semi-automatic pistol-packing Georgians explain just why in the hell they need to buy and carry damn near war-grade ammunition in their waistbands.

Because for the life of me, I can’t understand it. And honestly, I’m not trying to. Lanza’s mama was a middle-aged, suburban substitute teacher living in a well-to-do neighborhood where a person’s chance of becoming a victim is one out of 1,722. What in the hell did she need with a semi-automatic rifle, two high-powered, semi-automatic handguns and two shotguns? Was she headed to Iraq? Getting ready for a bloody turf battle with the Crips and Bloods? A caped-crusader helping the cops keep the crime rates in Newtown practically non-existent?

No on all fronts. By all accounts, Lanza had that cache of guns because she thought it fun to play with them. Despite that her son had, by her other son’s admission, a mental problem.

And now 26 people are dead. Twenty of them babies.

I’ve seen countless people, while defending their stupid right to arm themselves to the hilt like they’re fighting M23 rebels in the Congo, try to deflect dialogue on gun control by suggesting the real problem is that America refuses to have a conversation about mental health. And then they top it off with the obligatory, “Guns don’t kill people—people kill people” foolery. I say, “Hell yes, we need to make some meaningful change in the way we talk about and deal with mental illness.” But we also need to acknowledge that guns are not toys meant for amusement. They hurt people. GUNS. KILL. SHIT. Guns with clips that can spray 100 bullets within the blink of an eye kill LOTS of shit. People pull the triggers and the bullets H.U.R.T. and M.A.I.M. and K.I.L.L.

If this blog post reads like I’m pissed, it’s because I am. We keep having this damn gun law conversation, what, like every few months? There was Columbine. And Virginia Tech. And Gabbie Giffords and her constituency in Colorado. And the Dark Knight movie massacre. Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both killed by gun owners with such callous regard for life and their fellow human beings that it was nothing for them to shoot kids like dogs in the street. And the killing spree on Chicago’s streets this summer. The Oregon mall shooting. And now, Newtown. When the crazy goes down, we get indignant. Make demands. Circulate petitions. And then all the bodies are buried and the rah rah dies down and the gun lobby heads back into the halls of Congress and pushes lawmakers to make gun policies even more lax. Who’s the fool? The people who think it’s okay to carry concealed weapons in kindergarten classrooms? Or us, the dummies who keep voting these asshats back into office, so they can continue to hand the NRA victories on a platter, while ignoring or blocking the gun law reform we regular, average, everyday citizens—mothers and fathers—are begging for?

Please understand, people: the gun lobby’s chief aim is to make you THINK you need to buy a gun and carry it in these streets to protect yourself and that it is your constitutional right to do so—not just because they really believe it, but because every time they convince an American of such nonsense, another gun store racks up sales. It’s not about constitutional rights. It’s about the gun lobby trading on your fear to feed their pockets and their greed. Believe that.

I’m with Huffington Post Parenting Columnist Lisa Belkin on this much: it’s time for us as parents—as mothers—to raise our voices on behalf of our children. America’s children.

So we can’t just do as we did after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora,” Belkin wrote. “We can’t just grieve and hold our children close. We have to demand that our country earn the right to call itself a civilized nation. We need to do this because our central job as parents — maybe our only job, really — is to keep our children safe so they can grow up. Easy access to guns keeps us from doing that job.

I’m no gun control expert, but I am a thinking human being with emotion, a beating heart and a brain, and all three tell me that it’s time for us to have a reasonable, rational discussion about better ways we can come together as a country and at least come up with a common sense approach to keeping these machines that make it this easy to kill massive amounts of people in the shortest amount of time out of the hands of average citizens—i.e. people who are not standing on an active battlefield.

I am not at all suggesting that people shouldn’t have guns. I grew up with guns in my house. My daddy kept one in the closet. We all knew it was there, and we knew where the bullets were, too, and we were told that it was there to protect us and our home from intruders and that under no circumstances were we to touch it. Ever. My uncles kept guns, too. So I respect guns. And I do believe that people have the right to bear arms, though I neither have nor want them anywhere near me or my babies.

How crazy is it, though, that I can’t buy a couple bottles of Sudafed at my local CVS without showing I.D., but, as this column in The New Yorker points out, I can stroll into a gun dealership and purchase the same kind of rifle U.S. snipers use in Afghanistan? Is it too much to ask that you have to take a class and pass a written test to get a gun? And that you have to pass a class at a shooting range, too? And that you get yourself medically cleared by a mental health professional and a drug test, too, before someone allows you to buy a gun? How about we do some real basic shit and at least check to see if the person trying to buy a semi-automatic pistol that can kill a classroom full of first graders in one sweeping motion pass a rigorous background check for any criminal records or association with criminal or extremist groups? And maybe have to face some serious consequences if they  knowingly live with someone with mental health problems and they do not keep their guns away from that person? And how about we ban altogether gun magazine clips that can pop off 100-bullet rounds?

Really, is that too much to ask?

Maybe someone should ask the parents of these children:

Charlotte Bacon, age 6
Daniel Barden, age 7
Olivia Engel, age 6
Josephine Gay, age 7
Ana M Marquez-Greene, age 6
Dylan Hockley, age 6
Madeleine F Hsu, age 6
Catherine V Hubbard, age 6
Chase Kowalski , age 7
Jesse Lewis, age 6
James Mattioli, age 6
Grace McDonnell, age 7
Emilie Parker, age 6
Jack Pinto, age 6
Noah Pozner, age 6
Caroline Previdi, age 6
Jessica Rekos, age 6
Avielle Richman, age 6
Benjamin Wheeler, age 6
Allison N Wyatt, age 6

God bless their sweet souls—surely each and every one of these angels is in paradise. God bless, too, the adults who died trying to protect them. But I’m over the hugging and the crying and the headlines and the NRA and fanatical gun owners that run down to the local Walmart and buy up all the guns every time somebody says we need to be reasonable about gun purchases and laws. You should be damn mad, too.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I have to disagree on this one. Guns do not kill people. People kill people. Guns are just a fast way to do it. If this guy had a mental illness the guns just made it worse. He probably would find a bow-arrow or some other weapon, if he did not have a gun. I think we need mental healthcare assistance to increase. We are medicating people way to much and ignoring signs of deep mental illness. It is time we as a society get out of denial about mental issues and start to treat these issues like we treat Cancer, AIDS, homelessness, civil rights, etc. Mental illness is a disease and is contagious. It affects others as we can see in Connecticut.

  2. I appreciated your review on the topic. I am also on the fence when it comes to gun laws. While I do agree with the right to bear arms I do feel that there should be more laws and regulations on purchasing and barriers to obtaining these weapons. I appreciated your last few paragraphs the most, where you presented reasonable views on gun ownership and compared current regulations (ie. sudafed purchasing…) I fear many people lashing out are either too far left or right and thus make inflammatory statements that just fuel an argument that is difficult to win. If we meet in the middle (more screening, regulation, documentation for purchasing guns) I think we will make great strides toward preventing these rare but horrific events while protecting rights of the population.
    And to the previous poster, I am a mental health professional and fully agree with the need for better access and social understanding/awareness on the topics of mental health. That is my passion! But I also believe that strides can be made in the area of gun control (not prohibition, but control).
    Thanks for posting.

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