I was saddened but not surprised to read about the mass shooting of a Long Branch, New Jersey, family on New Year’s Eve.
Domestic anger gone rogue. I know that town. My brother lives nearby. He practiced medicine in the hospital there.
Apart from the usual rites, I imagine little will be done to discourage such violence. A nice, young suburban family. Gone by the hands of their 16-year-old. Nevertheless, I’ll hazard a plan of what I might do if such an event happened here. This begs the question: What am I waiting for?
The first thing I would do is gather a volunteer committee among local people willing to work with specific community institutions to create better responses to these crimes and hopefully create an atmosphere that might discourage such events.
Our hospitals and first responders are already trained and supplied to deal with mass shootings. But recognition and support from a group of ordinary citizens just might be important to them, might even cause them to better prepare their responses (such as helping other citizens make appropriate gestures).
Secondly, I would find some folks to recruit a group of private and public school teachers to make sure “lockdown” situations maximize teacher and student safety.
Although local police have taken charge of this in most communities, there is much to be said for involving both teachers and students at all grade levels for their ideas, which might empower them all. Anyone who thinks today’s students are unaware of the Sandy Hook massacre is naive.
Students and teachers will be less afraid of horrific challenges if they know what specific actions are called for according to the kind of event that is occurring.
Thirdly, I would educate both parents and students to the imperatives of being around guns. When my brother was 16, attending New York Military Academy (yes, the school attended by our president) and I was 11, he would bring his rifle home during vacations.
I helped him build a shooting range in our basement. We would also go into the woods to shoot at beer cans on logs. Whenever we went out to shoot, he carried his gun. I carried the bullets, all of them. We had this iron-clad protocol. Sadly, our practice didn’t prevent a neighbor’s youngster from killing himself.
Anger, remorse and revenge figure large in mass violence. Our live-and-let-live society is reluctant to create and maintain the kinds of bonds that can defuse trouble.
For reasons still mysterious to me, my daughter learned at an early age to be a peacemaker among her neighborhood girlfriends.
I saw it happen many times, and I still marvel at it. One clue, however, is the way my daughter moves on me when she hears me being critical of someone: “You’ve got to look at it this way, Dad.”
As I feel my emotions rising, I know she’s right, and I cool it.
Bob Brodsky lives in Rowley.