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Piece Written by Jillian Gilchrest, blogger for CTWorkingMoms and resident of Connecticut

What a weekend. What a week. Such a horrible act of violence has shook us all and flipped life on it’s head.  My heart goes out to the families, the teachers, the Newtown community, first responders, elected officials, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and friends.  It’s a dark time, but the love and strength coming to and from Connecticut has been amazing.

I was so moved by Sunday night’s gathering-people coming together in love and respect to support and honor one another.  And I so appreciated President Obama’s remarks.  He was thoughtful and honest and asked us to engage in a conversation with him about how we can do better to protect our children from future violence.

I for one would love to have this conversation.  All of the media attention is certainly overwhelming, but it is also an opportunity for great change.  During this entire tragedy, I’ve been following the media coverage and using Facebook as a way to process and understand what is going on.  I don’t know if something like this can ever truly be understood, but I find it useful to talk things out and I wholeheartedly agree with the President, that just because these conversations are difficult, that isn’t an excuse for inaction.  All the more reason why we should discuss!

Here are a few things I’m thinking about…I invite you to engage and expand the conversation.

1. Teachers–Thank you. Thank you for loving our children and protecting our children.  Teachers have amazing instincts, obviously. We should respect teachers more and empower them to be the best they can be.  I think that the training teachers have received since Columbine paid off and the courageous acts of the teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary are astonishing.  I am also sad that our teachers must receive this training, which leads me to my next issue.

2. “Gun Control”– What is that anyway?! It’s one of those issues that has been made into an ideological debate of ‘for or against’, leaving little room for a rational conversation.  Well, enough is enough with all of that.  I don’t want my son and daughter to grow up in a violent society where gun violence is a very real threat.  It’s important that we have an honest and rich conversation about guns and access to guns in our society, especially in light of some people suggesting that we move toward a society in which teachers are armed.

Yes…you heard me right. Some people are suggesting that the answer to all of this violence is for us all to be armed. Come again!? I don’t want teachers to be armed!  And I sure as hell don’t want to be armed.  That’s what police are for!  I don’t want to raise my kids in a society where we need to defend ourselves against gun violence…that feels overwhelming and chaotic.

Continuing with “gun control” for a minute, I am also interested in knowing more about an “assault rifle ban”.  After this summer’s terrifying movie theater shooting in CO, I was left questioning how anyone can access guns, ammunition and protective/combat gear on the internet without having to register or get approved.  I don’t care if people hunt–do your thing–but I do have a problem with someone being able to purchase “magazines” and “clips” that make rapid firing possible. You don’t shoot deer multiple times in a row… Why are these products on the market and being sold for individual use? I don’t get it and want to know more.

3. Mental Health– A lot of conversations are also happening about mental health, including a powerful and controversial post that was featured on the Huffington Post, from a mother detailing her experience with mental illness and needing help for her son.  Experts and advocates are shining a light on current policy that does not require people to receive mental health treatment unless there is a risk of harm.

I find it troubling that the only way I would be able to get help for my adult child if they had a mental illness would be by getting him or her in trouble with law enforcement.  That doesn’t seem to make any sense and I would like to know why this is the case and what it would take to change that.  Additionally, advocates are discussing the need for a greater social investment in treatment and awareness of mental illness.  I’m interested in knowing more and learning what an ideal mental health system would include.

I bring up these issues in the hopes of engaging in a meaningful and respectful dialogue. My way of coping with something so horrific and unfathomable is to seek answers and action.  I’ve had enough of the violence and the pain and the sorrow.  If we can do anything to prevent something like this from happening again, then we should.  We owe it to our children and to the children and families of Newtown.

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