What's next?

It is ironic.

Ever since the sound of gun shots crashed through what is supposed to be a haven for young kids – their school – the weather has been overcast and dreary.

Just like the mood of the nation.

There’s not much to say that has not been already said.  The images of young – very young – students being surrounded by police officers as they were led out of schools will forever resonate in the minds of many, if not most, Americans.

But as Newtown buries its young and brave the question that remains is simple.

What’s next?

How many more mass shootings in schools, in malls or movie theaters will we watch on the news, shake our heads and say something must be done., yet only to have the scene repeat itself.

The recent shootings in Aurora and Portland, and now in Newtown have one thing in common.  They took place in suburban areas.  As did the carnage in Columbine, Chardon, DeKalb, Jonesboro.

We take per granted that our refuges in the suburbs shield us from such dastardly acts.  Gun crimes happen in “those neighborhoods” of our cities by “those people”.  It’s as though we believed Sinclair Lewis when he wrote “It Can’t Happen Here”.  Granted, Lewis wrote his book in 1935 and used a satirical look at what would happen in the United States if someone grabbed power as Hitler started to do in the early 1930s.

We have for decades, maybe centuries, been naïve to the fact that things can happen here.  We apparently believe that things like Aurora, Columbine and no Newtown happen someplace else.  As one parent said, “You don’t expect your daughter to be murdered…It happens on TV.  It happens elsewhere.”

Elsewhere.  The reality is we all live in “Elsewhere” and, as we watch the horror unfold last Friday, Elsewhere can be anywhere.  We think unthinkable gun violence is limited to urban areas, but the list of mass shootings, let alone school shootings, have taken place in rural or suburban areas.

Not Elsewhere.

So, once again, where do we go from here?  We mourn, we cry, we get angry and we watch the scenario unfold again and again.

Is this time different?  Perhaps it is because we are mesmerized by the images of the 20 children and six educators who died last Friday.  As I look around my neighborhood I think of the kids who live on my block.   Kids who are in elementary school.  Kids who regale in the wonderful innocence that is childhood.  I look at them and I wonder how someone could do that.

So now the call will be to tighten up security at schools.  Many municipalities have been doing that on a regular basis, long before the slaughter in Newtown.  Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Balinski says the village there is additional presence at the schools in the village.  Balinski notes that it is a cooperative effort through the village’s School Resource Coordinator.  He points out that the village’s police and fire departments and schools “have a very comprehensive plan in place in terms of lock down and evacuation procedures. This plan is fluid and is re-evaluated periodically.”

Balinski adds that “given the recent tragic event in Newtown, we will be working with our school authorities to determine if our current plans provide the security levels that protect our children, teachers and administrators.” He adds that there are two key elements to the plan: Having a comprehensive plan in place to address these high-risk/ low frequency events, and management of the plan (lock down drills, evacuation procedures, review of policies, etc).

Odds are most (hopefully) communities and schools mirror Buffalo Grove’s efforts.

As we know, mass shootings are not limited to schools.  Just look at what’s happened in Portland and, of course, Aurora.

So once again, where do we go from here?

Once again the calls for banning guns have resonated off the airwaves, dominated online and print reports.  But yet, no action.   There needs to be some control in not only gun ownership, but in the sale and delivery of firearms, especially assault weapons.

Statistics reveal that more than 10,500 people a year are fatal victims of gun violence.  Statistics reveal that drunken drivers kill more than 16,000 people a year.  Obviously, shooting innocent men, women and children in cold blood is far more heinous than some bastard who thinks driving a 2,500 pound weapon impaired is OK.

Many states, especially Illinois have been vigilant in enacting and enforcing laws in an effort to ebb the tide of deaths related to impaired motorists.  Some states (Ohio for example) have state controlled liquor stores.

Yet the average person can purchase a firearm at any number of retail stores.  Sure, they need a firearm owner’s identification card (FOID) and there’s a waiting period from the time of purchase to the time of delivery.  However, as one firearm owner told me, that’s just to keep someone who is angry on the spur of the moment from running out, purchasing a gun quickly returning to the workplace, home – or school – and using his or her newly purchased firearm to vent his or her anger.  The waiting period does, not however, curtail a psychopath from continuing his or her plan to massacre innocent people.

As for getting a FOID – just go online, fill out the form – and be honest – send in $10 and a picture and you’re all set. Oh, there’s a separate page for applicants under 21.  I’ll sleep better tonight knowing it’s an exhaustive procedure.

Even though I am long past 21, it’s not unusual for me to be asked to show an ID when I purchase alcohol.  As flattering as it may be, it’s unsettling that I face more scrutiny in a liquor store than I would if I wanted a FOID.

Where do we go from here?  When it comes to cracking down on abuse of firearms, maybe we need to look as close as the nearest liquor store.

It won’t solve the problem – but it seems to be a logical start.

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