On Friday December 14 2012, as Adam Lanza emptied rounds of bullets into students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I was taking an evening flight home from a business trip. After landing in Shanghai, I turned on my phone and got a news feed about another mass shooting incident in the USA. Details were sketchy but my reaction was dismay and irritation, kind of like "Not again. Where does this end?"
But after a bus ride and walk home in the cold air, it was out of my mind and I was happy to be home, finding my wife and daughter cuddled up sleeping. I joined them soon, but as we slept, on the other side of the world, the bodies of some other children went cold as their parents faced the horrible news.
A remembrance follows. We must not forget.
The following morning, per the usual practice in our house, I got up early to breakfast with my daughter, then 5, while my wife slept (Saturday is her turn, Sunday is mine). As we ate and chatted, I again flipped thorough the news feeds, this time getting the picture of events, which would have been about 7pm local time in Connecticut.
She must have read it in my face, because suddenly I realized the house was silent and looked up to see a worried look in her eyes. And then it hit me, looking at my own daughter: What if it had been her? What would we do? How could we go on?
Not exactly something you can explain to a five year old, so I just cleared the dish, got us dressed and went out to garden so we could play. It didn't work. It made things worse. Too many kids with parents or aunties having fun. How do you explain to your kid you are crying because she is still alive?
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And how do you explain to parents why they have to bury their kids because letting people have 30 round ammo clips is more important than the lives of the innocent babies at the center of their lives?
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We are still looking for the answers to those questions and more.
Some questions we can answer ourselves. Yes, the world is a dangerous place. Yes, sometimes bad things happen to good people, even innocent little ones. Every sane parent knows this, that's way we spend so much effort to protect and nurture children, our own and others.
But those two questions I still can't answer, and one more: Why, after so many shootings, in incidents of mass-murders like Sandy Hook or just the "every day shootings" that kill other children or their parents, does a society where a majority of people clearly want stronger laws fail to pass them?
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Living in China, where people don't have guns, we don't quite face the same problem. There are plenty of other hazards to our children including, of late, the air we breathe (and trust me we feel that is increasingly urgent) but flying bullets are not usually a concern.
So if I may draw a contrast between the US and here, I would point out that China, too, has had recent incidents where mentally unstable people have attacked children or teachers in schools, which caused calls for greater security by outraged parents, much soul-searching about societal values and raised questions about the availability of health care and social services, which are all problems we share.
But fatality rate numbers we don't share. Because, simply, bullets, particularly bullets fired in rapid sequence from high powered rifles, are far more lethal than knives or sticks or stones.
These are important facts because, if you can't magically solve the social ills underlying the problem and you have to protect children and society from madman or accidents, it is an infinitely harder task when facing lethal, high speed projectiles designed to maim and kill.
I don't care about the inconvenience to hunters or target shooters or paranoid idiots.
I care about the children and parents with a greater basic human right to life
And I know the answer to at least one question: Yes, guns, bullets and the people who wield them kill. Humans, guns and bullets are a deadly combination.
I'm not going to forget about it and I'm not going to shut up about it because I still have no answers for the families of these tragedies, and I still look in my daughter's eyes and feel their pain.
Thanks for supporting them with your political action. It's a long road.