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A Child Advocate Attorney Considers Sandy Hook’s Legacy and the Commitment to Real Change

January 7th, 2013   No Comments   Advocacy, Commentary

North Florida and Gainesville foster child advocate attorney and Florida’s Children First Board Member Gloria Fletcher wrote the following commentary on the lasting impact of December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – and the need to press for real change in the laws and statutes that can better protect Americans.

Newtown, Aurora, Sanford, Tucson, Blacksburg, Fort Hood, Littleton. The names of these towns and locations – and the haunted memories of the killings committed there – have been seared into the collective American consciousness like scars on our psyches. As a North Florida and Gainesville foster child advocate attorney who’s seen the abuse of at-risk and foster children, I’m as saddened and heartbroken as any witness anywhere.

We’re all left to find solace. To soothe our pain and even our guilt following each, we promise change – to gun laws, to access to firearms by those deemed incompetent by the courts or physicians, to information-sharing and protections that may help prevent such incidents from ever happening again. We’re emboldened by a purpose-driven mission to right our course.

Then, over time, our outrage fades. Inevitably, something else – a “fiscal cliff” debate, a bowl season, the malaise of summer, the deceptive healing power of time itself – overtakes our seemingly limited capacity to sustain outrage and follow through on our demands for change.

We let our guard down. We forget. And it happens again.

Now a month after a shooter took the lives of so many children and adults at Sandy Hook, what have we learned?

To be sure, we know we must have a debate on lawful and safe access to firearms. We must discuss how to reasonably protect “soft targets” like schools or movie theaters. We must find ways to make an open society a safe society.

Yet again, we’re left to witness the travesty of justice that occurs when the Sandy Hook deaths are shoved off the news cycle by a fiscal debate whose urgency was only made so because politicians engaged in political brinksmanship. Last we heard about Sandy Hook was the ’round-the-clock coverage of the funerals, then the children’s return to school this month.

It’s simply sad that we and the news media cannot hold more than one vital debate at the same time. Because after each shooting, the message that should linger is that we must muster the will to focus on this issue and commit to stopping this cycle.

So the children have returned to their classrooms – albeit in a different school painted and its furniture arranged to bring a calming familiarity to the children.
But are the kids more safe? Is society a better place because of the debate that should have been held following each incident?

We may never know, because no such debate has been sustained. As intelligent as we may be, we lack the will to keep this conversation center stage and to implement change to help prevent this in the future.

If, or when, it happens again, we’ll gasp and cry and demand change, all the while forgetting all the chances we had to exercise a continuity of purpose, to make a commitment for real change, and to protect our children – and our future.

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