No more massacres

To the Editor:

"The recent events in Newtown illustrate that the worst of human actions are inevitably followed by the best of human actions. Can we as a country minimize, if not eliminate, the inevitability of the former?"

That was part of a statement I made in a recent FACEBOOK post in response to the awful events in Newton, Connecticut. Over the next few days there were several "like" responses by friend, former students, and former faculty colleagues.

There is absolutely no way I can "get my head around" the unspeakable horror perpetrated on the twenty doomed schoolchildren, and their teachers and school administrators who tried to shield them. I cannot even begin to imagine the abject terror they must have experienced in their last few seconds of life. The grief of the children's parents and relatives has to be utterly unfathomable.

I grieve for all. I wish I could do or say something that might help alleviate their pain, but, of course, that is impossible. I am, in short, totally powerless to effect the slightest amelioration of the despair we all feel. I can only say how very sorry I am for the tragedy that unfolded and which continues to unfold.

Is it, then, inevitable that I can have absolutely no effect in preventing future outrageous and egregious attacks by unquestionably deranged individuals? I fervently do not believe that. I will endeavor to encourage changes in our country's "gun laws" in the spirit of President Obama's words at the Newtown Memorial Vigil: "... we must change ..." I will sign petitions as necessary. I will continue to post my opinions on FACEBOOK and TWITTER. I will engage in discussions with friends and acquaintances to help me gain a better sense of what can be done as a society to change that society's philosophy of what "responsible" gun owning is all about. While I do not own a gun of any kind, nor have I ever used a firearm, I cannot disrespect those individuals who do. I totally understand we all have a "Constitutional right" (as interpreted by our Supreme Court) to own guns. I want to have discussions with gun owners (some of whom are hunters, some of whom simply enjoy target shooting at firing ranges) about the limits of the types of firearms that "should be allowed" to be owned and those that shouldn't.

Finally, the other component that influences whether or not individuals choose to injure, and in the worst cases, kill their fellow human beings is their "mental health." From what I have recently read or heard, our country's mental health care "system" has plenty of room for reform. Do violent "computer games" or movies affect a person's mental health? How do dreams of violence or violent thoughts sometimes translate into violent acts? Let's please continue the discussion!

Peter Michael Fichte

St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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