Gun Control: A Letter To Congress
Representative or Senator,
My name is Sarah Clements, and as your constituent; as a Sandy Hook Elementary graduate of 2006; as a daughter, a sister, and a friend; as a Newtowner; and as the daughter of a Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher, I am writing to you today to ask for your support on an issue about which I feel very strongly. On December 14, twenty of my young, beautiful neighbors had their lives abruptly and unfairly ended, as did six honorable women. It is still hard for me to come to grips with. As I write this, my hands still shake. I not only can’t believe it, it just doesn’t make sense, and I have recently become overwhelmed with a constant, lingering fear because I know it still happens every day. Nine other children are taken every day from gun violence in the U.S. (along with anywhere between 30-90 adults) and I physically, emotionally, and mentally cannot handle it any longer. That is why when I say Newtown (including me) won’t back down until something is done, I say the absolute truth.
Even before what happened in my town, I was for gun control. That does not mean “taking away all the guns” or dispensing of our Second Amendment rights, as extremists would like other Americans to believe. It means we want safe towns so that parents do not have to fear sending their kids to school, so that couples can go on a date night to a theater like normal, so that eager families can go Christmas shopping in peace and excitement, so that devoted community members may worship their religion without violence, so that there is no more emotional scarring like what I and all of my fellow Newtown citizens are trying to recuperate from. No town should ever have to go through what mine is going through, yet every day the number of towns that is subject to the torment increases.
One way I am healing myself is by advocating for common sense safety. There is so much change that must go into this, including a change in American culture. But one step that is included in this change is a change in gun culture. There is no way anyone can say that amid this plague of gun violence, it has nothing to do with guns. In fact, everything that plays into the crimes must be addressed. Common sense. Are we going to wait until we all know someone who lost a loved one? That is unacceptable. 30,000+ dead a year is unacceptable. Nine children taken per day is unacceptable. The unfathomable act that happened in my town—that my beautiful, strong, caring, loving, tight-knit, peaceful, quiet town—will now be known for is unacceptable. It is a national disgrace and embarrassment when compared to other first-world, industrialized, “civilized” countries. So I ask that you please help to pass common sense gun laws, as it is the least we can do.
On the 26th of January, I marched on Washington. I was joined by my community members, my dad, over 6,000 Americans, and 26 of the friends I lost who walked with us in spirit and love. I marched because of my mother, because of my town, and because of the numbers killed by senseless gun violence. Because these are not just numbers; they are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers; these are thousands of good deeds, volunteer hours, smiles, Valentine’s cards, weddings, jobs, futures, families lost. Because I will be forever changed by that day. Marching gave me hope that my country can do better. I marched because I was surrounded (literally and figuratively) by members of the government that I know and trust. (I trust you to do the right thing.) I also marched with thousands of friends I will never formally meet. There were people of every age (newborn to 80s+), gender, religion, ethnicity, and state. I was surrounded by a small sampling of America. We are diverse—there were mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, grandparents, neighbors, godparents, cousins, teachers, pastors, rabbis, voters, people from Newtown and people from Texas and people from Alaska—and we have coalesced around a common goal. This is what America looks like. This is what citizenship looks like. This is what democracy looks like.
I marched, but it was just my first step, and it should just be yours, too. Please… do not let my friends pass in vain. If what happened in my town is not the turning point, I do not know what is. This cannot continue to be the disgusting and embarrassing status quo of the U.S. Please consider reinstating the assault weapon ban, banning high capacity ammunition magazines, requiring background checks for all guns, enforcing at least a 28 day waiting period, requiring mandatory gun safety training before the ownership of a gun, outlawing bullets that literally shatter in the body, and increasing productivity of the ATF, Dept. of Education, and gun research.
No one needs a magazine that fires 60 bullets in a few seconds. That is for the battlefield only; that is not self-defense. The man who shot up my elementary school shot each person multiple times, literally tearing them apart. They were 6 and 7. The school nurse’s car in the second row in the parking lot was hit by a bullet that went through the door, into a seat, and ricocheted back out. That was a car meters away… imagine what that did to my friends. This is what we are left to picture and think about. My beloved third grade teacher and role model was shot three times. It was her daughter’s birthday that day. She is still recovering, and she is one of the most positive and inspirational people in my life. But still, she was shot three times and needs countless surgeries. All the teachers I know at the school are emotionally scarred. Some people in town can’t sleep, some can’t eat, some (like many of us) cry randomly on and off, and many are not fit to work. I am telling you the worst of the worst in my town, not because it symbolizes us at all right now, but because it proves it’s not “just a gun” or “just a bullet” or “just a hobby” or “just one time”. It’s all of this… aftermath. Please stop letting the gun lobby and the NRA bully you around. They simply want to make a profit, even if that means 30,000+ deaths a year and teachers being trained to shoot a weapon (I know MY mom trained to teach, not to shoot). Just remember, as American people, we did not elect the NRA for anything. We elected you to keep us safe and to do the right thing.
There is an old Native American proverb that says, “We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We are borrowing it from our children.” Keep this in mind, because as a junior in high school, I am between childhood and adulthood. I have heard countless stories of children in my town and all over who are scared every day because their friends died from a “bad man with a gun”, a direct and very real quote. Their best friends passed before they were even out of elementary school, unable to grow up to be an artist or a fireman or a politician. How do you tell a child his best friend Dylan, or her best friend Olivia won’t be coming back next week? Hundreds of parents had to do that after 12/14, and thousands around the country had to explain to their kids why they were crying.
Then, I look to the other side, the adults who are foolishly going back and forth with the same dialogue, going nowhere. It is quite upsetting to say the least. Sure, this is a glimpse into my town and my friends and our future generation. But if I told you the incredible strength, resilience, and love that was radiating from my town, it would not be the full truth because you have to feel it. Only when you experience pain that you can literally feel, that makes you double over and scream, that makes your hands shake, that makes you have anxiety attacks, that makes you think of being sad when you recognize that you are happy for once, can you truly experience—truly feel—love. It can’t be described. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” Please lead with love.
Newtown can, must, and will become a symbol of hope and change, and I hope that continues. As the Sandy Hook Promise says, we want to be remembered, “not as the town filled with grief and victims, but as the place where real change began.” Please let this come true. I co-created a video called “Make Your Own Sandy Hook Promise” that is now on YouTube, and I urge you to watch and share it with your fellow officials, as it sets the tone for common sense laws and humane conversations. My principal, who is one of the strongest individuals I have ever met, who lost one of his best friends Mrs. Dawn Hochsprung that day, gave us a mantra on the first day back to school that we have all memorized: Our collective strength and resilience will serve as an example for the rest of the world. I have total faith that it will. So help to make that reality.
As my town continues to heal, you must help us. We are all Newtown, and each person’s son or daughter is everyone’s son or daughter. When we stand together, we stand a chance. Thank you.