COLUMN: Shooter’s act nothing but cowardly

NANAIMO – The bigger picture is, of course, not mental health but gun control.

It has been said there is nothing more contagious than a child’s laugh and nothing more angelic than a child sleeping.

Now, thanks to the cowardly act of 20-year-old Adam Lanza, 20 sets of parents in Newtown, Conn., will never again hear their child laugh or gaze with love at their child  deep in slumber – safe and sound in their bed.

And now when Dec. 14 rolls around, those parents will not be thinking about Christmas with families, but their lost children who died when Lanza stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School, shooting children, sataff and finally himself.

There are reports Lanza suffered from Asperger’s syndrome – an autism spectrum disorder – and had social and behavioural problems.

Yes, there should have been supports in place to help him, and I don’t pretend to know what was going on inside his head, but nevertheless his actions were cowardly.

No matter the demons tormenting him, there is no justifying taking the lives of 20 children, the adults at the school and his own mother.

Those victims, especially the children, had lives to live. Who was Lanza to decide their time on Earth was over? Who made him God?

If the only way to end his suffering was to take his own life, then so be it. But don’t harm others.

The bigger picture is, of course, not mental health but gun control.

One wonders how much carnage and heartbreak must occur before the U.S. adopts gun laws more like Canada’s.

That’s not to say those laws are perfect and we’re immune to tragedies like the one in Newtown.

Marc Lepine shot and killed 14 women in an engineering classroom at Montreal’s École Polytechnique nearly 23 years to the day of the  Newtown killings.

A student was killed and another wounded  in the 1999 shooting at W.R. Myers High School in Taber, Alta. and in 2006, one student was killed and 19 wounded when Kimveer Gill began shooting at Dawson College in downtown Montreal.

Cowards – each of them.

But the U.S.’s right to bear arms is a problem that needs fixing.

The Sandy Hook shooting was the U.S.’s second-deadliest school shooting, after Virginia Tech in 2007, where 32 people were killed.

Add the 14 dead following the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Col.; the deaths of the dozen theatregoers watching the new Batman movie this past July; and the six shot and killed at a Sikh temple in August, and you have more than enough evidence that the American gun laws need to be addressed.

A responsible person owning a gun is not the issue. Hunters and those who shoot competitively should be allowed to own weapons – as long as they acquire them through a registered process.

Short of banning all guns, we have to have faith in our system and those who own guns use them responsibly.

But, look at the faces of the children killed in Newtown, look at the news coverage and see what the people of the town are going through in the shooting’s aftermath.

And then tell me there is even one good reason why automatic weapons should be made available to anyone other than armed services personnel or police forces.

The devastation these guns cause – in the hands of the wrong people – has to stop.

This was supposed to be my Christmas column filled with words of hope and peace, not death.

But I guarantee you I will hug each and every one of my family members a little tighter this season, appreciating the good fortune we have and the togetherness we will share.

I will love them like there’s no tomorrow and hope with all my heart there will be.