To the Editor:
As the story of Newtown began to unfold and the accounts proved amorphous from the very start, I listened and watched. I did so with a physical ache in my stomach. I paid quiet attention as an aunt, sister, teacher and citizen.
Many times the coverage was too much to bear; I monitored it in fragments often while shedding bitter tears. I listened as veteran FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt broke down on MSNBC. I listened as Newtown’s Monsignor Weiss spoke through tears to tell us of a tiny victim who was to be an angel in the Christmas pageant. I shivered as my niece said, “Oh Aunt, their presents are probably under the trees.” I listened as a young grieving father described his daughter as bright, creative and loving. I listened as Victoria Soto’s family and friends described her courage and dedication to her students until the very end of the life she willingly sacrificed. I watched as pundits and decision makers of varying perspectives sat together two days after the tragedy on “Meet the Press” and quickly and easily found common ground; the discussion proved meaningful and free of rhetoric.
I watched closely as the pro-gun politicians, manufacturers and the NRA remained silent in this vital and robust national conversation. I listened carefully to Joe Scarborough, former conservative Florida Congressman and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” thoughtfully break with many of his own allegiances in the gun debate. I watched so many reporters and broadcasters struggle with emotions in order to deliver this ever-changing and evolving story, all as a gun owner. I then listened and watched our president console a town, state and nation, and I was buoyed by his willingness to draw the line in the sand and by doing so spur more Americans to action.
And, it is action we must take, individually, collectively, federally, statewide and in our own local communities. The numerous concerns facing us seemed to have been brought together in the wake of the lost lives of these beautiful children and their incredibly courageous parents: sensible gun reform, mental health care, violent video games, bullying and school safety among them. I was very pleased that my representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, James Langevin was chosen to serve on a congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force by Chairman Mike Thompson. The task force is focused on developing a comprehensive set of policy proposals to reduce and prevent gun violence. Specific issue areas the task force will address include examining sensible restrictions on firearms, while protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of responsible gun owners, closing gaps in our mental health care system, strengthening our background check system, and addressing violence in our culture.
Who better to serve on this task force than Jim Langevin? It is Congressman Langevin who knows firsthand the devastating impact a single bullet can have on the human body. Langevin is very open and candid about the gun accident that made him a quadriplegic. He says in his recent op-ed published in the Providence Journal, “While the accident that nearly took my life is a constant reminder that we cannot prevent every gun-related incident, it also leaves me at a loss that we have not taken every possible action to prevent the wrong people from acquiring the most destructive firearms and ammunition. We need to take a comprehensive approach to cut down on gun violence, and I look forward to working with members of the Task Force to make our streets and communities safer.”
On this, his comprehensive path to reform, I could not agree with him more. In order to reconcile the 2nd Amendment with what I call “common gun sense” going forward, it is leaders like Congressman Langevin who bring a value added voice to this conversation. His voice on this task force and in the ongoing debate will be a powerful one. Just as he, as the first quadriplegic elected to Congress, brought firsthand advocacy and positive gains for our fellow disabled Americans, it is his voice and advocacy that will bear fruit in this, a most pressing challenge for each of us. He is the living proof of the reality of a gun. I realize this will be a tough slog, but with a champion like Jim Langevin as an essential voice in Congress, I feel sensible gun violence reforms are achievable. I am all in on this, willing to be part of the solution and I know full well Jim, along with the rest of our dedicated U.S. delegation will be at the forefront and we need to have his back.
Carol Anne Costa