As this week’s gun control vote settles in, and as the President urges you toward angst and distress that compounds your already profound pain, I want to give you a different perspective that offers love, empathy and clarity.
But before I get to one syllable of the differences I--and millions of Americans-- have with your chosen reaction to the tragedy in your town and in your families, there is something that needs to be said.
It has been repeated countless times, and it should be, to all of you:
You are in our prayers every day. Those of us with children kiss them goodnight and wonder as you do why your children have been taken from you.
Your loss has sharpened our focus on valuing our own blessings, and it has energized our faith as we ask God for healing for you and your community.
These are wishes that transcend all politics. We will never forget you, your beautiful children, and the strength you and your neighbors showed under the worst of circumstances. You are an inspiration.
But it was unavoidable. Sooner or later, we were going to get to a very public debate about how we should respond to this latest tragedy involving a deeply disturbed individual with a gun.
That debate generally sends people into two camps. One contains 2nd Amendment devotees who assert a constitutional basis against any laws that infringe on the acquisition of arms by law-abiding citizens.
The other camp contains those who are willing to mitigate those liberties in the hope that future shootings can be curtailed.
The vast majority of you seem to belong to the more liberal second camp. For those of us who think that view is dangerously misguided, you present a daunting prospect. None of us wants to argue with a grieving parent over anything, much less a cause many of you have taken to heart as a kind of mission in tribute to your lost children.
I have wondered how many of you have been converted by your pain. Is Mark Mattioli the only one of you who recognizes that abridging gun rights will achieve nothing in preventing future Newtowns?
Maybe so. And maybe every one of the rest of you were gun control fans before the morning of December 14.
But if any of you had a core value shaken by personal struggle, you would not be the first. Look at Senator Rob Portman, who shelved his entire value system on the issue of gay marriage because he felt he owed such a surrender to his gay son.
Anyone enduring a pain like yours might well join you, grabbing guns from every hand because any device that would take their children is a thing they might believe no one should ever have.
But if that happened, it would mean clarity and objectivity had been destroyed, dashed against the rocks of personal trauma.
You deserve a presumption that your decision to align with anti-2nd amendment efforts is sincere and long-held, and not some knee-jerk reaction to the atom bomb dropped into your lives.
And you deserve honesty and clarity. So, knowing that it comes packaged with all the love and prayers I can muster for you personally, here is what millions of us want to tell you politically:
Your grief does not make you right.
President Obama has wanted to disarm America since the moment he first thought of the issue. He is more than pleased to have a corps of sympathetic figures to use on that march.
I will not suggest, as some have, that you have been used as pawns by a manipulative White House. That is insulting to you, as if you are not acting on your own beliefs, but are subjugating your thoughts to ideological puppeteers.
You deserve better than that suspicion. But you do not deserve automatic acquiescence simply because you have lost so much.
The millions of us who value the 2nd amendment are engaged in the ultimate compartmentalization. On one side is the goodwill we will always send your way as fellow parents and fellow citizens.
On the other, the necessary opposition we must mount against anyone who would tamper with the Bill of Rights. Anyone.
You clearly do not think you are trifling with the constitution, but words have meaning. “Shall not be infringed” means “shall not be infringed.”
That does not contain an option for infringement in cases of political shifts or personal pain. It means what it says.
But my main goal here is not to wag a scolding finger. It is to actually offer a kind of comfort.
I offer the suggestion that the Senate vote is not the dark development you think it is.
None of the measures wrestled with on the Senate floor this week would have done one thing to save your precious babies.
Many of you offered up older siblings to share your sad deflation at the measure’s failure. The sight of brothers and sisters tearing up because they felt they had failed their murdered brothers and sisters broke my heart.
The earthly gun control battle is about those of us left behind. Of course we think of those we have lost as we gear up for this political battle, but it is a wholly concocted notion that we dishonor them if we fail to place obstacles in front of their law-abiding countrymen.
So fight on if you wish. I would never suggest that anyone surrender a heartfelt battle.
But if any of you hear disapproving words in reply to your quest, know that it comes from those of us fighting for our kids, too.
Say anything you wish, but I will ask that you refrain from suggesting that I must join you to protect my children from the next Newtown.
I am fighting for my kids’ right to have their liberties protected from those who would rewrite our founding documents. I will not-- I cannot-- allow myself to back down out of empathy for the life story of my ideological opponents.
The notion that this was a “shameful week in Washington” is a reaction only from those who thought impeding legal gun purchases would save lives.
There is no evidence that it does.
The parents on my side seek a safer America for our children-- and yours-- by losing this obsession with abridging freedoms and focusing on serious enforcement of current laws and an ambitious “no-buy” list which instantly identifies those unfit for gun purchases.
I expect we will be opposed by many, if not all of you. Please know that we will fight for the freedoms we hold dear, and we will not be timid.
But none of our energy and passion against your chosen political path amounts to any distraction from the most important role you play in our lives-- as examples of incredible courage, and objects of our enduring affection and support.
May God bless every one of you, and your sweet children. We will remember them, and you, always.