Ky. Voices: No simple answers to how to keep our children safe

December 19, 2012 

Our hearts are heavy as we grieve for the fallen children and adults of Newtown, Conn. We see the survivors and our grief somehow becomes even deeper — as if it really could be any deeper.

We live in a great nation, and yet we cannot seem to protect our children. How can that be?

Gun-control advocates are ready to battle with those who believe that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution should not be changed. It's not as if a change in the gun laws would somehow instantly protect our children and relieve our suffering.

Some argue that in addition to teaching, teachers should be armed to defend our children and attack the evil people who might harm them.

Given a poverty rate for children over 26 percent in Kentucky, teachers already perform miracles by teaching those who, outside of gaining an education, have little hope of a prosperous life. We cannot add more to their burden.

Others argue that,with over 75 percent of the states cutting budgets for mental-health services, additional services will solve the problem of those with serious mental illness and/or developmental disabilities who might threaten the lives of our children.

Yet others believe that we should begin to protect our children by first allowing prayer in our schools. I contend that if protecting our children is the goal, it cannot be achieved by any one of these groups alone.

Those children in Newtown could have been my children or yours, but they weren't — this time.

It could have happened at the elementary school where your children or grandchildren attend, but it wasn't — this time.

It could have been your seriously mentally ill family member who held the gun that took the lives of those brave children and adults, but it wasn't — this time.

Developing ways to protect our children in a violent, unstable world is new territory for all of us and, I daresay, we will have many debates about how to proceed before all our voices are heard. But let all of our voices be heard for all have much to add to the discussion.

I'm not sure that I know much of anything about our world anymore, but I do know this. I am Kentucky born and bred.

I've know Democrats and Republicans, young and old people, gun-control advocates and gun enthusiasts, highly educated people and those with little education, and the most healthy and the most seriously mentally ill persons that once can imagine.

All of these individuals have been important parts of my Kentucky experience. One of the best things about Kentucky is that we love our children.

Since the first pioneers moved across the commonwealth, we have been willing to lay down our lives for our children and our neighbor's children.

I believe that Kentuckians are intelligent enough, love our children enough, and are fair-minded enough that we can lay down our politics and guns long enough to do the right thing.

When our grieving is done for the children of Connecticut, let's begin a statewide discussion that will lead us to a better place — one where our youngest and most beloved are safe.

Marlene B. Huff is a University of Kentucky professor of adolescent medicine.

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