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Rooting Out Gun Violence With A Fine-Tooth Comb

In this Jan. 3, 2013 photo, a bus traveling from Newtown, Conn. stops near 26 angel signs posted along the roadside in Monroe, Conn., on the first day of classes for Sandy Hook Elementary School students since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting. The massacre in Newtown, in which a mentally troubled young man killed 26 children and teachers, served as a rallying cry for gun-control advocates across the nation. But in the three years since, many states have moved in the opposite direction, embracing the National Rifle Association’s axiom that more “good guys with guns” are needed to deter mass shootings. (Jessica Hill/AP)
In this Jan. 3, 2013 photo, a bus traveling from Newtown, Conn. stops near 26 angel signs posted along the roadside in Monroe, Conn., on the first day of classes for Sandy Hook Elementary School students since the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting. The massacre in Newtown, in which a mentally troubled young man killed 26 children and teachers, served as a rallying cry for gun-control advocates across the nation. But in the three years since, many states have moved in the opposite direction, embracing the National Rifle Association’s axiom that more “good guys with guns” are needed to deter mass shootings. (Jessica Hill/AP)
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Three years ago this week, on Dec. 14, 2012, my daughter came home from school with a few uninvited guests: head lice. Even with three small kids in the house, for our family, it was a first.

I’m mom enough to admit that had it happened just one day earlier, my reaction would have been marked by panic, fretting and embarrassment.

Instead, I actually smiled; and probably for the only time all day. This is truly nothing. She is here with us. In such stark contrast to the abject horror dozens of devastated Sandy Hook parents were faced with, a few harmless parasites never felt so welcome. Come on in, happy holidays. Commence the 15 consecutive loads of laundry, the endless combing, the calls to dear friends who texted me lists of supplies and gave moral support. No big deal.

The combing was like therapy, a salve of normalcy in a day otherwise filled with such anxiety and grief.

Combing olive oil through every strand of hair on my precious 7-year-old’s head, all I could think was: those parents in Newtown, Connecticut, would give anything to be doing this. My daughter's questions about lice were a gift compared to the other questions we were all struggling to answer. The combing was like therapy, a salve of normalcy in a day otherwise filled with such anxiety and grief.

And then it hit me. As parents, when our children come home with lice or any number of childhood maladies, our first reaction is always the same: action and reassurance. I love you. You are going to be OK. We are going to get you all better and back to every child’s job: growing, thriving, learning and enjoying this beautiful world. “All better” just might be the best parenting phrase there is.

I’ll tell you what we don’t do: We don’t say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do here.” We don’t say, “There are just too many of them. We’ll never get rid of them.” We don’t resign ourselves to defeat. We don’t give up without even trying. We don’t accept that these things just happen.

And yet, in the 36 months since Sandy Hook, that has been precisely our response to gun reform in our country. It’s intractable, too complex, too hard, too many, too much. "Oh honey, we can’t possibly make it all better, and it’s not worth trying."

There is no silver lining to what happened that day. Pure evil once again shattered families, a school, a community and a nation. Twenty-six souls were stolen from this Earth.

But how can our collective response to the epidemic of gun violence be less powerful than our response to the run-of-the-mill concerns families deal with every day? Indeed, in the wake of San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Charleston and too many others, it sometimes feels like we are well on our way to national acquiescence.

how can our collective response to the epidemic of gun violence be less powerful than our response to the run-of-the-mill concerns families deal with every day?

Instead, let’s say enough is enough. What we are doing is not working. We are not meeting our first obligation to our children: keeping them safe.

Let’s try something else. Individually, we have handled potty training, lice, stomach bugs and far worse. Surely, together we can change this. We can demand and enact common sense reforms that make our communities safer. It might be slow, frustrating and even heartbreaking, but it must be steady. What we cannot do is give up. As President Obama has said, we cannot and will not accept that this "just happens in the ordinary course of events."

So let’s have at it. Moms and Dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors: Get out your fine-tooth combs.

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Jen McAndrew Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Jen McAndrew is a mother of three, a community activist and a university communications manager.

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