On June 21, 2008, my mother died. It was the first time in my adult life that I had someone close to me die. The sadness I felt at that time was unlike any other I had ever experienced.
I felt a similar sadness a few days ago when I heard about the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. Twenty children and six teachers violently killed by a deranged young man who had earlier killed his own mother and ultimately killed himself.
Just like when my mother died, the pain in my heart wouldn’t go away. As the details emerged the pain grew worse.
Innocent children slain. Teachers giving their lives to protect their students. How could anything be more horrific?
Like most of us, I suspect, my emotions also were mixed-horror, sadness, helplessness and, yes, anger.
While these emotions are typical and certainly to be expected, now I find myself struggling more with wanting to understand — understanding what caused this and what can be done in the future to prevent it.
After all, it’s especially important for me to understand. You see, I’m a state legislator. I make and vote on laws. And laws can stop this from ever happening again, or so we would like to think.
Gun control? Allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom? Better mental-health care? Outlaw video games that glorify killing and desensitize kids to reality?
What can we do and what can the state of Georgia do?
Three years ago, in my first year as a state senator, I served on the Special Judiciary Committee when we passed Senate Bill 308, the Common Sense Lawful Carry Act.
I remember the debate well, particularly the discussion of whether to allow weapons to be carried in public gatherings.
I remember thinking to myself “Why would anyone ever want to carry a gun in a church or place of worship?”
My question was answered a few months ago with the news of a shooting at a mosque in Wisconsin.
As chairman of the Higher Education Committee in the senate, I have heard from almost every college president in our state pleading with me to help them keep guns off of their campuses.
But what about Virginia Tech? Would a ban on guns on campus have prevented one of our nation’s worst mass murders from committing such a gruesome act?
Or would allowing students to take guns to class or professors to have guns in class have decreased the carnage that fateful day?
While some may believe these are easy decisions, both supporters and foes of gun control make legitimate cases for their argument.
The Second Amendment to our constitution is important, but 20 young, defenseless children gunned down in what is considered to be one of the safest places for them to be?
And what about mental-health care? Are we doing all we can do for these vulnerable members of our society?
As a pharmacist, I understand how much medications and therapy can help certain conditions. I also understand how a person can snap for no apparent reason with or without medication and therapy.
Should we lock them all up or send them away? Or should we continue to try and work them into our every day lives as much as we can?
And what about some of these video games that kids are playing these days? We all see advertisements of the next release of a warfare video game that is so real it can only be described as grotesque. Shouldn’t we have some kind of control over this?
But wouldn’t that violate our free speech?
The truth is gun laws will never completely end these unthinkable tragedies.
Better mental health care may never help us prevent someone from snapping as the gunman in Newtown did.
But we have to continue to try and we will.
Before Dec. 14, I had never heard of Newtown, Connecticut. Now every time I hear the name, my heart hurts all over again.
We are a great state and a great nation. And while I know there is evil in this world, I am convinced, now more than ever, that God is with us.
Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (C.L.O.B.) Room 301-A, Atlanta, GA 30334. His Capitol office number is 404-656-5109. You can connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/buddycarterga or follow him on Twitter @Buddy_Carter.