Opinion: After Sandy Hook, ‘we got armed, and we got educated’

A school bus drives past a Newtown sign in 2013.

A school bus drives past a Newtown sign in 2013.

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

Dec. 14, 2012, was the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. I was working a 12-hour shift as an EMT and will remember that workday forever.

That terrible day would profoundly shape me and my family. Like many in our community, we were left in pain, shock, and unrelenting loss. Collectively as a state, and family, we still ask why and how a person could be so evil.

I remember the churning pit in my stomach as I looked at my phone that morning and realized I had many missed calls from family in Newtown. I saw news reports on the TV that were impossible to digest.

“It can’t be real,” I thought. “It can’t be real.”

Time stood still for me. I felt small and insignificant. I was being swept up in a wave of emotions with each new moment.

Helicopters flew over the school. My aunt’s house was not even a mile away. The line to pick students up stretched past the entrance and out into the streets. My aunt and uncle waited there hoping to bring their kids home.

My godmother (also an EMT) was in a responding ambulance on the scene from Danbury. I had no idea how it would profoundly change our family and my own personal journey forever. Gun violence was no unfamiliar devil to my line of work as an EMT, but this time it was personal.

I have since moved closer to family in Connecticut and reside in Rowayton. I got out of EMS and transitioned away from public service. Even so, the ghosts of firearms violence haunt me still. I saw three suicides during my nearly 10 years being a certified EMT. I came to learn that suicides accounted for 70 percent of gun deaths nationwide I was shocked that the statistics did not cover this detail in most news reporting.

My curiosity about the roots of this “gun violence epidemic” gripping the nation revealed even more surprising data. AR-15s and AK’s are painted by politicians as the “mass shooter’s choice” but again, shockingly, the numbers were anything but. From 2021 all the way through to the start of tracking in 1982, handguns accounted for 77 percent of mass shootings (according to Statista). Newsweek goes further, documenting that “assault rifles” were used in only 26 percent of mass shootings.

So what are we to do? I remember that helpless feeling of seeing my phone screen light up with family chatting on that fateful day in 2012.

“Are the kids OK?”

“Are you home?”

We all resolved never to be defenseless again. That’s right. We got armed, and we got educated. You see, in my opinion, the thing that politicians get wrong is that they believe that a disarmed society will lead to a safer society. I contend that for society to truly be “moral and safe” we must have the choice to be immoral and dangerous yet choose not to be. If you are powerless to do immoral and dangerous things, then society does not become safe, it becomes neutered of choice. And what’s worse? Powerless. We must instead look to why we live in a nation of immorality, and the answers account for most of our society’s demons, including gun violence.

If you think the police will protect you under every circumstance think twice. Most police are fantastic, But like the police who waited 40 minutes to enter the school in Uvalde, Texas, there are exceptions to every rule. The Supreme Court has ruled that police have no mandate to protect you in a life or death circumstance.

Exercise critical thinking. Love your neighbors. And give thanks and providence to god that we still have the freedoms we have left in this great nation and work to preserve them for posterity.

Jonathan Walsh is a Rowayton resident.