Like most people I know, I spent much of the weekend glued to the television set, sickened and depressed.
Like most people I know, I kept vowing to turn it off and give myself a respite from news of the horrific Connecticut shooting that killed 28 people, including 20 young people.
Like most people I know, I couldn’t do it.
I became fixated on the picture in Friday’s Havre Daily News of a teacher. It’s a teacher whose job it is to help first-graders learn the basics of life, to teach reading and arithmetic, and here she was endangering her life to save the lives of as many children as possible.
And then came Saturday Night Live. I’m a 37-year fan of the Saturday night comedy, but the thought of laughter was something I couldn’t comprehend this weekend.
Instead of its opening monologue, the New York City Children’s Choir was on stage to sing two verses of Silent Night while a single candle burned in honor the Newtown victims.
Children just a few years older than those massacred in Connecticut, were teaching us that even in the midst of disaster, there is hope.
The show that usually leads us in laughter led us in crying, but giving us hope.
The hope that the Christmas hymn promises is available, but we have to work for it.
The United States has more violent acts like those in Connecticut than any nation in the world. No nation — if it has strict gun control or not — has anything like the kind of massacre that are becoming common place.
The collective wisdom of Americans can overcome the problems we face. But it requires people to begin talking, not shouting, to each other.
Immediately, liberals in Congress introduced bills to ban assault weapons, even though the weapons used in this case were legally obtained under Connecticut's relatively tough gun control measures. But these people should be part of the national conversation about where to go from here in the effort to curb mass violence.
And people who oppose limits on Second Amendment rights spoke eloquently Sunday morning about the need to find alternatives to gun control, though I’ll admit to be queasy about having armed guards at schools or teaching school principals the basic of using automatic weapons. Is this what we’ve come to?
No one has more interest in ending massacres than supporters of gun rights.
If there is to be a dialogue on this critical matter, both sides will have to calm down.
Pro-gun control advocates should understand a little bit about rural culture and stop treating rural gun owners like they are rubes who "cling to their guns."
And people who oppose gun control measures should take a deep breath and calm down. This isn’t the time to flood the Montana Legislature with more bills that would allow guns in bars and churches and every place else.
If nothing else, can the two sides get together to lobby for more support for groups that assist the mentally ill?
On “Meet the Press” Sunday, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett said he was sick of reading that people who had taken part in massacres had mental illness.
“How come we don’t learn beforehand?” he asked.
In fairness, the under-funded, hard-working, often ignored people in the mental health field do a tremendous job at helping those with mental challenges. There is no list of the people who didn’t commit violent acts because they received help. And to be certain, 99.9 percent of the people living with mental disease have never committed violent acts.
But some clearly have. There are ways of helping people with mental illness, both the violent and nonviolent. Montana NAMI — the National Alliance on Mental Illness — does an outstanding job of representing these people, but be sure that they don’t have the political clout of dozens of other groups we hope will join in the effort to solve the problem facing us.
The framers of the Constitution, our Supreme Court has ruled, intended for people to have the right to bare arms, but the framers never fathomed what took place in Newtown this weekend.
If the solutions were easy, they would have already been implemented.
The road to solutions will be difficult. A lot of people on all sides — gun rights advocates, law enforcement, civil liberties people and gun control supporters — will have to swallow hard and give in on important issues.
But we're Americans. We can come to a solution.
(John Kelleher is managing editor of the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (406) 265-6795, ext. 17, or (406) 390-0798.)