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Local Reaction to Newtown Murders PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andres Chavez   
Thursday, 20 December 2012 06:37

M. TERRY/SFVS

Sister Carmel Somers of Valley Family Center

The national discussion over the mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School is beginning to shift to the long simmering debate over gun control.

Locally, in the city of San Fernando, there is a recognition by those who work to counsel those in need that action needs to be taken to address the prevalence of guns and have an open discussion about what is needed.

Sister Carmel Somers, the director of The Valley Family Center, the nonprofit counseling organization based in the city of San Fernando, is that society has outgrown the old gun laws. "The ability of anybody to control that [guns] or manage [guns] when we're still using the same rules and regulations suited to a smaller environment where there was a sense of community.

M. TERRY/SFVS

Janel Meza of Living Hope Community Church in San Fernando

I think that as we've gotten bigger, we haven't adjusted the way in which we do things to match that," she said. "I mean a young man who has been exposed to using a gun every week for fun is in a very different category to most of the children that I know." Sister Carmel feels that these tragic killings, once the initial impact has passed, provides an opportunity to come together as a society, and to sit down and have a frank conversation about the kinds of rules and regulations that need to put in place.

"I was talking to student last year who goes to one of the [public] schools here in the Valley and she actually said to me 'I have to watch my back all day long.' I said, Why? 'Because I never know when someone is going to shoot at me, somebody's going to point a gun at me, maybe somebody has a knife.' Now that came from a senior in a workshop I was involved with (who) was doing fine in school. I came here from Ireland in 1965, and I don't think any senior in high school would have said that to me forty years ago," said Sister Carmel.

She added that an important public discussion must be held for the best interest of children goes beyond political considerations. In the face tragedy, they must not feel abandoned for the sake of their emotional health.

"I would say that the most important thing is that they have assurance that their family and friends are there for them. That they are included in whatever is going on, that they are not left to themselves," Sister Carmel stated. The idea of supporting those in grief is also on the mind of Janel Meza, wife of the Pastor of the Church of Living Hope Community

Church. Like Sister Carmel, many people in need arrive at her door. Having places where people can go whether they are counseling centers or places of worship where people are accepted regardless of what life has thrown their way is vital. "We pray for them, comfort them, walk with them, pour love into them and let them know that there is a God today that loves them. We may not understand how and why these things happen but we do know from experience that God is the only one who can see us through."

Meza is personally opposed to guns although she understands that people have a right to own them, but believes there are limits. "Like they say, everybody has a right to a gun, but to machine guns, I don't think so, No."

She believes that community involvement is needed now. "I think it's a time when we need to stand up, the people of San Fernando, all those all over, need to fight for what we believe. Fight for our families, pray for peace. What better time? We need to come together and believe that there is hope. Just think if everyone did their part, to bring joy and happiness to children's faces, [we can] believe with all our hearts that there is hope for tomorrow," she said

By working through the church and the community, Meza wants to offer hope. "We may not be able to control everyone's vision and choices that we do in life but as a community, if we come together and do our part we'll be a spark of hope, that's what we really want to do, to impact our city and make a difference," she said

Sister Carmel feels that it is vital to engage young people in dialogue. She points out that they may know things that people who are no longer in school don't know. The more communication there is the easier it will be to develop policies that protect children without stifling freedom. It is, Sister Carmel says, the way forward.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 December 2012 06:41