Thu, Dec 27, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Sharing the grief

While the grief is still fresh, some residents are urging political activism in the wake of the Newtown tragedy

By Brock Vergakis and Katie Zezima  /  AP, NEWTOWN, Connecticut

CULTURE OF VIOLENCE

Richard Scinto, a deacon at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, which was attended by eight children killed in the massacre, said the church’s pastor, Reverend Robert Weiss, used several eulogies this week to tell his congregation to get angry and take action against what some consider is a culture of gun violence in the country.

Praver and Scinto said they are not opposed to hunting or to having police in schools, but both said something must be done to change what has become a culture of violence in the United States.

“These were his mother’s guns,” Scinto said of Lanza. “Why would anyone want an assault rifle as part of a private citizen collection?”

A mediator who worked with Lanza’s parents during their divorce has said Lanza, 20, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism-like disorder that is not associated with violence. It is not known whether he had other mental health issues. The guns used in the shooting had been purchased legally by his mother, Nancy Lanza, a gun enthusiast.

Gun control and mental health have also been topics at Newtown United meetings, along with what types of memorials would be most appropriate and any other action residents can take to feel like they are doing something.

“We don’t want Newtown to go on the list with Columbine, Tucson and Virginia Tech and only have it associated with horrible acts,” said Lee Shull, who moderated a Newton United meeting just days after the shootings. “We want to turn this into something positive. What can we do?”

A handful of people showed up to the group’s first meeting at the town library two days after the Dec. 14 shooting. The next night, 35 attended, most scrawling ideas and notes on white paper covering the tables. A few days later there was barely room to maneuver around the meeting room when two guests showed up: Senator Richard Blumenthal and Senator-elect Chris Murphy, Connecticut Democrats who told the group they planned to push for gun control legislation and needed their constituents to help them press the issue in Washington.

The group sees itself as a way to spark a local and national dialogue and action in the aftermath of a tragedy. It’s also a way to do something, anything, to cope with the sadness that has settled over Newtown.

Said resident John Neuhall: “Our hearts are broken wide open and we’re here out of grief and out of love for those families.’’

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