CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Sen. Joe Manchin nailed a piece of legislation he didn't like to a tree and then shot it in a 2010 campaign commercial, I was angry. Even though he used a legal hunting rifle and apparently arranged to discharge it in a "safe" way, he also sent out an extremely harmful message: It is OK to use a gun to solve a problem. Don't like something? Shoot it, and it will go away.
When Officer Deriek Crouse was gunned down in a Virginia Tech parking lot in 2011, my son was living in Blacksburg. He had been attending VT but that day was working in Roanoke. I was between classes at Dunbar Middle when my phone rang and it was my son telling me that he was at work and OK. Gun violence, to me, is not some remote thing -- it has come too close for comfort.
One can only wonder what was in Adam Lanza's mind on Dec. 14 when he killed his mother, then 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary, and then himself. Could it be that Lanza felt he had a problem and used the guns available to him to solve it? We will probably never know for sure.
As a nation, we are apparently going to have a serious national debate about guns. It's about time. Undoubtedly, there will be those who will say that the gun shouldn't be blamed -- the problem is with the shooter. In this case, I agree -- in part. This was a shooter who was mentally unbalanced and should not have had access to guns.
However, if Adam Lanza had not had access to the guns -- semiautomatics with large-capacity clips -- his mental imbalance would not have had such a deadly result. No other weapon would have caused the carnage of the Sandy Hook massacre. Therefore, the gun is the problem, too.
I am glad that Sen. Manchin has seen the light and has called for a debate about guns. I commend him for expressing his willingness to consider voting to ban semiautomatics. In his public remarks, Sen. Manchin has tried to put distance between folks like himself who hunt with weapons that hold only a couple of bullets and people who use semiautomatics and large-capacity clips. That's understandable; murderers like Adam Lanza make hunters like Sen. Manchin look bad.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has promised to introduce legislation in the next Congress to ban semiautomatics and large capacity ammunition clips. I would call not only on Senators Rockefeller and Manchin to support this in the Senate, but also for Reps. Capito, McKinley and Rahall to support it in the House. Anyone who cannot support legislation to make it harder to get the guns and ammunition that killed the 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14 has their blood on his or her hands.
In the days since the massacre, my heart has ached with the pain of the parents of the 20 children who were slaughtered. At least twice a day, I walk past the school pictures of my two sons. I have been especially focused on their first-grade pictures -- pictures that show nothing but sweetness and innocence. I consider how I would feel if it were one of them who had been killed, and I weep. Weeping is not enough. For the lives of those who were killed at Sandy Hook, or Aurora, Columbine, or Virginia Tech, for that matter, to be meaningful, it's time for action.
Swing is a South Charleston resident, a mother of two sons, and a local music teacher.