Four months ago, I packed everything I could in my 2001 two door Honda Accord and drove down by myself to Columbia, South Carolina to start at my new position as Assistant Dean of Academic Technology at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
I had been wanting to move down south since 2006 for quality of life reasons. All I wanted was the right opportunity, the right position to come along. And this position came along, six years later. I left Hofstra on my own terms. No one forced me out of Hofstra. In fact, everybody I know there wanted me to stay there. But they understood that this was a great opportunity for me. It was something I couldn't pass up, even if I also gave up covering New York City basketball. It's worked out. The job has been great and there's plenty of college basketball to cover in South and North Carolina.
But I left my family, my wife of sixteen years and my two sons, seven and now five up in New York until the house closes. I did that with an incredibly heavy heart. Despite the five times that I have gone up to North Bellmore since then to see them, despite all the times of talking to Chelle and the kids on Skype and now that my wife also has an IPhone, Facetime, the nights at my rented house in Columbia are very lonely.
Being away from your two boys when one is experiencing second grade and the other is experiencing kindergarten, you feel a major void in your life. What used to be common place, talking to them about their day and school is now a much harder chore. Over the phone or Skype, I try to ask them about how they are doing in school. Matthew will tell me some things about his school day. Jonathan will only say something that he really liked.
Also, previously having been a Little League coach in North Bellmore for two years, I had got a good understanding of my boys' school from the parents of the other boys on our teams. Earlier this year, there was a murder-suicide of two parents of children from our Newbridge Road School. The murder occurred at the parents' home. The North Bellmore community rallied around those children raising funds/scholarships for them. I was never more proud of where I lived and it will be with great sadness when my family eventually leaves North Bellmore for here.
So when the news came out about the shooting at the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, my heart sank. When Columbine happened years ago, you knew high school wasn't safe anymore. The murder suicide of those children's parents in North Bellmore made you realize that anything can happen in your community. But it's just another level when you talk about a mass murder of kindergarten children.
Now I have many friends - friends who are moderates, friends who are liberal and friends who are conservative. I am a registered independent. I am conservative on economic issues, but very liberal on social issues. You could say I am borderline libertarian and I voted for Gary Johnson for President. There I said it.
Now just about all of my aforementioned friends are on Facebook with me. There have been several events the past few years, the shootings in Virginia Tech and Aurora as examples, where my friends put on their Facebook statuses their differences of opinion on gun control. My liberal friends advocate gun control. My conservative friends say it's the culture. I understand both their views and their rights to say it. But I have avoided saying anything on Facebook or anywhere else for that matter for years.
Then came today. The shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, mostly of kindergarten children, who were in the room where the shooter's mother was their teacher.
Again, my friends on both sides of the political spectrum said their views on Facebook (and also on Twitter). Again, they are entitled to them. I have kept quiet on Facebook.
But I can't keep quiet in general anymore. Not when it comes to this. This hit too close to home, especially when I am far away right now from the children I so dearly love.
I never have used my college basketball blog for a forum for an article that doesn't concern basketball, except the death of my mom. I have never written an article that solely expressed my views on an issue outside of basketball.
Yes there is a culture issue here. There needs to be some national discussion. forum whatever on the desensitization of guns, especially in video games. I can honestly say I have never played Call of Duty, Doom or any of those zombie killing games. Would rather play baseball on the Wii.
And I am not saying that I want to ban ownership of guns. There are responsible gun owners and several are my friends. I personally never want to own a gun or use a gun, but I respect my friends' rights to do that.
But I also realize that these mass murders in Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora are the result of guns. You do not see mass murders on this level with knifes, bats, axes etc. You can't kill thirty people quickly with a knife, a bat, an axe etc.
You can only do that with guns. Automatic weapons.
I would like to hear all the evidence of how he got the guns, if he had known, documented mental issues etc. It will come out soon enough and I am pretty sure all of us won't like what's found out.
But something has to change. Trying to change the gun culture is not going to do it.
But, I will say this and I have thought this for years. If there was a national 72 hour waiting period for background checks for owning gun, whether at a gun show or online, maybe it could have prevented this. Maybe it could have prevented some other event where someone was killed with a gun. If that prevented just one person from being killed, wouldn't that be worth it?
My philosophy is this - If you are of legal age and don't have any prior felony convictions that don't allow you to have a gun or any known mental conditions, then fine, you can have a gun. But you need to wait 72 hours to make sure of those two things.
Simply put, if you can't wait 72 hours for a gun, then maybe you shouldn't have one.
That's my philosophy.
To those families affected by this tragedy my deepest, deepest sympathies. To lose a loved one, especially a child, I can't even fathom what those families are going through right now. They need support. Everyone's support.
Also, unlike my basketball articles, I am not accepting any comments about this article, whether pro or against on this. I don't want this to be a town hall. Nor will I speak about this again on my site. I just needed to speak my peace today.
And I need to hug my kids, even if it's over the phone. Right now, they are what really matters to me.