What will we learn from this crisis to avoid more Newtowns?


Everyone suffering a crisis yearns to take away from it something of value. Lessons learned. Mistakes admitted. Perhaps even people fired, or hired. Reputation maintained, or improved.

With social media facilitating, the Newtown massacre is a national crisis. It’s a Sandy, a Katrina, a 9/11, not in terms of death tolls, but impact. No country, no group of leaders, no citizenry — no civilization — will survive if it fails to act when murder strikes its youngest and most vulnerable.

Columbine had a similar feel, as did Virginia Tech. But those shootings, if we were to plot these horrors on a subjective continuum, involved high school students and college students, respectively. Murder is murder, but kindergartners seem more vulnerable, with more life to live.

Without forgetting the hundreds of inner-city children hurt and killed each year in random shootings; without forgetting human trafficking, child abuse and child pornography; and acknowledging that this attack emerged from and hurt dearly upper middle-class white America: There still need to be lessons learned from this crisis. And perhaps if we adhere to and follow through on those lessons, the other victims listed above will find improved and safer lives as well.

What must we consider?

First, we must deal with facts. Even if the political will existed, no one realistically believes Americans will give up and melt down all its guns. But if we keep to the facts, and gun owners and gun haters can agree that sensible restrictions can be enacted to maintain freedoms, but avert tragedies like Newtown, we’ll come out ahead. Consider: Drunken driving deaths in New York State have been cut in half in the last 20 years through tougher penalties and community will.

Power has a role here. President Obama won re-election. If his true intentions and motives don’t emerge now, they never will. His speech Sunday night was focused and intense. ‘This is too much.’ ‘Something will be done.’ Senators and other leaders used to living under the NRA’s heel spoke out about change. The issue is collaborating on ways so all Americans are safer — whether that’s through gun ownership, or creating realistic safeguards to block the ability of one wayward individual to slaughter two dozen innocents.

Vision is required. Columbine was a last straw. So was Rep. Gabby Giffords’ assassination attempt. VaTech. Aurora. There are other Newtowns over the horizon. Of that we may be sure. Do we have the vision to see a better future, one without this litany of loss and denial. These attacks happen mostly in America. The lone wolf young white male attacker is our problem. We need to fix it.

If our nation were a company, the president is its CEO and Congress is the company board. We are its employees and our company suffered a huge setback. Our jobs are at stake. Don’t pretend we’re not in a crisis. Don’t act like it will all go away and be fine without concerted effort to change.

Facts. Power. Vision. Let’s get started.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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