Like most suburban parents, I spent the weekend shuttling kids to sports and of course “Newtown” was on every parent’s lips. As it should be. But as we prepare for another round of heated political debate over gun control and gun rights (and potentially extra-constitutional action by President Obama), another Connecticut tragedy ought to be on people’s lips that could provide some needed context to the horrific events in Newtown. I am speaking of Cheshire, CT, where in 2007 – in a town every bit as leafy, idyllic, and “safe” as Newtown – two drug-addled ex-cons invaded the Petit home and raped and murdered a mother and her two daugthers, ages 11 and 17 and beat a father, Dr. William Petit within an inch of his life. The Petit’s did not own a firearm in their home and it is not certain that if they did, the outcome would have been different, but there are numerous cases where a firearm in the home terminated a home invasion before potentially awful crimes could be committed. In Cheshire that day, in one home, the result was a body count 11% of the total from Newtown. Add in the nature of the crimes, the rapes and arson deaths of the Petit women and girl, and you have what most would consider an equally grievous tragedy. Everybody in Connecticut knows of Cheshire. Many in Connecticut, indeed in the nation, were so deeply shocked by the Petit murders that they could suddenly contemplate what they hadn’t before, owning a firearm to protect their homes and families. Dr. Petit may or may not have wished he owned a firearm, but many Americans determined that if they had to be in the Petit’s shoes, given a choice, they’d want a gun.
This weekend The NY Post went with a front page story highlighting the mother, Nancy Lanza’s, interest in firearms, which included the training of her son. Given her son’s mental illness, this appears highly irresponsible, but outsiders will never know the timing and progression of Adam Lanza’s decent into madness. However, in the wake of the Cheshire murders, Connecticutters by the thousands responded in a wholly rational way by purchasing firearms for home protection, learning how to use them properly and training responsible young people do to the same. The media is out to portray Nancy Lanza as a “gun nut”, a paranoid doomsday prepper type whacko, and she may well have been. Maybe she did traffic in loony stuff like the zombie apocalypse, invading armies ala Red Dawn, and creeping authoritarianism here in the US. Or maybe she was just worried about hyperinflation, insolvent governments, political instability and ominous signs of an all-encompassing surveillance state (seriously, what a whacko!).
Or maybe she was one of the tens of thousands of Connecticut residents that responded rationally to Cheshire. As we go forth from the Newtown tragedy let’s also be talking about Cheshire. Let’s understand and weigh what we do in regards to guns very carefully. Let’s understand that certain actions, while seemingly designed to prevent more Newtowns might give us more Cheshires by restricting citizens’ ability to be ready for and prevent violent home invasions. Where does potentially disarming the next Adam Lanza also disarm the family that doesn’t want to be the next Petit family? All of this, of course, among a host of other questions that ought to be part of the impending national “conversation” on the complex subject of the role guns play in society. Humans are hard wired to give more weight and ascribe more importance to more recent events, so let’s do our selves a favor and counter this tendency by weighing our revulsion over Newtown with our revulsion over Cheshire, which ought to be pulled out of the collective memory hole.