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A message to our readers and to America

No parent should ever have to bury a child. A life cut down needlessly and potentially preventably, as in the case of recent school shootings, is unfathomable.

I consider all the school shootings, all the gang-related murders, not from a pro-gun or anti-gun stance, but that of imagining the permanence of pain I would experience from losing a child. Very few things in life have ever made my knees buckle — but clearly that would do it.

I believe we can act to protect our children and our schools and leave politics out of it.

First, some background: While I was growing up, my family had no guns or weapons of any kind — no passion for hunting. But my grandparents, and especially my great-grandmother, taught me about the tyranny of the governments they fled in Russia and Eastern Europe. The loss of freedom — and life — was certain if they had remained. In my synagogue, I heard stories from families who had escaped or in some cases survived the Holocaust. "Never again," they said.

In the 1970s, I had a totally different exposure to guns and the reasons for having such protection available at all times. I worked with Arthur A. Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment, probably the most brilliant human being I have ever met. Jones worked in third-world countries where the threats of personal harm and government tyranny were constants.

“A gun is like a tourniquet," he said. "You may never need one, but if you do, you need it very badly and very quickly."

Then, in the early 1980s, the concepts of guns, self-protection and never being vulnerable to government oppression came together for me in a tragic occurrence.

During a New York City blackout one summer, a friend and business associate went to a payphone to make a call, with only the quarter he needed in his possession. A gunman put a pistol to his head, demanded money, of which he had none, and murdered him — in view of his young wife watching from their third-floor walk-up above.

How horrible, how cruel a world to allow such a thing to occur.

And then it came together for me: We as a species are insane. We kill. I even questioned my deep belief in G-d. If there was a G-d, how could he let this happen? (The hyphen is because outside of formalized prayer, we never speak or spell out the Lord's name.)

There will never be, nor has there ever been, a time when the human race will not try to kill. Study history, and perhaps you will understand the nature of our being. There is always going to be the lunatic fringe.

Preventing more tragedy at the hands of lunatics does not require punishing or restricting those of us living squarely in the realm of reality, especially now, with the proliferation of guns in our land.

When 9/11 happened, something I witnessed having been in New York City, it took relatively no time to protect multimillion-dollar aircraft. Our society has done the same for other assets: banks, retail, venues, high-net-worth individuals and politicians. It was the insurance companies and the air carriers that forced the issue. Those financial stakeholders became the change agents.

My belief is the same remedy. Find the stakeholders — they will be the change agents. But first take immediate action: like Arthur's tourniquet, protect our children first, then figure out the problem. Lose the pro- and anti-gun rhetoric. Adopt securing our schools.

That means armed security and advanced secured facilities in each and every school in this land. That also means the option to choose being responsibly armed and protected.

Become a student of history, and of the Constitution, and learn why the framers put provisions into the lifeblood of our charter as a country. They knew that we not only had to protect ourselves from the day-to-day jeopardies of life, but more so from the potential of tyranny — governments that could gut an unsuspecting and unarmed populace.

Be of a single mind to reach a practical solution to the violence. It won't be achieved by attacking each other's position. It won't be achieved being adamant to an extreme on the preservation or elimination of guns.

It will be achieved through considered thought and focus to protect all of us from violence and the loss of our loved ones and freedoms.

— Steve Saslow is publisher of the Mail Tribune and Ashland Daily Tidings.

From left: Shari Unger, Melissa Goldsmith and Giulianna Cerbono embrace outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. [Washington Post photo by Matt McClain]