By Joe Rector

I sometimes remember when a bad dream would pull me from sleep and leave me scared witless in the dark. The urge to run to my parents’ bedroom and crawl in with them was strong, but not as strong as the fear that something would get me if I put one foot out from under the covers. So, I lay frozen with fear until sleep would again overtake me.

Sometimes as kids, we’d sit on hay bales in a field near the house and tell stories. The scary ones always did me in, especially when dark had fallen. To make matters worse, the older boys would walk to the edge of the woods and then tell us about snipe hunting. Yes, I fell for it, but after standing around for a while to capture some unknown varmint, I’d begin the walk back home. The only light available came from the moon, and the ghosts and goblins and “boogers” came to mind. That hurried my pace until I was running through the fields to get home. Not until I slammed the door behind me at the front entrance did I feel safe.

One Halloween, a gang of us boys no older than twelve walked the roads to trick or treat. We saw a car pull into a field and wondered why it was there. We sneaked up as quietly as a bunch of young boys could, but before we reached the car, the window rolled down and a shot rang out. We all skedaddled and ran to a safe point far from the vehicle. Then we checked to make sure no one was missing or injured. The night was ruined, and a group of scared little boys returned home with only a handful of treats.

I once had a car wreck as a teenager. I pulled out into the path of a Knox County Sheriff’s cruiser that was chasing another car. The vehicle had no lights or siren on, and it plowed into the front fender of the car I was driving. I saw the eyes of the deputy as his car slid sideways and ran off the road back-end first. The taste of fear was metallic, the result of an overload of adrenaline as I saw the approaching vehicle. I shook or an hour afterwards.

I’m scared again. The senseless butchering of 20 children and seven adults has shaken most all of us to our cores. We are never supposed to bury our children, and it’s even worse when those little ones are 6-7 years of age. Every parent wanted to run home to find his or her children or grandchildren and wrap protective arms around them. However, in this case, no arms would have prevented the outcome.

The maniac that killed these babies used an assault rifle to cut down his targets. Each victim had been shot several times. Only the killer managed to take one bullet. The fact is that no one, child or adult, stood a chance against the weapon.

The shock to all in the nation has led to a call for action. Even the most strident NRA supporters in our federal government are calling for a change. They agree that no assault weapon should be available to anyone other than military forces. It’s not an attack on the Second Amendment because citizens can still own weapons for hunting and personal protection. It’s just that the overkill weapons need to go.

At the same time, the call goes out to stop the violent video games and movies that desensitize folks who play or watch them. Major cuts in mental health funding are being reviewed also.

I say it’s about time. However, I’m still scared. What frightens me is the forgetfulness of the American public. I’m concerned that in a short time this tragedy will fade in our memories and the urgency to make sweeping changes in assault weapon ownership will weaken. A fickle public might lose its anger over these senseless killings and let its demand for banning those weapons weaken.

We can’t let it happen. We must demand that weapons that shoot 30 rounds in seconds be forever banned. If it doesn’t happen, before long the fear will return when another round of senseless violence occurs.