December 13, 2013

We still have much to learn from Newtown tragedy

There were two momentous storms a little over a year ago: Tropical Storm Sandy, which swooped in with its driving rains and relentless winds, taking lives and rendering thousands homeless, and the shooting at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 12 that left 28 dead.

It is a lot easier to recover from an act of nature than it is from the senseless slaughter in Newtown. The state’s attorney office for the judicial district of Danbury released its findings on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They are not enlightening. What we have discovered is that one young man, Adam Lanza, unaided or unabetted, was responsible for this heinous act. In the year since, we have attended a funeral of one of the victims at St. Mary’s Church in Katonah; listened to school and law enforcement officials discuss ways to enhance security; and heard both sides of the gun debate loud and clear.

With the issuance of the report the investigation is closed, stated the state’s attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III. No conclusive motive is given and the role of mental health issues is described as “unknown.”

“If additional reliable information related to the existence of others’ involvement in the case comes to the attention of the investigators, it is subject to being reopened,” wrote Mr. Sedensky. “I do not anticipate that occurring.”

In the year that has passed, no comprehensive federal action on gun control has been taken. The New York Times reported this week that 1,500 state gun bills have been introduced since Newtown, 109 of which have become law. More than half — 70 of those — actually loosen gun restrictions. New York state was the first to react, by broadening the definition of an assault weapon, thus making them more difficult to acquire. But without comprehensive gun control reform on a national level, anyone can bypass the system by purchasing weapons out of state and bringing them home.

Yet our region remains ambivalent, mirroring the mood of the nation. While some county leaders are urging stricter gun control measures, a gun show returned to the County Center this year after a ban since 1999, the year of the Columbine shooting in Aurora, Colo.; The Journal-News was denied access to the names of registered gun owners in a decision by the Putnam County clerk; and gun owners in our towns continue to lobby for access to high-powered weaponry.

Rightly, the people of Newtown wish to deal with their grief in private, but that should not stop us from taking proactive measures. The issue of school shootings and gun violence is now one for our nation. We saw that all too clearly two years ago when a Lewisboro man killed three family members before turning the gun on himself.

In Bedford and Pound Ridge, first steps were taken with changes at the school district and town levels.

Results of a security audit were presented at the Katonah-Lewisboro board meeting in May. Recommendations by Altaris Consulting Group for improving safety included physical modifications, technological updates and cultural change.

Recommendations for the high school included installing fencing around the bus lot perimeter and designating separate parking spots for students and staff, both at John Jay and districtwide.

Pound Ridge officials said in February that there is now and will continue to be a “police presence” at Pound Ridge Elementary School.

Following a safety report presented at a June Bedford Central School Board meeting, district superintendent Jere Hochman announced protective measures, including creating a secure vestibule at each school as the single point of entry; the signing in of visitors with ID by staff to track all building occupants; and camera installation around the elementary school buildings as well as in the open areas and driveways of the middle school for outside surveillance.

It is a start. Additional questions, on both a local and a national level, include the role of bullying in schools; mental health monitoring; the role of violent video games on adolescent behavior; and police and emergency response to emergencies. These all remain issues without answers and, in many cases, without action.

As we reflect on the events of last Dec. 14, it would be wrong to let the lives of the victims be lost in vain. We must continue all measures to hammer out comprehensive, consistent and fair national gun control legislation and to broaden our attempts to reach out to disturbed and troubled families and youth, even to save one life.


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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

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NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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