She had just moved into town six months ago. A new start. A new
beginning at a new school. Her first grade class embraced her like one
of their own. Her hair was braided for a planned trip to Disney World
that her mother promised would take place in one month’s time. She knew
exactly what rides she was going to go on. Exactly what characters she
wanted to take a picture with. Mickey Mouse. Donald Duck. Goofy. The
Little Mermaid. She wanted to meet them all. But she would never make
it on her dream vacation. One bullet to the chest and seven year old
Heaven Sutton was dead.
Only a few miles away, another mother wailed and wailed and wailed, “She
didn’t deserve this…A person with a heart would never do this.” She
couldn’t stop crying, screaming, at the top of her lungs. Screaming so
loud that finally her screams became just sounds. Her daughter’s Minnie
Mouse blanket was all that remained after the paramedic’s took away the
body. Two shots to the abdomen was all that it took to take her life
away, although she fought to the bitter end, holding onto her last
breath as she arrived at the hospital. Her older sister, who luckily
survived the shooting, heard the gunshots, but thought they were
“fireworks.” Six year old Aaliyah Shell was just one of thirty-nine
people that were shot that weekend in Chicago.
On Friday morning, December 14th, these two little angels greeted twenty
new angels at the pearly white gates of heaven. Between 9:35AM and
9:53AM, one by one, twenty first-graders from Sandy Hook Elementary
School met Heaven and Aaliyah for the first time. They spoke of Disney
World and the New York Giants. They spoke of their mother’s and
teacher’s attempts to save their lives. They spoke of their friends and
family members who had survived the onslaught of bullets. They spoke of
the crowns that lay upon their heads as the Princes and Princesses had
Our nation has been brought to its knees with the tragic deaths of
Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine,
Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica,
Avielle, Benjamin and Allison. Our country’s tears still weep over the
heroism of their teachers and faculty who did all in their mighty power
to protect them from gunfire. But as the prayers and condolences slowly
fade away, it will be the a test of our moral character, as a people, to
do everything in our power to make sure our children never meet a bullet
In a recent poll, taken after the shootings in Newtown, only 54% of
Americans believe in tougher gun control laws. Although this is the
highest this number has been at in over a decade, it is still shockingly
low. Knowing that Americans own more guns than any other country in the
world, our leaders in Congress have been slow to respond to the mass
shooting, many of whom remaining quiet in fear of losing their $2000
contribution from the National Rifle Association. This past Sunday, ALL
thirty-one pro-gun Republican Senators refused invitations to speak on
‘Meet The Press,’ not even offering the safe sound-bite, “my prayers go
out to the families.” President Obama has been compassionately vocal in
his prayers and has shown a great desire to act swiftly, however it
remains to be seen if he can even get the support from his own party to
get anything done.
In the wake of the political cowardliness by most in Washington and with
many Americans still clinging to their right to own weapons that are
used on the battlefields of war and in first grade classrooms, it will
take a different approach to end this madness. It will take a different
approach from stopping 35 Americans from being killed by a gun everyday
and from stopping 48,000 Americans from being killed by a gun over the
next four years. And it will take the leadership from our generation to
make it happen. Although more gun control is needed, we also must look
at contributing factors that have created such a culture of violence. I
propose the following:
1. Re-Instate the Assault Weapons Ban of 1993 (including the banning of
high capacity magazines – over 10 rounds).
2. Pass the Fix Gun Checks Act, which would close the private-sale
loophole that allows more than 40% of gun sales to go through without a
3. End the “War on Drugs”: For forty years, we have waged war against
our own people (blacks and Latinos), creating a school to prison
pipeline that has destroyed the fabric of inner-city communities.
(sidenote: end police tactics like “Stop and Frisk” that assume that our
young people are criminals before they commit any crime.)
4. Adequately fund mental health services and research.
5. Support and fund violence intervention programs in urban areas, i.e.
Bury Da Beef, Cease Fire, Man Up.
6. Pass The Youth PROMISE Act: a bill introduced by Congressman Bobby
Scott (D-VA) that would fund holistic approaches to the problems of
communities in struggle.
7. Create dialogue with entertainment leaders about the glamorization
of violence in our films, music and video games.
In 2008, our generation learned how to vote. In 2012, our generation
learned that our vote matters. And now, we must learn how to use our
vote. Just six weeks ago, we were credited for helping usher in a new
America. An America that is more generous, compassionate and tolerant.
Now, we must usher in an America that will no longer be afraid to stand
up to big corporate interests and lobbyists like the NRA. We must use
our vote to make politicians protect our generation…our little
brothers and sisters and our children.
Six year old and seven year old children are not suppose to meet in heaven. They are not suppose to witness the suffering of their parents,
grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. Whether they are shot
in drive-bys in Chicago or in school shootings in Connecticut, six and
seven year old children are not suppose to die young. If this time is
really different, we will build more playgrounds in schoolyards and no
more playgrounds in the sky.
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik