Children dream of many things and these children were no different. They dreamed of being the angel in the church play, of throwing the fastest punch in the Tae Kwon Do class, of winning a triathlon, of making the baseball team and getting Victor Cruz’s autograph.

But their dreams were not meant to be. On Dec. 14, 2012 a lone gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He shattered their dreams, violently ended their lives and devastated the lives of their families but hopefully changed the course of a nation.

Despite the courageous efforts of six teachers who gave their own lives trying to protect 20 children, a young man with a semi-automatic assault rifle sprayed their little bodies with so many bullets that parents had difficulty identifying them. One boy was killed because he distracted the shooter until some of his friends could get away.

They did not die instantly. A Newtown firefighter who was called to the scene held little Olivia Engle, the angel in St. Rose of Lima Parish’s Christmas play, in his arms. While she struggled for life, he told her he loved her. Six of her classmates and two of the teachers who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary were also Catholic.

Adam Lanza, the man with the assault rifle, killed all of their dreams that cold December day. These innocent children, whose lives were tragically cut short, will never take the prettiest girl in the class to the prom; win the most valuable player award; make the dean’s list; marry the love of their life; or play for the New York Giants.

Although we knew it was true before they told us, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops labeled the tragedy at Sandy Hook “evil.” The bishops didn’t stop there. They challenged us to honor the memory of the children and teachers of Sandy Hook who were gunned down in minutes by supporting laws that protect society from assault weapons.

It’s the “moral duty of all Americans,” according to Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, especially legislators, to stop these mass murders.

Tragedies that break our hearts can lead to change. President Obama’s response to the Sandy Hook massacre, which occurred inside the “safety” of an elementary school, was to call for legislation to stop the mass murders that plague our nation. By January the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (S. 150) was ready for introduction into the Senate and passed its first hurdle when it was voted out of committee last week.

(See the United States Bishops’ testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee submitted in January.)

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration. Although the proposed legislation exempts hunting and sporting firearms, it faces stiff opposition in Congress.

The proposed Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 ends the manufacture, sale, transfer and import of all military-style assault rifles except those used by the military and law enforcement. As an incentive to lawmakers facing possible repercussions from constituents, the proposed ban excludes over 2,000 legitimate sporting rifles and guns. 

Legislators can point to the list and assure worried constituents that the government will not take away their favorite hunting rifle. (Read more about S. 150.)

Although there is significant public support for a ban on assault weapons, legislation will not be easy to pass. Powerful groups that contribute millions of dollars to some Senate campaigns will expect their chosen representative to vote “no” to any move banning guns.

The only way to convince these politicians to act in the public interest is for Americans from all walks of life to demand change by calling, writing and urging their senators to vote “yes” for the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.

If you believe that children should be able to live their dreams, then now is the time to act and protect all children from another Newtown school tragedy. Call or write to Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania for you and your family and in memory of 20 little dreamers.   


Elizabeth A. Madden is a resident of Havertown and a member of Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Bryn Mawr.