Can we prevent a Sandy Hook massacre?

By Skip Ferderber | Apr 24, 2013

Newtown, Conn. and Mukilteo have much in common. Both share a sense of history – their roots go back respectively to 1705 and 1858 – both are scenic and affluent communities, and have populations in the 20,000 range. Both are ideal places to live and bring up families.

And both communities thought they were safe places to live. Newtown found out otherwise with the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Dec. 14.

If it can happen there, it can happen here in Mukilteo – or in any other American town. No community can afford to live in a fool’s paradise, not any more. Not being part of the urban landscape, having a good police force and a low crime rate insures us nothing.

The Newtown tragedy must be a wakeup call for every community to re-think what we need to do to keep our kids safe. Parents of the Sandy Hook children said it better recently on 60 Minutes:

Some will object vehemently to discussing the possibility that our schools or our kids could become a potential target of a madman. Newtown has ripped away any illusion that we can be safe merely by avoiding talking about it.

I don’t have children but I did have a father who was murdered, on Jan. 25, 1982, when the hand of God poked through a screen door of my father’s Florida retirement home and shot him dead: a random senseless killing, one of 12 the killer committed in an equally senseless fashion (

The issue here is not about guns, assault weapons or magazine clips. Newtown put an end to the conceit that just banning weapons has any affect at all.

Stronger gun buyer background checks are a good idea, a good consciousness-raiser, but it doesn’t translate into anything that will keep a heavily armed Satan from smashing through flimsy defenses and unloading his weapons wherever and on whomever he chooses.

Based on the ongoing national angst over any infringement of our Second Amendment rights, the likelihood of any gun-related legislation in Mukilteo is at best improbable.

So what’s to be done? What new thinking can we employ in our community that gives us any chance of avoiding a Sandy Hook-like killing field in our town?

We need to do the one thing that Mukilteo and most towns these days do all too rarely: react as a total community.

We need to find ways to talk to each other about people in trouble, kids in trouble: people we think and/or believe that live terribly isolated lives, potential human powder kegs that can and do explode and have easy access to weapons.

We need to show our concern and follow our instincts when we know someone or something isn’t . . . right. Is it an invasion of privacy to look into these situations, or is it good citizenship?

After Sandy Hook, and the many other recent incidents of isolated people doing horrible things, can we afford to close our eyes and not act when we know we should?

A mechanism, for starters, might be an anonymous hot line, sponsored and promoted by the city, and manned on a volunteer basis by some of our area’s psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists.

It would require participation by our police department, schools, churches and others to review incoming reports and see if anyone out there is on a path to some form of madness and intervening, on a one-to-one personal level – with the option of using whatever legal and/or medical resources we have at our disposal.

Is this solution too broad an idea, you say? Too amorphous? Unworkable? Then I invite you to suggest a better way.

There is no guarantee that our heightened awareness, as earnest as it might be, can help prevent something reprehensible from happening.

“Columbine,” the chilling book account of the 1999 Columbine High School murders written by Dave Cullen, is a virtual user’s manual of how even the closest scrutiny may not prevent someone from committing mass murder.

But we must try. We have to try. Because if we don’t, and something happens here, and we know we needed to do something and didn’t, we will also bear some of the responsibility for a horror we could have helped avoid, and never lifted a finger to prevent.

I hope this opens the door to further discussion in these pages and at City Hall.

Skip Ferderber is a concerned Mukilteo resident who asks if the community can prevent a Sandy Hook massacre from happening in Mukilteo. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he writes for Alaska Airlines Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine and other outlets.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.