After a moment of silence, Mayor Halverson addressed the City Council and the community regarding the Sandy Hook School shooting, its effects on him personally and on us all, and steps that should be taken nationwide to avoid such events in the future.
"Steps were taken immediately on Friday, with the School District and University, to go over protocols and procedures in order to use this as an opportunity to exercise prudence and readiness for the potential of an incident here," Mayor Halverson stated.
"Words cannot begin to describe the pain that must be felt by the family members and friends of the victims of this unspeakable act. Certainly this event hit much closer to home for me as the husband of an elementary school teacher and the father of a six year old boy the same age and grade of those killed. I watched the photos of those children so abruptly taken from us and tried to think about how I would react, rationalize, and simply deal with watching CNN and seeing the face of my wife, or my son on national television now dead from a senseless shooting - not just a shooting, but one of a size, scale, and scope that this country has never seen before. We have now witnessed a society rocked by something that we can’t seem to explain; yet see happening with an ever increasing frequency. Is this finally a step gone too far where the country will simply accept no more? I certainly hope so" he said.
"But we as a Country have to have the courage to start addressing the obvious issues here. In my opinion there are many of those issues, but three are crystal clear: Guns, Mental Health, and Societal Desensitizing of violence."
"We still live in world where, after so much information sharing, mental health issues are scoffed at; or we allow society to implement a stigma associated with true and real physical, physiological, and psychological aliments that need attention. Somehow people that are fighting these battles we quickly discredit them, label them as unfit, and less of a person by innuendo or direct action. Society tells us to do that, and we listen. In addition, we have let our school systems break down the counseling children need at a young age, which allows these concerns to go unchecked for years until individuals have no logical control over mental aliments that have gone untreated, or worse, mistreated and or misdiagnosed due to lack of attention."
"At the same time, we create, through billions of dollars of investment nationally, recreational outlets that don’t sooth or relax us (children and adults alike) but enrage and desensitize us to acts that I won’t even attempt to label as immoral (as that’s subjective) - how about un-human, or better yet unnatural for species preservation. Death, killing, maiming, is set on a pedestal in our country, and rewarded through mass media, the film industry, and gaming."
The Mayor continued, "Look at the release of Call of Duty, for of all times of the year - Christmas. It was the largest release of any game in history; yet at the same time unbelievably violent and focusing exclusively on war. The vast majority of the most profitable games over the years are rated M for mature or worse yet NC 17 which has just found its way into the Apple Appstore for the first time, for a game app called 'Amateur Surgeon' or 'Oops I killed a homeless person,' - mocking again that human life doesn’t matter regardless of form, situation, or lifestyle. This is a very poor display of what we are seemingly prioritizing, knowingly or unknowingly, as a country."
"Daily barrages of this kind of violence and graphic displays of un-human acts concern me a great deal, so much so, my fear is that we have collectively crossed the Rubicon towards acceptance of it - and I am not ready to do that. We leave mental concerns go unchecked and labeled, we let violence define pop culture, and we let all of this happen within an arms length of guns at every turn. We will hear the argument that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Yes people kill people, but we let guns enter our world too easily and without proper training, and societal checks to keep people from reaching for those very guns to try and solve, in their mind, god knows what they can no longer deal with. President Obama didn’t use the word 'gun' in his remarks last night, but I will, and encourage him to do the same from here forward."
"I am a gun owner: I enjoy guns and I enjoy shooting them as do many of my family and friends," the Mayor said. "However, when are politicians going to be willing hold the NRA in abeyance in order to - at a minimum - engage in real dialogue about taking steps to have some level of gun control that is meaningful in this country? I took a stance once with Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) to help law enforcement, by their request, to be able to track guns used in crimes across state lines more easily. I was rewarded for my efforts by the NRA engaging in a postcard scare campaign against me, sent to every member they had in all of Central Wisconsin, not just in the City of Stevens Point. The NRA must accept the need for a middle ground on this issue. Law enforcement is out gunned, and see the increasing levels of guns on our streets here in Stevens Point and nationwide. Assault weapons, 15-30 round clips for semi-automatic rifles or pistols, even allowing fully automatic rifles with permits must be a part of what we start talking about. Each side has their own opinions and we need to work through those. Most importantly, this must happen and I so strongly suggest that Sandy Hook be the catalyst for a national debate to begin about all of these issues: guns, mental health, and societal desensitizing towards violence."
"In my opinion, you cannot address the root cause of Sandy Hook without looking at the aforementioned multiple issues, and we all know and understand they can’t change overnight, but we must start somewhere."
"We have gone wrong as parents, nationally, by not trying harder to instill 'right' and 'wrong' in our children and leading by example. We have gone wrong as a country by letting violence and materialism, sometimes materialism through violence, be what defines acceptance of pop culture. We have gone wrong as a country letting the most vulnerable of us and the most innocent and pure be effected by something so horrible. Lastly, we have gone severely wrong as a country by letting one special interest group define guns as black or white, up or down, in or out, and a litmus test for many of our votes."
The Mayor concluded, "There are multiples ways we can find a middle ground, and we must, in order to never let again the last cohort of our society who are still innocent towards all things, stay that way for as long as humanly possible. We need to know that our children can be free to be children and not live in fear. Our children deserve our action and time is of the essence."