I am a conflicted American citizen. My husband is an expert marksman. He was a sharp shooter while in the Marines and served as the Firearms Instructor for his police department for 18 years. My brother is a responsible adult who finds enjoyment in target shooting, researching his guns and follows the rules that apply to our state when purchasing his weapons. My sister, brother-in-law and nephews all enjoy family time at the range. My nephew has received rifles as birthday presents, and my own daughter, while visiting them in Arizona, blew everyone’s minds with her natural skill at shooting. She had never before touched an actual gun, yet now holds the nickname of “Sniper Lee”.

However, I am the mom that loathes weapons. I have argued on MANY occasions with my husband about getting the kids anything gun related, from paintball guns to AirSoft guns to even water guns. I firmly believe that the casual nature of “first person shooter” games and the like, desensitize a young, easily influenced mind to the consequences of shooting an actual weapon and the repercussions that follow. You can show me all the scientific research to the contrary, but I feel how I feel. And nothing will change that.

I acknowledge our “right to bear arms” and know that our constitution dictates that we, as Americans should be able to protect ourselves and pursue the act of hunting, collecting and shooting guns as a healthy, responsible pastime. But how do we balance safety with rights? From what I have gathered, the damaged young soul who is responsible for Friday’s tragedy was psychologically challenged. He was most likely, on his own, never going to be able to legally own a gun based on his mental health. That’s great. But his mother legally purchased weapons. And he had access to them. Now what? How do we get around THAT? Should the mother, God rest her poor soul, have been denied the ability to own weapons because of the liability she posed? And that’s just the one of MANY layers of “what if’s” that mires this extraordinarily important issue in a seemingly never ending Catch 22.

I’m not arguing anyone’s side. I’m not educated as to the laws as they pertain to each and every state. Nor am I playing a shithouse lawyer. I’m simply trying to process this situation and figure out how I feel about “gun control” as a whole. I’m a mom trying to tell my kids they will be safe in a world that seems to be anything but.

As a resident of Toms River, NJ we recently dealt with the devastating SuperStorm Sandy. We had no power for two weeks. Our town was a war zone. Hell, our entire Coast.. and some places STILL are… Our property was damaged, flooded and essentially trashed. We watched, wrapped in each other’s arms, as trees fell like toothpicks on our neighbors houses leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. We were terrified for our lives as the storm hit. But nature has no laws. Gale force winds aren’t driven by a psychological “glitch”. Mother Nature isn’t a democrat or a republican that argues an issue on principal. We LITERALLY have no control over such acts of nature.

I was able to help my children process this tragedy by taking them to volunteer at shelters, donating a truckload of toys to kids who called home a high school classroom and a cot. I had the kids help friends and strangers clean up, repair or replace. I hugged them as they cried for friends’ whose homes literally disappeared. I wiped their tears and promised them we are “Jersey Strong” and we will rebuild bigger and better. And so the healing began, and continues to.

But this… THIS… is no act of nature. And we aren’t powerless to this. It may FEEL like we are. But somewhere, somehow we have to figure out how to protect our children from ourselves and our chest thumping, principal arguing, “rights” demanding selves. That young man, who I shall not refer to by name, is not to blame. WE ARE. We, as those same Americans who scream for our freedom and rights and equality, are the ones with blood on our hands. We let those children down. We abandoned those women who bravely gave their lives trying to save those precious angles. And yes.. we failed that mentally ill gunman and his mother. We need to decide that protecting our future presidents, musicians, doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, clergy, military, public service and every other possible thing that every one of those children COULD have and SHOULD have grown up to be, is BY FAR more valuable and worth protecting than some ink put to paper on December 15, 1791.