This guest essay was written by Gun Sense Chester County member Barbara Gall Sheehan.  She read excerpts of the essay at our recent event, Remembrance — 5th Anniversary of the Tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

 By Barbara Gall Sheehan

If only….I was sick that day

If only… I had missed the bus

If only…I was better at hiding

If only…I could run faster

If only…my teacher was a super hero

If only…my Dad was there to protect me

If only…I was invisible

If only…he didn’t have a GUN

Whether you are pro-gun, anti-gun or somewhere in between, we all can agree that guns in the wrong hands have tragic consequences and there is no harsher example than Sandy Hook.

Five years ago, our nation was shaken to its core when the unthinkable happened in a Connecticut elementary school.  Just two weeks before Christmas and during morning announcements, a 20-year-old man wearing combat gear defeated the front door security system in a hail of semi-automatic gunfire.

Moments later, he killed the principal and school psychologist before unleashing his terror on 20 innocent six and seven year old children and four other school personnel.  He ended the melee with his own life.  In the span of seven minutes, 26 beautiful lives were lost.  A 27th victim, the shooter’s mother, was found later that day.  She was shot with a gun she had legally purchased while she slept in her bed.

As the investigation unfolded a profile emerged of a disturbed young man obsessed with mass shootings.  Four years earlier, he threatened to execute the exact act he later carried out at Sandy Hook.  Local law enforcement investigated but because no laws had been broken, nothing could be done despite his known access to multiple guns including semi-automatics.

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, we hoped and prayed that Congress would enact new, common sense laws to protect us from future tragedies like this.  Yet nothing has happened and the profound lack of trying is staggering.

One after another the shooting sprees continue as more Americans are killed and maimed while living their normal lives at church, on the baseball field, at work, attending concerts, at nightclubs, in shopping malls, at movie theaters, in airports, and on college campuses.

More and more safety is on our minds as we learn to expect the unexpected in places that should feel safe.  So when is enough, enough?

We need our elected officials to be brave and act with the selflessness, integrity and courage that we expect and deserve.  We put our trust in them to represent us.  They must step up and do their job or we must elect those who will.

This does not mean taking away guns or the gun rights of law-abiding citizens. What it does mean is taking a sensible first step like closing the loopholes and instituting universal background checks, an idea supported by nine in ten Americans and three-quarters of NRA members.

If there’s hope, it’s that the public is increasingly fed up.  In November the electorate spoke loudly and clearly in Virginia, electing new representatives with the courage and willingness to act sensibly on this issue.

When mass shootings are happening so often that they have become commonplace, the American way of life is under attack.  We are no longer the land of the free, and the home of the brave if citizens are shot in church and Congress lacks the bravery to act.  This is not the America that I grew up in.  I pray for the sake of our children and theirs that we can reverse this course.

I ask you…do you feel safe and free?  Are you more worried than usual that something awful might happen?  If so, please listen to that voice inside you and speak up.  You have more power than you might think.  And doing nothing is just that — it’s nothing — and it is tempting fate.

If we all put an oar in the water and row together we can make America safe again.  It only takes a few minutes to call or email your lawmakers.  On Election Day choose candidates who advocate for common sense gun regulation and make that your top priority.

After all, public safety should be our top priority, right?

Let’s work together and do something so we are not left haunted by the thought…

If only I spoke up…

If only I called my lawmakers…

If only I compromised…

If only I did something…this might not have happened again.


Ready to help? Gun Sense Chester County needs volunteers to continue to fuel our growth. Please email if you are willing to help.  Our needs range from one hour of volunteer time (such as staffing a table at a local event) to ongoing roles.  We have a need that will match with your interest and availability!