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December 18th, 2012
11:21 PM ET

Seeking change in Newtown after mass shooting

Mental health, gun control and school safety are the topics dominating the conversation in Newtown, Connecticut, after 27 were killed there Friday morning.

Anderson Cooper talks with the former Chair of the Newtown Board of Education, Lillian Bittman, about the issues and creating a meaningful dialogue.

"That's what we need to do, is have that civil discourse so that we can find the solutions," says Bittman who participated in an online panel earlier in the day with others who have varying opinions regarding gun control. "We'll never get there if we can't talk to each other."

When Bittman attended the wake for one young victim, Daniel Barden, she received a note from Daniel's sister with the request that Anderson read it on-air. The message was intended for President Obama, who met with the family on Sunday. At the time, Natalie was too overwhelmed to ask the president a question. This is her note:

Natalie Barden's letter

It says:

"My name is Natalie Barden and I wanted to tell the president that only police officers and the military should get guns. If people want to do it as a sport than they could go to a shooting range and the guns would not be able to leave there."

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Damien L. Thomas

    The tragedy at New town, as disgusting as it is, is but one in a chain of events that all tell of American violence. I take issue in particular with what the media deems worthy of being tragic, though. Would this story still be at the top of the news and the agenda of Washington if that scenario had been in Brownsville Brooklyn, or was composed of a different 'class' of victim? This type of violence, with these types of weapons, happens in underprivileged communities on a regular basis but a smaller scale so that leaves me to wonder what makes one day and twenty souls more important than the last 35 or so years and countless victims of assault rifles all over america that it is suddenly a situation that we should and can rectify at all levels of our society?

    December 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  2. Morgan Thompson

    Natalie, when you are a little bit older you should read the words of another girl. It's about a society where only the police and military had powerful firearms. It's called "The Diary of Anne Frank".

    December 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  3. mark weston

    t ithink this is this is exactly what Germany does weapons are kept in an armory at the hunting shooting range

    December 20, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  4. Cindy Geras

    Very smart 10 year old girl. I agree with her.

    December 20, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  5. Stephen Friesen

    nice to see some wise leaders emerging, like Natalie Barden from Newtown USA.

    December 20, 2012 at 3:12 am |
  6. Linda cutler

    A parent in my church lost a young child in a tragic way. She was questioning her faith & ask, if God is so loving why did he take my child this way? The pastor told her she must rely on her faith as God has a plan for each of us. We may never understand but we must believe. He told her a tragic event can bring a family together, bring a community together or bring change. I believe we're witnesses this. There's no logic to these killings but it may be the start of changes this country needs.

    December 19, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  7. Peter Riek Giew

    the only solution to criminal acts is to stop giving guns to the civilian. let the guns remains in the hand of the army and police.

    December 19, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • DC

      And what makes you think that the criminals who use guns to hurt and kill others are going to be even remotely concerned about laws telling them they can't have a gun? All gun control does is take guns out of the hands of responsible citizens while the criminals do as they please. If even one teacher had carried a gun, all those children may have been saved.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Jon

      Like Mexico, guns are completely banned there, and there is no gun violence there right? oh wait, there is a whole bunch of gun violence, cause criminals dont care about laws and go get what they want.. its the law abiding citizen who is stripped of their ability to fight back with equal force.

      December 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  8. G. Mills

    Last night I watched this piece on CNN about the citizens of Newtown & how they’re seeking meaningful action to help with their healing. The woman being interviewed, Lillian Bittman, discussed the community’s undeniable need to create meaningful change out of their collective tragedy. She spoke about their civil discourse, how those who are pro-guns and those who favor abolishing them were able to have a civilized dialogue about change. I suspect there was little ranting about the NRA, or receiving god’s judgment, or outlawing guns, or giving everyone their own – just collective desire to make something good come out of something so horrible. She said it simply "We'll never get there if we can't talk to each other." It made me realize that those who experience unthinkable calamity become enlightened very quickly. The urgency for significant results becomes crystal clear. Societal ranting quickly fades into ineffective noise when transforming evil into good is the task at hand.

    The story made me wonder about the art of civility in our country, the enlightenment of empathy, the effort compromise requires and the power of working towards the common good. It seems all these traits have diminished in our society – until tragedy strikes. We seem to have more disdain for those who think or act differently than we do – until tragedy strikes. From politics to religion and every social issue in between we’ve become more concerned with self interests, or our party’s ideology, or our church’s position than the plight of our fellow citizens and our common good. Maybe it’s just too hard or maybe we’re just too lazy or maybe it’s just all too inconvenient. Perhaps this lack of civility is the root cause of the problems we face. We all can learn a lot from the people of Newtown – if we listen.

    December 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  9. Brian Skafas

    Yah right, arm the teachers! Why don't we just erect guard towers? What about posting school Marshalls with retired police and Army personnel!

    December 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • Dennis Jones

      Brian, sounds like a good idea to me, or maybe something could be done like they do in hospitals, volunteer retiree's with the credentials to be in the schools to help ease the cost, and the rewards for the person doing it, and some safety would be in place., it would be at least something., I just think not only the schools, but everything else is going to get a lot worse in the future., things will never be like the 1950's again, where you trusted everyone, left keys in cars, doors unlocked, hell, , I live alone, in a nice neighborhood, but i have to lock up my house every time I mow the grass, some of my family call it paranoid, i call it reality.Here in my town, Springfield Illinois, a woman was brutally murdered, stabbed to death, a few years ago, from just some random man that had crossed her back yard cause she was the only one that did'nt have a fence, the guy just walked in to help himself to robbing her, caught her off guard, panicked, and killed her., maybe if she had a fence, that may have saved her, but i take no chances, iam aware at all times, as much as i can be., brian, thanks for reading, have a good nite, sincerely Dennis Jones.

      December 19, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Jon

      i like your idea, but i believe, as part of school curriculum, you should have all the kids go through gun training, starting with preschool. early onset education with help them understand not to eff with them if you have no use, and perhaps how to use it if you have to.

      December 21, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  10. stevie

    Change the Ammunition.

    Make the 1/4 billion guns for self defence not for killing.

    Since the ammunition can be fired at a more rapid pace, the bullet does not have to be deadly to be effective.

    It can be non metal. It was all about self defence. Not killing.

    Regulate the amount of ammunition. Have a recycled casing that must be redeemed for more ammunition to prevent stockpiling.

    December 19, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Pegi

      While I myself would not own a gun, I understand the interest as a means of sport or hunting, or even self-defense. I do not know why, we as a nation need assault weapons, and I certainly don't understand why it is ok to have "clips" that hold more than 8-10 rounds at a time. I have read all the comments from a great many sources and I think that yours is one of the more thoughtful and logical I have read, and as a non-gun person I appreciate another point-of-view I had not considered.

      December 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  11. Elaine Welch

    I would like to see a panel of respected officials, on the level of George Mitchell, convene a panel to redefine "gun" and "weapon of mass destruction". Does an assault weapon needs to be redefined as a weapon of MASS DESTRUCTION. Surely that puts the matter in proper perspective. Do I have a right for example to keep mustard gas in my fridge....I hope not.

    December 19, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  12. LauraB

    Great letter Natalie!

    December 19, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  13. Henry Yu

    Anderson, I applaud you for not discussing the murderer. He does not deserve out attention. I want to hear more about all 26 of the families. Thank you.

    December 18, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  14. fdemelo

    I would like someone to look into the connection of name "Hurricane Sandy" and "Sandy Hook". Perhaps, the name "Sandy" stood out to the crazy shooter and in his warped mind, he thought that he would bring attention to his town by murdering so many children. He knew the name was familiar and it was his opportunity for the rest of us to always remember.

    December 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm |