Kathleen Glueck, a grandmother from Cooper Lane, East Falmouth, did not know immediately what she could do, but she knew she had to do something to end gun violence in America.
On December 14, 2012, her grandson was hidden in a closet for an hour at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, while Adam Lanza killed 20 students and six staff.
She said that her daughter and son-in-law were lucky that he survived but their family helped bury five members of the Connecticut community, “a community forever changed,” and that she could not describe the heartache her family felt because it was too personal.
“This could have happened here. I think about the little North Falmouth School. Or the East Falmouth Elementary School. It could have happened anywhere in this country,” she said.
“We need to educate ourselves. We need to think critically,” she said. “If we do not come up with our own opinions, we’re just sitting back and letting these tragedies continue to happen.”
Ms. Glueck spoke last Thursday, June 19, at a meeting hosted by Cape Cod Grandmothers Against GunViolence, a grassroots group whose members state they are “committed to influencing public policy to bring about an America free from gun violence for our children and grandchildren.”
Approximately 50 attended the meeting at the Falmouth Public Library during which Police Chief Rodney C. Collins of the Mashpee Police Department, as well as Chief Edward A. Dunne and Captain Brian A. Reid of the Falmouth Police Department, spoke.
“We are tigers. We will never quit,” said Linda C. Alhart of Cummaquid, president and founding member of the grandmothers’ group. “We’re ferocious about our passion and we need to find common ground.”
Ms. Alhart said that she had a similar reaction as Ms. Glueck: she knew she had to do something to prevent gun violence, but was not sure what.
After the Newtown shooting, she wrote a letter to a local newspaper. Three weeks later, she said that her living room was full of like-minded grandmothers, concerned for the public health of their country.
The important message she said was the need to be non-partisan and said that she hoped others at the meeting would join their crusade. She said the group is not for taking away Second Amendment rights, but to restrict gun use.
“I respect the Constitution,” Chief Collins said. “However, we as a civilized society need a reality check. The ultimate question is: Can we do better?”
Chief Collins said that when he started in law enforcement 34 years ago, he never thought that he would be thinking, “Is it safe to enter a high school? Is it safe to enter a college campus?” he said. “Is it safe to enter an elementary school?”
“Regardless of which way you feel, I think intelligent, reasonable, rational people can think constructively whether or not magazine clips need to be regulated, or whether private sales need to be and should be regulated,” Chief Collins said.
Capt. Reid discussed Consent to Search, a new program the Falmouth department recently adopted. The program allows parents to report to police if they are concerned that their children might have illegal firearms in their home; police search the home for weapons and if any are found, no charges will be pressed and the firearms will be destroyed at the police station.
He said the program in Falmouth has not yielded a call yet, but he hopes to promote it more. He said there is no gun crisis on Cape Cod, but the program could help prevent another Sandy Hook shooting.
All 15 departments on the Cape, as well as Nantucket, have signed on to the consent to search program.
He said that progress is made at local events, such as this one, where police and the public work together to think outside the law-enforcement box.
The consent to search program started in St. Louis in the mid-1990s during a gun-violence crisis, Capt. Reid said. A local officer spoke during a community forum and said he knew children in the community who owned guns and wished he could ask them to turn them over. A woman in the audience came up to the officer after the talk and suggested that they knock on the doors of the children in hopes they would turn over their guns. The idea worked, Capt. Reid said, and the program was a success.
The program creates trust between a community and the police department, Capt. Reid said, an important aspect.
Chief Dunne spoke about other programs the Falmouth department has undertaken in order to prevent gun violence. He said the department last year helped coordinate a gun buy-back at the John Wesley United Methodist Church, during which residents turned in 206 rifles, shotguns and pistols in exchange for gift cards to area businesses.
He also spoke about the lockdown training at local schools that two officers in the department have been trained to coordinate. “We take this very seriously, and so do the schools and so do the kids.”
He will offer the training program to the business community as well.
Grandmothers Against GunViolence members will continue to host similar events in the area. The group is open to all, and not just grandmothers.