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Harford council members try to put Newton, Conn., shooting in perspective

ChinaGun ControlSandy Hook Elementary SchoolInterior PolicyPersonal Weapon Control

The mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was fresh in the minds of Harford County Council members, who wore green ribbons at their meeting Tuesday in honor of the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Councilman Dick Slutzky led a moment of silence at the start of the meeting. Several council members also spoke about the tragedy, with Councilman Dion Guthrie urging a new push for metal detectors in all schools, especially elementary schools.

"Everybody wants to talk a lot about people doing something, make laws, make gun laws," he said. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

He warned that county leaders should take action "unless we want to join the ranks of all these incidents that have happened."

He also said broken families are part of the problem, noting "this boy [the Newtown shooter] was from a broken home."

Councilman Joe Woods said maybe legislators should focus more on social issues and make sure counselors are available in all schools.

"We're not taking care of the people that need the mental health. We're putting them into the system faster and they get cycled through the jail and we're trying to help them there as much as possible, but when their time is up, they go back into the street," he said, but added Harford County is as prepared as it possibly can be for a scenario like Newtown's.

McMahan said such incidents are not limited to the U.S., pointing out a knife attack in China the same day as the Newtown shooting in which a man attacked 22 elementary school children. No one was killed in the China incident.

McMahan said, however: "It is not the particular tool that is chosen but the make-up of the attacker. Our society and culture must address this to stop the likelihood of future carnage."

Councilman Chad Shrodes said the event is "just extremely difficult" during the holiday season especially, and Lisanti said she believes the country has to fight evil by shining light into darkness and by fighting violence with "peace and love and forgiveness."

"I think as a nation we're really trying to get our heads around and understand this really unthinkable act of violence," she said of Newtown.

Ryan Burbey, president of Harford County Education Association, told the council metal detectors will not solve the problem because his understanding was the Newtown shooter snuck into the building. (Connecticut law enforcement said he shot his way into the school.)

He said such incidents are not new, citing a rash of suicides when he was in high school and telling the story of one "very disturbed person" in his class who was ultimately found to have pipe bombs in his trunk and a gun in his locker.

Council President Billy Boniface, who noted it has been six months since the death of his 20-year-old son Ben, talked about what Christmas means to him, displaying a small baby Jesus on the dais in imitation of McMahan's display of a menorah and Christmas tree on the dais at the last meeting.

"This is a Christmas that's kind of different because I won't have my entire family with me, at least not physically," he said.

"Although we had a horrific tragedy take place, we can't let evil win and ruin Christmas because that Christmas spirit is very important," he said, adding it is a "pretty awesome thing" that "God actually sent his only son" for us.

"When we let evil in and take over and put everyone's damper on that, let's remember what the true meaning of Christmas is. As far as me, being a Catholic, it means a great deal," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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