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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Filler: To prevent another Sandy Hook, start at home

Candles line a sidewalk memorial in honor of

Candles line a sidewalk memorial in honor of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 18, 2012) Credit: AP

We don't need to wait for a whole bunch of new laws to do something about the violence in our society. We can, even without Washington's help (or interference, depending on how you look at it) take steps to make the world a better, safer place.

Adam Lanza's killing spree last week was among the most heart-wrenching, fear-inducing events in recent memory. In its wake, we are all searching for ways to prevent such tragedies from ever again tearing into the nation's heart.

Are new laws the answer? Maybe, partially, in some cases. But they won't pass quickly, or be enforced perfectly, or erase the need for personal responsibility, community responsibility, and values like love and respect for the sacred nature of human lives in our children.

The first answer lies in me.

I don't need laws curtailing gun ownership to make certain there are no high-powered military-style rifles in my home. Ditto huge ammunition clips and "cop killer" armor-piercing bullets. I would, though I support the Second Amendment, favor such laws as reasonable restrictions. But they aren't necessary to police my home. Personal responsibility is enough.

Then there are the weapons you can pretty much guarantee won't be federally restricted: revolvers, shotguns and traditional rifles. It's my job to see that they're not in my home, or if they are, that it's absolutely impossible for anyone other than me to access them. If I can't secure them that well, I cannot morally possess them.

Along with demands for these laws have come cries that we must expand and improve the treatment of mental illness. I'm all for that, although I'm not certain how much it would prevent these killing sprees, or how exactly it would work.

Regardless, I have a responsibility to monitor closely the mental state of family, friends, co-workers and even myself. And I must say something, and do something, if I have even the slightest inkling that the potential for violence exists.

That's not to say Lanza's parents had any great, obvious options. I'm not blaming them for their son's actions. But just because they're not to blame doesn't mean he wasn't their responsibility. How far, in hindsight, should they or anyone else who knew that young man have been willing to go to rein him in? That's how far I have to be willing to go, if I suspect someone in my life is headed down Lanza's path.

Any law passed to try to bring to heel the mentally ill before they become violent will still need this commitment from others to work.

Last of all, as a parent, I must create in my child a person who is full of love, respect, kindness, compassion and awareness of the precious nature of life. This is, since I became a parent, the prime directive of my existence and the biggest responsibility I have as a member of society: to raise a child, and create an adult, who will be a net benefit to the world, who will make it better rather than worse.

I understand that can be hard. There were times, looking at my daughter when she was 6 or even 9, when I thought: "She hasn't changed a bit in her basic nature since the day she was born." Sometimes it seemed that the "nature" aspect of her personality was nearly all of her. But as she's gotten older -- she's now 11 -- I've seen more of the effect my wife and I have on her. I've seen more nurture play out.

I get that the parents of these killers, in Newtown and Aurora and Columbine and every other place where a punk killed innocents with a gun, faced challenges I can't imagine. But that doesn't relieve them of their primary responsibility to society. And neither would a bunch more laws.

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.