It has long been fashionable in some quarters to disparage all public workers as overpaid and entitled squanders of tax dollars, although the defeat of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney last month may signal a winding down of this simplistic tripe. It is possible to disagree with some demands of public unions while still acknowledging the important roles these workers play in our society. Tragically, in recent weeks we have seen their heroism in action as well.
Along with the 20 children slaughtered by a deranged gunman in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14 were six adults who tried to save them and succeeded in protecting many. They were Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung, school Psychologist Mary Sherlach, Behavioral Therapist Rachel D’Vino and teachers Anne Marie Murphy, Victoria Soto and Lauren Rousseau. None of them were in education because of the big money. They were there to make a difference in children’s lives, and they did.
FEMA workers, police officers and firefighters are seen by some antigovernment fanatics as the front line troops of intrusive big government, and maybe that is what the pathetic William Spengler thought when he set fire to his house in Webster, N.Y. Christmas Eve and ambushed firefighters when they arrived, killing two. Firefighters know that they will at some point be required to put their lives on the line, but they cannot anticipate being ambushed by a gunman and there is no way to prepare for it.
Both Mr. Spengler and Adam Lanza in Newtown employed the same weapon of choice, a military-style, .223-caliber semiautomatic Bushmaster rifle, which is designed to quickly and efficiently inflict devastating injuries. There is no reason for it to be purchased by or sold to a sane person, and if Congress has any courage or sense of responsibility, this gun and its ilk will be banned in 2013.
It will be too late to save the lives of these public servants but this ban will prevent the deaths of many others. The incidents in Newtown and Webster should bring some government bashers up short before they disparage the teachers, firefighters and other public workers who contribute so much to our communities.