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We could no longer afford to be sticks in the mud.

The echoes of school and other public massacres, coupled with a constant barrage of phony and real threats to Region school security, forced our parental hands.

We all should hope it prompts an even greater conversation and thoughtful reaction from our local, state and national leaders regarding the sanctity and safety of our children when we send them off to school each day.

For years, my wife and I held out against the pining of our twin teenage sons hell-bent on joining the smartphone craze.

Our home already resembled the video game and Blu Ray section of a Best Buy, with HD TVs, Playstation 4, Wii U and any number of hand-held electronic entertainment devices.

Why should we hand our children one more device to sink them further into the distracting e-haze of texting, streaming and gaming during vacations and family outings?

On some level, a concern for innocence lost also kept our resolve steady to hold out on smartphones for our teens.

Why would we provide yet another potential portal to the treacherous pitfalls of social media? After all, the dangers of cyber-bullying, sexting and countless other hazards are chronicled in headlines throughout all media platforms.

But in considering the pros and cons of buying mobile devices for our teens, a much greater danger added weight to the pro column.

How would we reach our children, or more importantly how could they reach us or emergency aid, if such dreaded tragedy struck at their school?

In the end, a little over a month before our freshman twins' 15th birthday, we armed them with a matching pair of iPhones last week.

For my family, it represents but one small piece of a bigger effort to arm our children, ourselves and greater society as best we can to counter scenarios like ones that already have played out in Columbine, Charleston, Vegas, Parkland and so many other locations forever stained in blood and tragedy.

These phones won't stop bullets. But communication is an essential tool in the midst and wake of chaotic crisis.

Beyond providing these information lifelines to our sons, Nolan and Connor, we've been having the same sort of important, if not uncomfortable, discussions with them about the societal ills leading to gunmen opening fire on innocents in schools and other public places.

The topics have been impossible to ignore.

One of their Crown Point High School classmates, a female senior they don't personally know, now faces felony charges for texting a bomb threat against the school last month.

An 18-year-old Griffith High School student faces felony charges for "forgetting" he had a fully loaded pistol in his pocket inside the school building.

A 15-year-old Portage High School Student was arrested Wednesday for allegedly threatening to "shoot up the school."

The local examples don't begin and won't end with these.

In the wake of all this, we've heard from our sons the most sobering of concerns.

There's a new sense of vulnerability with which most people of my generation — and those that came before me — never had to grapple.

Issues of bullying, cyber-bullying and peer pressure set aside, my children and their classmates have unavoidable images playing through their heads of being gunned down in school.

“Dad, this could happen here, and I’m not sure anyone could do much about it,” one of my sons told me during an in-town drive last week. “It just keeps happening, and we’re all vulnerable.”

That sentiment wasn't placed in my sons’ heads by Hollywood, video games or any fictional "entertainment" they'll see streaming on their new smartphones.

They've watched the news accounts, in some cases real time, of a grim reality that fiction could never match.

For the sake of our most important resource — our future — we must begin addressing ways of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

We must push into codified practice common sense gun laws.

We bought iPhones for our twins so we have an open line of communication with them, especially in times of emergency.

Our nation finds itself in emergent waters right now on many fronts, not the least of which is confronting mass shootings and developing real plans to curtail such future incidents.

In those stormy seas, open lines of communication — not fiery, partisan rhetoric — and measurable action are the only lifelines.

For the sake of our children, none of us can afford to be sticks in the mud.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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Local News Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.