It was nearly a year ago that the nation was horrified by the mass murder of 20 young children and six adult staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The event, so shocking and appalling, stirred a nation’s emotions about the scourge of gun violence, which has become an epidemic that is singularly prevalent in the United States.
The Sandy Hook murders were horrifying on so many levels. It was the randomness of Adam Lanza’s madness and the trauma it inflicted on so many innocent people. It was the realization that no one is safe from such madness. This event, the second deadliest mass school shooting by a single person in American history after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, exposed a deep-seated American problem.
But the event at Newtown opened up a great deal of national self-searching. It created a moment of intense national reflection, followed by a discussion about gun violence and gun control laws in the United States. That discussion expanded the national dialogue about gun violence in all its horrendous locales, including urban America. It led to a national focus being placed on cities, principally Chicago, where a young honors student was gunned down in a playground a week after performing at President Obama's inauguration.
At the same time, it provided a rare platform for the National Rifle Association to expose itself for the heavy-handed, tone-deaf organization it is, a group dedicated to absurdity of ensuring that firearms are as widely available as humanely possible.
Guns are not the problem, stated Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the NRA a few weeks after the slaughter at Newtown. It’s the people who use them. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
The president spoke forcefully about the need to control access to firearms. Community groups, parents and others lent their voices to the national discussion.
But a year later, what has really been the result of all that national discussion? Sadly, not nearly enough.
Not long after the massacre, President Obama proposed a number of common sense gun control measures, including universal background checks on firearm purchases, a ban on assault weapons and a limit of no more than 10 cartridge firearm magazines. Family members of the victims came to Washington and offered emotional testimony of the importance of passing the legislation.
But the bill on background checks failed to pass the United States Senate by six votes. The president called the result of the Senate vote “shameful.”
Yet, some progress is being made, at least on the state level in some areas of the country. The Brady Campaign produced a report that indicated that 21 states have enacted new laws to deter gun violence.
“A year ago, not only were we swimming unsuccessfully against the tide of these dangerous laws, there really wasn’t much hope at all that people felt in terms of passing meaningful laws that would actually save lives,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign.
While there are some rays of hope on the landscape, there still aren't enough. One can hope that the nation’s voters will elect new Congress members who will live up to the task of protecting its citizens.
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