Like most every American, I am horrified and saddened by the brutal and senseless killings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Our horror is multiplied because so many of the victims were young children. My heart, my prayers, and my blessings are with the families of the victims and all who have been traumatized by this act of terror. I can’t imagine the anguish of the parents and grandparents who will never again hug their children tightly to their chests.
If history is any indication, this story will be in the headlines for a few more days before it begins to fade. What won’t make the headlines are the deaths of an average of eight children every single day as a result of gun violence in the United States.
Like most every American, I’ve thought a lot about this horrible tragedy as more information has emerged. I’ve read, and participated in, discussions on Facebook that often devolve into arguments about the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Several of my friends, and many people I don’t know, have written things like “Don’t blame the gun…” “Guns don’t kill people..” “If teachers had been armed…”
These arguments are bull***t.
In the face of clear and present danger, the United States takes decisive action regarding almost everything except guns.
One passenger’s inept and unsuccessful attempt to blow up an airplane with a shoe bomb in 2001 resulted in the requirement that 800 million airline passengers flying to, from, or within the United States annually must remove our shoes for inspection. One terrorist plot to blow up an airplane in 2006 with liquid explosives means we can no longer carry 4 ounces of shampoo in our carry-on luggage.
Federal and State mandates requiring seatbelt use in automobiles came about as a result of studies indicating deaths could be prevented. Regulations governing the elimination of toxic ingredients in toys are accepted as a reasonable safeguard for children. Elimination of lead in gasoline and paint has been required in order to reduce health risks.
The United States regulates hair dryers, pacifiers, epoxy, asbestos, garage door openers, carpets, ink, bunk beds, kites, drugs, fireworks, and hundreds of other items and activities more thoroughly, and with better results, than we regulate guns.
The fact is, in thirty-three states, individuals can purchase guns, including automatic weapons, at gun shows without a background check. Al Qaeda encourages jihadists in America to do just that (watch here).
This is insane.
As Marian Wright Edelman points out in “Dear God! When Will It Stop?” (I highly recommend you read Edelman’s wise commentary – it will only take a few minutes):
“Since 1979 when gun death data were first collected by age, a shocking 119,079 children and teens have been killed by gun violence. That is more child and youth deaths in America than American battle deaths in World War I (53,402) or in Vietnam (47,434) or in the Korean War (33,739) or in the Iraq War (3,517). Where is our anti-war movement to protect children from pervasive gun violence here at home?”
Bill Moyers’ spoke about “Living Under the Gun” shortly after the mass murders at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado (I strongly urge my readers to watch Moyers’ commentary; five minutes of strong opinion with which I fully concur):
“We are fooling ourselves. That the law could allow even an inflamed lunatic to easily acquire murderous weapons and not expect murderous consequences. Fooling ourselves that the second amendment’s guarantee of a “well-regulated militia” be construed as a God-given right to purchase and own just about any weapon of destruction you like. That’s a license for murder and mayhem and it’s a great fraud that has entered our history.”
It is long past time for our political leaders to take decisive action; to prioritize the protection of American citizens over the millions of lobbying dollars invested by the NRA. It is long past time that we prioritize the protection of our children over guns.
The Children’s Defense Fund lists several actions (read them all here) we can take in our own lives and as advocates with our political leaders. They include 1) remove guns from our homes, 2) support common-sense gun safety measures for our nation (including closing the “gun show loophole” – no one should be able to purchase a gun without strict regulation – and reinstating the assault weapon ban), 3) boycott products that glamorize violence, 4) focus attention on the number of children injured and killed by gun violence.
We can make a difference if we don’t just let this moment fade as we did after the mass deaths at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Aurora.
Like most every American on Friday, I hugged the children in my life more tightly to my chest, and for a few moments longer, than normal. As every parent and grandparent does, I pray I will always be able to do so.
(PS: I have shared my views regarding the urgent need for gun control/safety regulations with both of my U.S. Senators and my U.S. Congressman. I encourage all my readers to take a few minutes to contact yours as well.)