• Nancy Dafoe

Did We Give Up Reason After Sandy Hook?

Something has to change in this physically beautiful land of ours.

On December 12, 2012, 20 little kids (mostly 5 and 6-year-old children) at Sandy Hook Elementary School were horrifically murdered along with their teachers by one 20-year-old angry man with his Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. This butchery of children barely old enough to go to school defied belief, but their parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives knew, had to know this horror happened to them, to their communities, and would forever alter their lives. The nation cried out, "that's enough. No more." President Obama, with tears in his eyes, spoke powerfully about the need to change our gun laws: "As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."

Did those heartfelt, reasonable words move the nation to conversations about changes to our gun laws? Yes, but in the wrong direction. More states, including Texas, enacted laws to permit open carry, so those with weaponry could roam the streets of their cities and towns to further intimidate. It moved state legislatures to enact laws making it even easier to obtain weapons of mass destruction--and that is what an AR-15 is.

There were many impassioned, well-reasoned speeches that followed then President Obama's, and all of those well-meaning words did not move a single Republican Senator or Republican person serving in Congress. It was clear after Sandy Hook, just as it was clear after the slaughter of innocents grocery shopping in Buffalo, New York barely a couple of weeks ago, just as it is obvious after the devastating butchery of children in school again, this time in Texas, the other day, that the gun manufacturing industry, specifically the AR-15, can easily buy the consciences of not just men (and some loud women legislators) but, it would seem, a nation.

Did we give up reason after Sandy Hook? Those children's parents never did, but the nation settled back into dismissing "just another mentally ill young man." Except the difference between our American mentally ill young men and those the world over is that angry American young men have easy access to the AR-15 and other military style weaponry.

What were people asking for after Sandy Hook, after the murder of kids and parents in a movie theater in Colorado, after a concert in Vegas, after a morning at Parkland High School, after and after and after--just one more mass murder? We are asking for the gun industry's stranglehold on reason, on legislators to end. No one--not one single Democrat took away a hunter's gun.

Perhaps the answer is about money. “The ability of the industry to use money to advance its policy agenda has increased given the dramatic rise in firearm sales that we’ve seen over the last two or three years,” said Timothy D. Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University (Washington Post, 5/28/22, by Isaac Stanley Becker). If we enacted legislation that did not permit dark, unregulated money contributions to campaigns? If we enacted legislation that did not permit gun manufacturers and the NRA to line the pockets of our "representatives," imagine how they might be tempted at least to vote for their constituents and their consciences? Imagine if we save a life or two or 20 little kids in an elementary school?

Is it even still possible to inject reason into a divide so deep in America that nearly half our voting population sees the other half of their countrymen and women as the sworn enemy? Even attempting to bring up reasonable measures such as background checks or no sales to persons on a terrorist watch list is met with hostility. Defending not some poorly written (and Constitutional experts will agree) Second Amendment which was written about militias and muskets in the time of a barely formed new government but, rather, defending the "right" to own any weapon for any reason, resulting in approximately 45,220-Americans dead by the gun in one year--2020. The year 2022 is well on track to beat our new record.

Are we really fine with wiping out the equivalent of a small city in the United States every single year now in order to give gun hobbyists and the gun industry free reign to terrorize everyone else? Why IS there an open carry law that threatens every single person in sight? Why is someone on a terrorist watch list allowed to buy a semi-automatic rifle? Why does anyone outside of the military need an AR-15? Certainly not for target practice. Such a weapon merely obliterates the target. To make small men feel bigger? To make angry men feel more powerful? Well, there's the rub.

Do not attack this writer with personal insults and threats because I have the audacity to be outraged by this mass killing again and again and again. I am asking questions that all Americans should be asking of themselves first and then their "representatives" in Congress and the Senate, in their state and Federal legislative bodies next. Why? What are we doing wrong?

Why are our legislators more beholden to the gun manufacturing industry than all of their constituents combined? It is simply an equation of money and a system so corrupted (thank the Supreme Court for that dark money decision Citizens United, too) that logic and reason no longer holds any sway with the people running the country. Why listen to constituents when millions of dollars flow into their deep pockets from lobbyists?

We are, however, not yet completely powerless (although it often feels that way). If everyone of us who knows this system is wrong decided to do something about it, decided to vote only for candidates willing to do something about gun violence in this country, we would all win. If we all decided that dark money would no longer buy our legislators, then we could vote for candidates who refused lobbyists' money. This information is easily accessible, too.

The choice is still with you, at least for a little while longer. The choice that determines whether we are a civilized country that cares for its people, for its children, or one that has descended into third world madness is up to each and every one of you. Nancy Dafoe

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