America will soon nod respectfully to the first anniversary of the 26 murders that “shocked the nation” last year, sparking fervent cries for action. Newtown, those directly affected by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, deserve the nation’s condolences for the children and teachers killed. Then we need to begin admitting difficult truths.
In the 12 months since that awful morning, virtually nothing substantial has been accomplished to address the nation’s gluttony for gun violence. Most Americans still do not accept gun deaths and accidents as a public health issue. Instead, we’ve gotten slicker about categorizing the ways guns are used in suicides, preventable accidents and the shootings that make up the evening news.
It’s comfortable excuse making. Bad things happen to “other people,” in other neighborhoods — gang members, domestic violence victims, the mentally ill. No need to draw legal gun owners into the mix, goes the rationalization, to understand better how their guns might wind up in the wrong hands.
This is how we grieved Newtown, by distancing. It’s shameful.
More than a quarter-million deaths by gunfire in the last decade has become our acceptable status quo. The National Rifle Association used the mere possibility of deeper study of gun deaths as a recruitment drive. They stoked fears of shadowy government officials canvassing to confiscate America’s guns and ammunition.
By spring, the U.S. Senate had deep-sixed a proposal to expand background checks on gun buyers.
At least the gutless Congress sidestepped passing legislation simply for show: the type of measures that make for good stump speeches and PR blurbs but prove utterly ineffective in practice. No threat of even that hypocrisy in 2013. Too many members of Congress quake at the idea of making a peep about gun violence; the payback is being drummed out of office on charges of being “weak” on the Second Amendment.