Watching the events unfold at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I am stunned, saddened, angered and empowered. Never has the prospect for real reformation of our nation’s gun laws been more possible or necessary. In the words of those protesting outside the White House on the evening of the shootings, “Today is the day!” Today has been the day for a long time.
I’ve never owned a gun, and except for some significant and historical shift in political forces, I suspect I never will. I am not a hunter; I do not feel threatened in my own home and am not so saturated in the rhetoric and fears of right-wing conservatives that I feel the need to secure assault weapons and high-capacity magazines under my bed. The mother of Adam Lanza was not so enamored.
The blood of every child, the blood of every educator at Sandy Hook Elementary is splattered across her soul. It is her ignorance, her fear, driven by some crazed apocalyptic vision, that are ultimately responsible for this profound and senseless tragedy. Any parent who willingly takes their mentally ill child on “shooting adventures” is as sick, or more so, than the child they bare. They are also equally culpable.
I am disheartened by the commentators who define this mass shooting as just one in a long line of shootings that continue to plague our nation. It is not the same. It is not the same at all. This was not a peer seeking some sick kind of revenge. This was an adult shooting children more than a decade younger than him. This represents a new and disturbing moment in our collective history.
It is a moment driven by and given authority to by fear. It is a familiar fear, one clearly articulated by the National Rifle Association and the “God Bless America” Tea Party. It is the fear so effectively animated by Sarah Palin and echoed by mindless conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. It is a lie.
Guns kill people. Far more often guns fell victims not kill criminals. They kill family members, they kill friends, they kill children and co-workers. Soon after the shooting in Newton, gun enthusiasts were calling for armed security on all campuses and posing the disturbing question, “What if the teachers were armed?” That’s like suggesting we need to build more McDonalds to end childhood obesity. More guns will never be the answer to reducing gun violence.
The answer is simple enough. The question is whether our collective will is strong enough to make the changes necessary for real reform. It will take more than limiting the size of the magazine or clip; it will take more than background checks and required safety training.
Gun owners need to be held accountable for the crimes committed with the use of their precious firearms. If a gun owner’s gun is involved in a shooting, he or she needs to be held responsible for the consequences of the use of that gun. In that scenario, responsible gun ownership will take on a whole new meaning.
I have not met anyone who has not been deeply moved and saddened by the events in Newton. I don’t know anyone who has not had tears well as the stories of those beautiful lives lost have been told. We mourn the loss of 26 beautiful, incredible, wonderful and profoundly innocent lives. I pray the countless tears that have been and will be shed will not be wiped away and forgotten as so many have in the past. I pray those tears and the many yet to come will wash away our apathy and clear our vision.
Today is the day for meaningful and radical gun control reform.