On December 14, 2012, sometime around 9:30 AM at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a 20-year-old highly disturbed young man, Adam Lanza, broke into the school. He had just shot and killed his mother at her home. He then killed 5 more adults at Sandy Hook and rampaged his way into the classrooms of 6 and 7 year olds. Before he ended the carnage by his own hand, he had killed 20 children. His murderous gun of choice was a product of the nation’s largest gun manufacturer, Freedom Group. Ironically, some Teacher’s Retirement and Pension Funds actually own a piece of Freedom Group, many through Cerberus, a private equity firm that is now unloading its holdings.
There are hardly any parents reading this who haven’t gone through an episode or two of their 6 or 7-year-old calling one of them into his or her room after hearing the house settle or floors creak or a traffic noise. “Mommy, I hear a noise. I’m scared.” You then hug your child and assure your little boy or girl that everything is going to be all right. “It’s OK honey, now go back to sleep, we’ll be in the next room.” And that’s enough reassurance for your child to fall into a comforting slumber.
Let’s contrast the Sandy Hook terror through a child’s eyes. Now that little boy or girl is in a first grade classroom, one of two where the shootings took place. The child sees the sight of somebody nightmarishly bedecked in black, suddenly looming in front of the classroom armed with a horrific weapon. As scary a weapon as one could brandish. Mommy and daddy have always said everything is going to be all right. But you know that everything is not going to be all right. Their protective hugs are nowhere to be found. You process the sounds you just heard coming from the Principal’s office. Echoing sounds like loud firecrackers. You’ve never heard a .223 Semi-Automatic Bushmaster AR-15 being fired before, but you now realize someone was just squeezing off 6 rounds a second. And the monster who pulled the trigger was now in your classroom pointing his semi-auto at you and your young pals.
Oh God, he’s aiming at Olivia. She’s such a pretty little child, always happy and laughing and mommy, the bad man just shot Olivia, once, twice, three, four times. He’s looking at Dylan. Dylan loves movies and video games. He’s being shot over and over. Olivia and Dylan aren’t moving. Pools of blood are forming around them. Even in your innocence you know your friends, classmates and playmates are dead. You know Mrs. Hochsprung must be dead. That’s where the firecracker noises were coming from. Her office. You loved Mrs. Hochsprung. She was always smiling and encouraging everybody. And now you’re sure she’s dead.
The gunman has killed three more of your friends who were paralyzed with fear while you were thinking of Mrs. Hochsprung. He’s looking at you now. He’s leveling his evil-looking weapon directly at your face. For the first time, he’s moving; walking toward you. You are indescribably frightened. “Mommy” you scream. The .223 Bushmaster Semi-Automatic rifle (you can probably get one at your corner gun store for a grand or so) is inches from your face. A ‘pop’ reverberates through your whole body. You don’t even feel it. You have no idea where you were hit. Another ‘pop’, more vague this time. There are no more thoughts of mommy or daddy. There’s an enveloping whiteness as the shooter punctuates his insanity with 5 more shots. You go to the serenity of the light now. No more terror, no more fear beyond description. You’re dying and going where church tells you you’re going. Mommy and daddy and little sister are holding your hand now. It’s peaceful; way too soon, but peaceful. You’re being carried on an ethereal journey that back on earth will cause unspeakable grief and forever alter the lives for those loved ones left behind.
Violent gun deaths are not static headlines or a glib defense of America’s gun culture. Well-meaning veteran legislators, beyond defeat in their districts, will introduce gun legislation that the young up and comers will vote against. A Presidential speech, promises to ‘engage’ with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like Newtown. Joe Biden has been picked to move the ‘process’ forward. Latest word has our President demanding tighter gun laws, renewing the ban on Military-type assault weapons, a ban that wasn’t really a ban at all considering the loopholes written into the legislation. Obama is also calling for increasing background checks. New legislation has been introduced to ban high capacity clips. Similar pieces have floundered around for years in the mud of Congress.
Good luck with all that. A recent snippet from a local Letter to the Editor graphically illustrates what you’re up against from the kind of people who vote right-wing gun protectors in Congress. While mourning for the Sandy Hook victims, the lady who penned the letter adds that she is “also thinking about all the bleeding hearts who will clamor for stricter gun laws.” She goes on to point out the numerous alternatives to death by gun. So there you have it. She’ll vote for anybody in the pocket of the NRA. How many of her kind are out there? Enough!
Friday, the NRA people are going to make their case. They’ll be a crocodile tear or two, then it’s all downhill from there; The 2nd Amendment, freedom, protection, overreaction and repressive will most likely be part of the rhetoric. What the hell is the appeal of the NRA? Do you want one of their little decals on your window that tells the B & E boys where they can steal their next cache of firearms? Do you need the breaks you get when your NRA dues partially pay for death and dismemberment insurance? Do I think the NRA has a sweet deal with the insurance companies? Yep! And the NRA thanks you, Macho Mike. There IS a sucker born every minute.
I think a symbolic gesture of love and sympathy for the latest little victims of our lust for guns would be for NRA members return their 2012 membership card with the embossed picture of the Lexington Minuteman statue to the NRA. That means the huge sacrifice of NRA discounts from leading hotel and motel chains and car rental outlets plus losing death and dismemberment insurance coverage.
With the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground almost irreversibly sewn into the fabric of state statutes and constitutions and with some states so nuts that you can pack in bars and churches it’s going to be a long slog. Little of substance is going to change.
I’d follow the wisdom of 2 truly gutsy guys from the world of sports, Bob Costas and Winthrop University basketball coach, Pat Kelsey. Addressing the media after his team played Ohio State, Republican Kelsey gave a brief but gripping speech about our gun culture. It took courage considering the right-wing tilt of Winthrop located in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Find the speech and do something.