Twenty empty beds. Twenty empty desk seats. Twenty parents mourning.
Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut became the place for one of the most despicable tragedies in modern U.S. history on Friday morning. It was another mass-murder in a year full of atrocities that have captured the nation’s attention. This latest incident marked the ninth mass-murder this year and the 61st mass-murder since Columbine High School in 1999. The children who were killed by this deranged gunman were between the ages of 6 and 7. Eight of the casualties were little boys; twelve were little girls and seven were adults. Many citizens have expressed their outrage and vituperation over the lack of mental health resources available in our nation and its easy accessibility to guns. They’re wondering what it is going to take for real, substantive change to occur.
For the families who will be irrevocably changed, my heart goes out to them and the Newtown community. The adults who performed acts of heroism during that grotesque episode should be highly commended. Watching images of the students walking in lines while being lead out of the school with tears in their eyes was heartbreaking. No child should have to witness such a horrific scene. President Obama has repeatedly expressed his desire for reforming gun laws, but after each calamitous killing spree, the country sweeps the problem under the rug. The tone in his voice and the tears that fell from his eyes on Friday may reflect a revelation in him. Mr. President: The time has arrived to pass unequivocal gun control reform in Congress and amend the second amendment. We the people overwhelmingly voted for you last month. We’re looking to you to lead the charge in fighting against the powerful NRA lobby and constructing gun control reform in Washington, DC.
Political pundits and mental health experts weighed in on the conversation this weekend on the relationship between mental health and gun ownership, but the days for talking are over. It it is imperative that citizens begin mobilizing to make their voices resonate loud and clear for our congressional and senatorial representatives to hear. We must demand change and force our government into action. The fact that gun purchases exponentially rose after President Obama’s reelection was disturbing, but even worse is forty percent of guns are purchased without background checks.
There are close to 300 million guns in our country currently and four million are produced every year. It is true many citizens obtain their firearms legally, but many acquire them through underhanded means. These guns are continuously falling into the wrong hands leading to these unconscionable incidents. As a result, the U.S. spends billions of dollars on victims and survivors of gun violence.
The cities of Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles have seen an astronomical rise in gun related deaths this year. They’re just the tip of the iceberg. But one of the saddest ironies from this mass-murder is Newton, Connecticut is home to the second most powerful gun lobby in our country. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is only three miles away from the elementary school. Although, they’re not as powerful as the NRA, they still actively work to ease gun laws and regulations. The NRA continues to perpetuate this mystique that they’re untouchable, but the masquerade is over. Their silence over Friday’s mass-murder was deafening and it represents an opportunity for our government to finally spur into action.
Guns play a significant role in these mass-murders as well as mental health stability. One of the major contributors to the mental health crisis in our country is the state of our union. We must take a deep introspection into the culture we’ve cultivated and search for the reasons why these unfathomable events keep resulting in numerous deaths across our country every year. The truth is our country was founded on violence and there is no coincidence in the founding fathers establishing the right to bear arms after the right to the freedom of speech. Current images on television shows, movies, video games and the music we absorb have assisted in desensitizing our current generation to violence. Most of these killers are teenage or adult males. They act first and the consequences of their actions are an afterthought. The onus has to fall at the feet of not only the parents but the begetters of entertainment. How many more deaths will we create?
Japan, Sweden, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Israel and Germany combined pale in comparison to the amount of gun related deaths in the United States. They’ve reformed their gun laws with unquestionable success. Why can’t we do the same? Our penchant for violence has become a systematic plague that continues to spread like a wildfire across our heartland. The number of federally licensed firearm dealers (129,817) outnumbers the amount of grocery chain stores (36,569) and McDonald’s restaurants (14,098) and rivals the amount of gas stations (143,839) in our country. For citizens to continue to have more access to war weaponry than a quality education doesn’t make any tangible sense. Our local, state and national governments have to find ways to make it harder to buy destructive weapons. Reenacting President Clinton’s Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) that President Bush let expire in 2004 would be a step in the right direction.
Twitter and facebook have become forums for individuals to speak their collective minds when a national tragedy happens. Unfortunately, national tragedies are becoming far too commonplace in our society today. Over the last 48 hours, it seems more citizens are willing to become engaged with our democracy again. The Clackamas, Oregon Newtown, Connecticut catastrophes may be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back to start a national movement toward gun control reform and healing the mental state of our nation.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”
We can’t have the lives of those twenty children be in vain. Let’s get to work.