Three years after Sandy Hook

Monday was the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, which left 20 children and six adults dead in a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. In no small part because of the age of the majority of the victims, the Sandy Hook shooting has left an indelible mark on the American consciousness. Not so indelible that we’re going to do anything about it, mind you. Just enough to make us sad for many years to come, and occasionally shake our fists helplessly at the heavens while screaming, “Why?! Why?!”

Beyond that, as a society, we don’t seem that interested in doing anything about it. In the wake of this shooting, and dozens of others that have happened since then, the only thing that our elected leaders seem to accomplish regarding guns is to make them even easier to acquire. And yet, every single time there’s a mass shooting, we still hear the screams from the street that, “THE GOVERNMENT IS GONNA TAKE AWAY OUR GUNS! OBAMA IS GONNA DO IT!” Why anyone believes this claptrap is beyond me, given the reality of the situation.

It’s been stated that if we’re collectively okay with the mass shooting of small children, the debate on gun control is effectively over. What more could possibly happen that would turn the cultural zeitgeist around where we would all go, “Yeah, things are really out of hand here. We’d better put up some strict regulations on gun ownership”? Given that the response to Sandy Hook was record sales of the AR-15 assault rifle, I can’t imagine that we’d do anything different if it was 50 children that were gunned down.

Street artist Panzarino prepares a memorial as he writes the names of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims during the six-month anniversary of the massacre, at Union Square in New York

The response from the anti-gun-regulation crowd usually goes something like this: “You can’t stop murders with laws because murderers don’t obey laws. Outlawing guns will only take guns away from the good guys.” It should be clear that this is an argument for pure anarchism, not just against gun regulation. It just so happens that having laws on the books is quite a good way of designing how we operate as a society. Will people still break those laws? Yes, but that’s why we have police and court systems. And anyone who still believes that stiffening regulations won’t do anything need only look to Australia, or any number of European nations that have a meager fraction of the gun related deaths that we do in the United States. If after examining their examples you are still not convinced that solutions to this problem exist, I’m afraid you’re simply living in denial.

I’m hardly a proponent of outlawing guns entirely; just for increasing the regulations on gun ownership. But given how irresponsible we obviously are with firearms, maybe I’m too lenient with my position. Maybe we should ban these weapons, and start rounding up the surplus armory from the streets. The second amendment would even allow such an action: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bare arms, shall not be infringed.” Provided the states maintained some form of militia, the members of whom were in fact armed, our second amendment would be held up perfectly. Note how it doesn’t say, “An unregulated populace that’s armed to the teeth, being necessary to the security of a free state…”

In all seriousness, I suppose I’m not about to start advocating a blanket ban on guns. At minimum, it’s impractical, if not impossible to implement. Though with luck, some day we’ll find ourselves with a congress with the political balls to take on this topic in a meaningful way. In the meantime, my only wish is that after the next inevitable mass shooting that I don’t hear any pissing and moaning from conservatives how the government is coming to take our guns away, because this has never been even close to the truth. A little recognition for the victims instead of a firearm shopping spree would be a welcome change of pace.

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