Another disturbed young man, another rifle in a school, another blood-stained memory in a crowded field of shame and blame. Yesterday the scene was set in Arapahoe High School in Colorado, just a few miles from that icon of school tragedy, Columbine. How many more times can we stand to watch the helicopter videos of kids marching out of schools with their hands up while police swat teams in combat gear race into classrooms festooned with arts projects and blood splatters?
Arapahoe’s tragedy may seem, to some, quite minor — only one student died, the one with the gun, so the incident already is fading from front pages. We forget at our peril.
Today is the first year anniversary of one of the worst school shootings ever — the Sandy Hook grade school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and 6 teachers died at the hands of a profoundly deranged young man. Only the Virginia Tech horror in 2007 had more victims (33), but something about the murder of first graders at Sandy Hook really caught the national conscience. One year ago, out of that impossibly sorrowful day, we had reason to hope that this nation would finally have the guts to do something about serious gun control.
Hopes for a national epidemic of common sense and moral courage on guns have faded faster than the winter sun. The most do-nothing Congress in modern American history could not even gather itself to enact a modest measure on background checks. Most of the laws passed in the states since Sandy Hook have actually made it easier to get a gun.
Let’s face it: the National Rifle Association owns more votes than the American People. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans want some sane and sensible limits on gun ownership, but Congress and state legislatures repeatedly follow the money. If anyone wants to write a term paper or dissertation on the corruption of money in American politics, take up the topic of gun control. No other single issue —- not the banking industry, not the auto industry, not pharmaceuticals, not education, not peace, not poverty —- no other single issue has the power to shut down rational thinking and action for justice like guns.
American amnesia is a terrible disease when it comes to gun violence. We said things would change after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Aurora, after Sandy Hook, after the Navy Yard shootings here in D.C.
Here’s what changed: schools have become fortresses, children have become used to diving under desks and hiding in closets, teachers have become adept at planning protective strategies, administrators have become hardened to the need to divert funds from library to security. At workplaces and shopping malls and anywhere people gather, the security is tighter and tighter because the mass shootings are worse and worse.
Here’s what’s not changed: the prevalence of guns. In fact, in a sense, the prevalence of guns had become worse, much worse. Everyone else’s freedom has eroded considerably, except those who pack heat.
The biggest lie the NRA spouts is that more guns will make us more safe.
Tell that to the parents who cannot give their dead children presents this Christmas.
Tell that to the thousands of students traumatized on those forced marches with hands held high across school parking lots.
Tell that to the American citizens who want government to do something other than dither and argue and fritter away our best hopes for a peaceful society.
A government that cannot protect its children from mass violence is no government at all.
Today we’ll have moments of silence. Is silence the only legacy of Sandy Hook?
See my Huffington Post blog on gun violence: Silence of the Lame