Sandy Hook Anniversary: Another Grim Marker in U.S. History of Gun Violence

Three years after the unspeakable happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the nation, even after a number of more gun massacres, seems more confirmed than ever that what proponents call common sense gun restrictions are an offense against the Second Amendment. That is, judging by its laws, perhaps not by public sentiment, which remains largely in favor of stricter gun regulation.

On this day in 2012, a deeply troubled young man, living in social isolation amidst a large “family” collection of dangerous automatic weapons, shot his way into Sandy Hook school. Before taking his own life, having murdered his own mother earlier in the day, he stole the lives of  26 children and educators. The outrage at Sandy Hook provoked yet another short-lived cry across the nation for greater restrictions on gun ownership. As in the past, gun lobbyists bided their time and turned to their congressional rolodexes. Three years later, the Associated Press reports “many states have moved in the opposite direction, embracing the National Rifle Association's axiom that more ‘good guys with guns’ are needed to deter mass shootings.”

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In Kansas, gun owners can now carry concealed weapons without obtaining a license. In Texas, those with permits will soon be able to carry openly in holsters and bring concealed weapons into some college classrooms. And in Arkansas, gun enthusiasts may be able to carry weapons into polling places next year when they vote for president. Dozens of new state laws have made it easier to obtain guns and carry them in more public places and made it harder for local governments to enact restrictions…The number of guns manufactured and sold and the number of permits to carry concealed weapons have also increased, data show.

According to the AP report, the civic fight over gun rights moved to states legislatures “after Congress rejected a bill in 2013 that would have expanded background checks to all gun sales, including those at gun shows and over the Internet.” That model of persistent inaction on guns at the federal level continued on Dec. 3. One day after the most recent mass killing incident in the United States—a rampage in San Bernardino, Calif., which claimed the lives of 14—the U.S. Senate voted down a proposal to prohibit gun sales to people included on the Transportation Security Administration’s no-fly list, would-be air travelers who have been deemed a threat to commercial aviation or national security. California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein commented: “If you need proof that Congress is a hostage to the gun lobby, look no further than today’s vote blocking a bill to prevent known or suspected terrorists from buying guns and explosives. “If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous to buy a gun. Unfortunately that commonsense idea failed to attract enough votes to pass the Senate.”

At the San Bernardino attack, an act of ISIS-inspired homegrown terrorism, the guns used were apparently purchased legally by a friend of the perpetrators. It joins a recent string of other gun slayings: a rampage near and in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado; one at a community college in Oregon; and finally an act of racist domestic terror at Bible study meeting at a church in South Carolina. These incidents have all inspired new calls for better control of the nature of the guns sold in the Untied States—renew the assault weapons ban?—as well as demands that all gun sales be better tracked and safety measures verified—close gun-sale loopholes, should gun owners have to purchase liability insurance?

They have also produced just as many calls for the weakening of existing gun laws, especially concealed-carry restrictions. According to the AP analysis: “States have prohibited authorities from seizing guns during emergencies, moved to ban the use of taxpayer funding for government gun buyback programs and banned the destruction of firearms seized by law enforcement.” Efforts to study gun violence by the C.D.C. and other federal entities remain blocked by NRA-enriched members of Congress.

Many argue that so-called “gun free zones,” churches, schools, shopping malls, bars and restaurants, have become open invitations to gun violence. The AP reports that from 2007 to 2014, the number of concealed-carry handgun permits in states nearly tripled, from 4.7 million to 12.8 million. The presumptive end-point of this logic is the belief that if just about every person in U.S. society were packing heat, the United States will become a more peaceful and safer society. With about 310 million guns in circulation in a nation of 330 million people, we are not far from it. There are apparently hold-outs in hospital nurseries who have to be persuaded to become weaponized, perhaps once they get out of swaddling. The FBI reports that on Black Friday this year, U.S. gun sales approached a single-day record with more than 185,000 federal background checks initiated, the most in the 17-year history of the program.

Call this the Archie Bunker plan for the common good—a car in every garage, a chicken in every pot and a gun in every hand. What could go wrong? When Norman Lear proposed this notion through his blue-collar surrogate, Queens-native Mr. Bunker, it was a chuckle-inducing parody of extreme gun opinion; now the idea is treated as received wisdom.

Don’t let anyone tell you there hasn’t been progress on guns in America.

Since the massacre at Sandy Hook three year ago, there have been at least 1,044 gun rampages in the United States, according to Mass Shootings Tracker (yes, the phenom has its own website). At least 1,327 people have been slain and 3,784 have been wounded. NBC reports that since Sandy Hook, 554 children under the age of 12 have died from gunshots—fired both intentionally and accidentally.

Here is how America has commented on gun violence and the Second Amendment in the years since these innocent children and their teachers died so violently in their first and second grade classrooms:

"Our Armed Society: The common good is the first victim of America’s gun culture"—Sept. 14, 2015.

"Outrage Again"—June 23, 2014

"Noting 94 school shooting incidents as Sandy Hook Second Anniversary Nears"—Dec. 12, 2014

"Inexcusable Inaction"—Dec. 9, 2013

"Repeal the Second Amendment"—Feb. 25, 2013

"Slaughter of Innocents"—Jan. 7, 2013

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