Pain Once Again

Do you remember the unbearable anguish? Do you remember the sickening feeling in your soul as details of the Sandy Hook massacre became known? Can you recall the abject horror you felt upon imagining it might have been your child, and the relief you felt from the knowledge that it wasn’t? Apparently most Americans don’t.

Rather than unceasingly and assertively demanding reforms to minimize the chances of such atrocities ever occurring again, Americans have seemingly become inured to mass shootings not every few years, months, or weeks, but rather every few days or even hours. The November 24, shooting of 5 people at a Black Lives Matters vigil in Minnesota was still a live news story as the Planned Parenthood attack unfolded on November 27, and both were still headline news as the San Bernardino massacre got underway on December 2.

Newtown should have been the ultimate wake up call, an incident of immense loss so devastating and shocking, so contrary to the experience of all other free, democratic, affluent and civilized societies, that the United States would finally turn from its obscene idolatry and fetishism of firearms. The reality has been just the opposite, and many have observed that America has essentially accepted mass killings, even mass killings of five year-olds, as tolerable.

That last statement sounds extremely harsh, but look at the record. In the immediate aftermath of Newtown, and many mass shootings since, the weapons and ammunition used by each perpetrator have experienced extreme sales spikes. Think about that for a minute. Devices used by evil people to indiscriminately kill children became the hottest selling firearms. When automobiles, pharmaceuticals or other products inadvertently lead to death or injury, those products experience steep, often permanent sales declines or even cease production. But when guns are intentionally used to murder large numbers of random people, even toddlers, they become the hottest products in the market.

The perverse, backwards reaction of firearms producers and purchasers to each mass shooting is mirrored in the perverse, backwards responses of policy makers. Aside from extremely modest reform legislation enacted in Connecticut and a small handful of other states, the overwhelming tide of federal and state legislation in the aftermath of Newtown has been accelerating efforts to gut the minimal regulation of firearms that previously existed. State laws expanding concealed carry and open carry have multiplied, and several states have eliminated registration requirements altogether. A shocking number of states have adopted laws allowing firearms in bars, churches, on college campuses and elementary schools, and some proposed legislation would even allow guns in daycare facilities.

A few months ago (a few massacres ago?), President Obama exhorted Americans to oppose the gun lobby’s distortion of the Second Amendment by making sensible gun reform a political litmus test. Follow that advice – insist that each and every candidate at every level commit to sensible gun safety reforms as a condition for your support.

Alex Harris is Vice Chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which supplies this column.

The graphic accompanying this story is the creation of Michael Luckovich and is posted here with his generous permission. See Mr. Luckovich on Facebook.