What’s happened in the 365 days since 20-year-old Adam Lanza took the life of 20 first-graders at a Connecticut elementary school?
In the year since Sandy Hook, at least 11,459 people have been killed by a gun in the United States, including 203 children and 541 teens. And that number is very incomplete, says Dan Kois, a senior editor at Slate, which is keeping a database of the deaths. Slate knows only of gun deaths reported by media or emailed by readers. “It’s difficult,” says Kois, “to get accurate, real-time numbers on this issue.”
Except for one number.
In the year since Sandy Hook, Congress has passed zero bills that attempted to prevent further acts of gun violence. First, lawmakers failed to pass an improved version of the assault weapons ban that had expired in 2004. Later, despite bipartisan support, they couldn’t pass smaller, bipartisan measures such as expanding background checks and improving regulations on gun show purchases.
In the year since Sandy Hook, Americans overwhelmingly have supported those kinds of gun restrictions. Some have spoken out publicly, including the parents of some of the children killed in Newtown, as well as law enforcement officials and, of course, the media. Among the more sensible words were these, written by a Guns & Ammo magazine columnist: “Way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”
The columnist, Dick Metcalf, was subsequently fired. The magazine’s editor, Jim Bequette, moved up his resignation date to appease outraged readers. That kind of response, which is standard fare for the gun lobby, has stalled any chance that Congress might revisit the issue soon.
In the year since Sandy Hook, some states have moved forward with their own gun control legislation. Eight states have passed major gun measures, according to a report from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and a dozen others have enacted smaller measures. Other states, however, are relaxing gun laws by cutting waiting periods or, in North Carolina’s case, allowing firearms in more places like bars or on school grounds.
Many of the loosened restrictions came in the South and Midwest, where gun laws already were weaker. The Brady Campaign also said that its preliminary data showed that states with lax gun laws tend to have the highest rates of gun deaths. Is this surprising to anyone?
And yet, in the year since Sandy Hook, the loudest noises we hear on gun violence come from the guns themselves, with more people dying each day. No, there is no law that will prevent all of these shootings, but there are measures that will prevent some. Improved regulations on purchases at gun shows and over the Internet. Universal background checks with criteria that include history of violent acts and commitments to mental health facilities. Easier access to that mental health care. None of these threatens the legal purchase or ownership of guns, except for people who shouldn’t possess them.
Instead, on the anniversary of Sandy Hook, we will have moments of quiet reflection in Washington and around the country. It’s an appropriate gesture not only for the 26 children and adults Adam Lanza killed, but also for Americans. In the year since Sandy Hook, too many of us have grown accustomed to silence.
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