|CSGV STATEMENT ON FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF NEWTOWN MASSACRE
|Washington, DC—Our hearts are heavy today as we recognize the first anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school that claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut.
For us at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, this issue is a personal one. Our current and former staff includes survivors of gun violence. They understand what it means to get that call that no one wants to get—to hear that someone you love deeply has been shot, senselessly, and sometimes fatally. We all should take just a minute today to put ourselves in the place of the Newtown families and think, “What would my life be like today if that were my daughter?” Or son, or parent, or spouse, etc.
The 100,000+ Americans that are shot each year are not statistics. They are not numbers. They are flesh and blood human beings. They are loved. They are needed. They matter. They have as much a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as anyone. When they are taken from us, families and communities are destroyed. A vacuum is left behind that can never again be filled.
You would think that in a civilized nation a horror like Sandy Hook would be wholly unique, but the truth is hardly a day goes by in the United States that is not the anniversary of some gruesome act of gun violence. During the first two weeks of December alone, we have already recognized the anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon, the Clackamas Town Center shooting, the Westroads Mall shooting, the massacre on the Long Island Railroad, and the slaying of four at a Pantera concert in Ohio, among other tragedies.
And we could not even make it through this solemn weekend of remembrance without another school shooting occurring. Yesterday, a student at Centennial High School in Colorado took his own life with a shotgun and injured another student.
This violence is unacceptable, and as long as people of conscience inhabit this great nation of ours, we will never acquiesce to it as “the new normal.” Americans in states across the country have made significant progress in enacting new laws to prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining firearms since Newtown and the push for reform will continue at the federal level as well, despite the intransigence of 45 Senators in April.
Such reform must be comprehensive in nature, and both expand and strengthen the existing background check system for gun buyers. Substitutes aimed at obscuring the issue, or conflating it with the important but distinct problem of mental illness (research demonstrates the overwhelming majority of Americans dealing with mental health issues will never be violent toward others), will be rejected.
No more anniversaries, no more tears, no more needless suffering. It is time for the United States to do what every other free country on the face of the earth has done. Take real steps to deny individuals with a history of violence easy, and legal, access to firearms.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.