By Michael J.W. Stickings
I wasn't terribly disappointed when the Manchin-Toomey gun bill was defeated in the Senate (even though it got well more than 50 votes, because of a Republican filibuster), because it was a bad bill. But it did include an expanded background checks provision, along with various pro-gun provisions, and so in the end it was probably better than nothing.
And yet in defeat that bill did more for the gun-control movement that it would have done had it ever become law, and in that sense a lot of good may come from what at the time seemed like a serious, embarrassing, and revealing setback.
Actually, though, it started not on April 17, 2013, but on December 14, 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. There had been many other mass shootings previously in America, including recently at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, but Newtown was different. It was a brutal attack on a school, where parents leave their children and expect them to be safe, and the fact that so many children were killed in cold blood was simply too shocking, too powerful, too overwhelming, to ignore. (And there was a cultural/racial element to it as well. This wasn't inner-city Detroit. This was a part of America with which more Americans, including the political and media elites who shape public opinion, could identify. It's easy, sadly so, for many to ignore the plight of a city like Detroit. But if it could happen in Newtown, it could happen anywhere.)
This is not to say that the country was suddenly ready for significant gun control. That will take time. No, if not that, it was at least ready for something meaningful to be done to curb gun violence, to put a stop if at all possible to a mostly unregulated gun market that has resulted in guns, including weapons of mass destruction for which there is no reasonable justification for private ownership, falling into the wrong hands way too many times.
President Obama himself took the lead. In an incredibly moving vigil in Newtown a few days after the shooting, he said:
We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.
Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Benjamin, Avielle, Allison, God has called them all home.
Yes, the country was finally ready, at least for expanded background checks, and perhaps for much more, and they overwhelmingly expressed that in poll after poll.
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For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.
Labels: Barack Obama, Chris Murphy, Connecticut school shooting, Democrats, gun control, gun laws, guns, Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Joe Manchin, NRA, Pat Toomey, Republicans, U.S. Senate