Our Unwillingness To Act Costs Children Their Future
December 14, 2012 left me truly horrified.
A gunman had just massacred twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, before turning the gun on himself. I was working retail at the time and a friend of mine pulled me off the sales floor to show me the news. She knew Connecticut was my home state and that I was, and am always, plugged in to what happens there.
As the death toll rose, I felt this sick, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. All I could think of was the unimaginable pain these parents were feeling and how the death of these innocents represented a bigger loss I couldn’t put a name to in that moment.
Until the aftermath of this tragedy, I thought there were lines in the sand that couldn’t be crossed without meeting an outcry of support from our country as a whole. Until I saw that the overwhelming response in the face of this bloodshed was a casual thought and a prayer, I naively assumed we’d sacrifice anything for this to never happen again. Surely guns aren’t worth the lives of six and seven year old children?
However, the opposite happened. People I believed to be rational otherwise, argued that the people are entitled to be armed, citing the “well regulated militia” argument of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Our Congress, faced with the pain of families who were directly impacted by gun violence, decided not to act on major gun control legislation.
Not only did the country move on, a growing number of right wing contrarians decided that the Sandy Hook Massacre hadn’t happened at all. This gave them the “right” to harass the parents and take our country to a new low.
That feeling I couldn’t name was a loss of heart.
On Sunday, July 28, 2019, a man opened fire on a crowd in Gilroy, California. It was the 40th anniversary of the annual Garlic Festival and drew a crowd of thousands.
The gunman killed three people before dying at the hands of police. One of the victims was a boy, Stephen Romero. He had just turned six last month and had attended the festival with his mother and grandmother- both of whom were injured in the mayhem. This article in NBC News quoted his father, Alberto Romero, saying:
“My son had his whole life to live and he was only six. That’s all I can say.”
And in a perfect world, this is all the fuel we’d need to act. To place safeguards against a future where this has become normalized. Every loss of life is tragic, but the preventable loss of children is a true loss of heart that eats at our nation’s purported values.
The list of horrors has grown too long now. Before I’ve fully processed one atrocity, another springs up in it’s place.
The murder of nine people at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina and the massacre of fifty-eight people in Las Vegas have happened between the Sandy Hook and Gilroy shootings. Apathy and rampant gun culture opened the door for the Parkland and Santa Fe high school shootings, as well.
We cannot protect our children anymore. There are no places left sacred that the “Man With A Gun” can’t touch. And the children? Faced with the cowardice of the adults in the room, they have been forced to fend for themselves and shame us all by their courageous calls to action.
With the presidential elections looming and violence becoming more mundane as time goes on, will we heed their calls to protect their future? Will we reclaim the better part of our humanity to be the heroes our children deserve?
Or will we just give them more candlelight vigils; more empty thoughts and prayers?