by Rose Brennan
Five years ago and 20 miles from my home, on Dec. 14, 2012, 26 innocent people were gunned down in my home state of Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
For people in my state and my generation, it was almost a phenomenon akin to the previous generation’s Kennedy assassination. Almost anyone could tell you where they were when they heard about what had happened on that terrible day. I was only a freshman in high school, and I could tell you the exact room, the exact class and the exact desk I was sitting in and the exact time when I heard.
I was filled with a sense of overwhelming dread when I learned about the 26 victims, and was absolutely devastated when I learned that 20 of them were children under the age of six.
Even in the darkness that our small state was plunged into during the days and weeks following the attack, I still saw a sliver of hope. I thought, surely now things will change. Surely the lives of children will call people to change their outlook on gun safety laws.
Five years later, and I am now a sophomore in college. All that has changed is that more people have died at the hands of gun violence. All that changes is the location of the attacks and the number of people that died.
If we really tried, our generation could come up with a never-ending list of mass shooting locations in the United States. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Charleston. San Bernardino. Aurora. Orlando. And now Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs get added to the list, which only grows with each passing year.
Nothing has changed, at least nothing that really matters. Sure, my hometown named a street after Victoria Leigh Soto, one of Sandy Hook’s victims, who died defending her students from the gunman. And the town hosts the Victoria Soto Memorial 5k every November to honor her memory, but other than that, we have done next to nothing.
In the wake of the tragedy, in the days and weeks immediately following, everyone banded together and said “we will never forget the 26 angels we lost at Sandy Hook”. But we have. We have forgotten the victims by refusing to act and call for change regarding gun safety laws in America.
A lot of this stems from a fear that issues such as gun control will be “politicized” in wake of a tragedy, and that it will provide an opportunity to advance a political agenda. But it is in the wake of these tragedies that we must continue to talk about and take action on serious issues, no matter how difficult it can be to talk about them.
If we do not take action when the issue is most relevant, we then wait until we are reminded by yet another tragedy and we experience the pain and suffering and loss of life all over again. And it is the failure to take action when it is needed most that costs innocent people their lives.
Offering prayers and good thoughts only gets us so far. And it does very little to reassure a very scared populace, especially when these horrible attacks keep happening, and especially when nothing is being done to address them.
How many more people need to die before meaningful action is taken on gun safety laws? Some people still have hope that the right thing will be done, but I am far more pessimistic. And that stems from my experience with the Sandy Hook shooting. Once our government decided that “protecting the Second Amendment” was more important than the lives of children, we passed a point of no return as a country.
I have begun to lose hope in my fellow Americans regarding how we address gun violence. If we are unwilling to address or rectify our laws when it comes to the violent deaths of our own people, especially our children, I am beginning to think we never will.