Seeing Pictures of Mass Shooting Victims Would Force Our Leaders to Act

When a mass shooting happens in this country there are a variety of responses. Many of them are predictable. If you’re reading this you probably know what they are, so I don’t have to run through them.

Many people get upset and demand change. The people we have elected to run our country then choose to do nothing. Some people get angry about the inaction, some support the inaction, and many more just become indifferent.

Time heals all wounds they say.

Luckily we have 300 million guns in this country that tear into flesh and create new physical wounds, and tear into our psyche to create new mental wounds.

I’ve often thought, “This will be enough to force our leaders to act and create change in this country.”

Killing twelve high school students is enough to force our leaders to act, isn’t it?

Killing thirty-two college students is enough to force our leaders to act, isn’t it?

Killing twenty first-graders is enough to force our leaders to act, isn’t it?

Killing fifty-eight people at a concert is enough to force our leaders to act, isn’t it?

Of course—thus far—the answer to all of those questions is no.

So what will be enough to force our leaders to act?


I get choked up every time I think about the kids at Sandy Hook. At the time I had a son a year younger than those kids and a son a year older than those kids. My daughter is in first grade today.

When I think about those kids at Sandy Hook, I think about my kids. I identify with them. I mourn them. I think about what terror they must have felt. I’m an adult and it’s horrific to just think about it. They were kids and they lived it.

Sometimes I’ll see pictures of those kids. Their smiling faces or mischievous looks. And I’ll just stare at them for a minute. So cute. So innocent. So alive.

And then sometimes I remember that that’s not what they look like anymore. That’s what they looked like before they went to school that day. But that’s not what they looked like when the first responders arrived. It’s not what they looked like when the funeral director had talk to their parents about whether they would be viewed.

What if we saw what they looked like? What if President Obama, instead of reading each child’s name at the memorial service for the children held up a picture of how they were found in that school? And what if we forced ourselves to look?

Could any of us look at those pictures and conclude that there’s nothing we can do? Could we defend the right of anyone to have access to weapons that can cause such devastation on such a scale?

Displaying pictures of victims may never happen. I can’t imagine how traumatic it would be for their families. And I certainly wouldn’t want my kids to see those pictures.

But if every adult in America saw those pictures, including members of Congress, we would solve the problem.

None of us would want to look. It would be horrible. It would be life-changing. It would be scarring. But it would break through this wall of desensitization that each of us can erect when victims are reported as numbers. Even if we hear their life stories, we don’t know them. We don’t feel the loss the way their families feel the loss. As upset as I get about those kids at Sandy Hook, I can’t even compare what I feel to what their parents feel.

As a nation we have decided that the Second Amendment is worth 34,000 lives a year. That’s just a number. 58 is just a number. Even twenty first-graders is just a number. It’s easy to say that the Second Amendment is worth a number of lives. But is the Second Amendment worth what actually happened to those kids? If the answer is yes, then we should demand of ourselves that we see what actually happened to them.

Some will say this idea is exploitative, and plays on people’s emotions. I’m sure those people will recognize such a tactic, as it’s one employed by gun rights folks every time they say they need a gun to protect themselves from some mystery assailant, or a government that’s coming after them.

I’m surprised that we haven’t seen pictures like this yet. We live in a “reality” show culture where few things remain private. There are leaks throughout every level of government. That these sorts of pictures haven’t been widely shared across the internet is almost unbelievable.

Maybe it will never happen, but if it does, then our leaders will have no choice but to act.

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