Five Years After Sandy Hook, What Will it Take to Pass Gun Violence Prevention Laws?

Today is five years since twenty children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Those then-first graders would be eleven or twelve years old today.

I think of them all the time. My own daughter’s a first grader this year, and my two sons were in second grade and kindergarten then. Every time I drop them off at school, or visit their school, I think of those kids at Sandy Hook. Every time I think about guns, I think about those kids.

“They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”

That’s what President Obama said in his remarks after the murders, and I think about that all the time. I think about the things my own kids have accomplished in the past five years, and breathe a sigh of relief that fate has permitted them to do so.

And I think about what it must have been like for those kids on that day. The sheer, unimaginable terror they must have felt in the last moments of their lives. I breathe another sigh that my own kids haven’t had to experience such a feeling. And I know that despite the horrific, heartbreaking, repulsive fear that I feel when imagining my own kids in such a situation, it’s nothing like what those kids actually felt.

In the five years since then, not a single federal law has been passed to help curb gun violence. Not one. Even the most basic restrictions—banning assault weapons and requiring background checks for every single gun transaction—failed to pass in 2013 because so many of our elected representatives (including Democratic senators Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Heidi Heitkamp, Mark Pryor) are disgusting cowards who lack the courage and vision to effectively lead their constituents.

If gun fetishists in this country won’t accept even the most reasonable, benign, low-level, non-freedom-infringing gun restrictions, then those people who believe that their right to bear arms is more important than the lives of 30,000 people who die from gun violence every year leave us no choice but to repeal the Second Amendment.

We’re a long way from that happening. Getting two-thirds of the House and Senate, or two thirds of states to propose such a repeal, and then getting three-fourths of states to ratify an appeal, isn’t something that will happen soon.

But it can happen. The Constitution is designed to be changed. The Supreme Court has changed its mind on previous rulings.

In 1857 the Supreme Court decided that a person whose ancestors were imported into the United States as slaves were not citizens and could not sue. At the same time, a large portion of the American economy relied on slave labor. Doing away with slavery and granting citizenship to all Americans was hard to imagine at that point. Yet ten years later two new Constitutional amendments outlawed slavery and made those former slaves citizens.

It took a Civil War and 600,000 deaths to bring about that change though. So we’ve more than paid the price for changes in our gun laws. We lose a Civil War’s worth of people to gun violence every couple decades in this country.

Besides thousands of gun deaths, what will it take to bring sensible gun restrictions to the United States?

Had you asked me that question five years and one day ago, I would have thought that the murder of twenty kids at an elementary school would be enough to bring about change. But I would have been wrong. Many of our elected representatives, and millions of our fellow citizens, decided that their gun fetish is worth the lives of twenty schoolchildren.

So what will it take? I don’t know. What can be more disgusting than what happened at Sandy Hook?

Perhaps we need to look at it from the point-of-view of those who protect the Second Amendment at all costs. We need a more expansive imagination.

What if we could bring to life each of the provisions of the tax cut bill currently making its way through Congress? That might be far-fetched, but don’t forget, according to some, corporations are people, too.

So imagine that the tax cut bill passes. And imagine that when it passes each provision comes to life. And imagine if some madman burst into the National Archives and Records Administration and gunned down each provision of that tax bill, leaving them dead on the floor, huddled beneath desks, cowering in closets.

We all know what would come next: meaningful gun violence prevention, because those in Congress would have finally lost something they care about.

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