Today is my birthday and like last year, I remember waking up, my heart filled with gratitude and optimistic about the blessings awaiting me–How would I show the people I love that my world begins and ends with them? How would I leave this a better place? How will I recover from failure and disappointment with wisdom gained, stronger and more resilient for the challenges and the victories ahead?
The very next day, on December 14, 2012, I learned, likely on Twitter, of the unspeakable horror that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman entered a school, shooting it up like a video game except that the victims are not fictional characters but 26 small children, 6 people who worked at the school, as well as the gunman and his mother. As I said on NPR which I write about in Will There Be Another?, it’s difficult, even for the most removed person, not to personalize a tragedy like Newtown: my bestie works in a Connecticut school. Mami retired from a school district. One of my nieces is the age of the child victims.
As is to be expected and despite the efforts of the powerful gun lobby spearheaded by the National Rifle Association (NRA), support swelled for more gun safety. Still, only a few months after the Newtown massacre, a crucial gun safety measure failed in the Senate, prompting some strong words from a person close to this tragedy as I write in “Disgusted” and “Disappointed”: Newtown Shooting Victim’s Sister Carlee Soto to the Senate.
A year since Newtown, public support has waned. Gun safety remains, along with immigration, tax and entitlement reform, trapped in legislative purgatory where good ideas, principles, and agenda items go to die by inertia and obstruction. We can blame the dysfunction in Washington. You must also assign blame to what functions in Washington–powerful special interest money. In the case of gun laws, the gun rights lobby has won this battle, fighting off federal legislation (and winning key local victories). Their power lies in part with money, historically raising more and contributing to candidates, according to the Washington Post and the Sunlight Foundation.
We must also blame gun safety advocacy groups for failing to frame the issue in a way that sticks.
What more can stick, Viviana, than 26 children being gunned down?, you may be asking.
I couldn’t agree more. But gun safety groups are up against money and politics. One suggestion is to move away from framing this issue as gun control to get and keep gun off the streets. Gun rights groups say this is a slippery slope that will lead to banning all weapons. All of sudden, weaponry used on battlefields halfway across the world becomes as protected as a rifle used on weekend hunts.
However, a new report suggests that positioning gun safety not to single out individual shooters but as a public health issue can yield more results for gun safety advocates. Think of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or the anti-smoking campaigns of the 80s and 90s. Simply put, it’s not about exposing city kids to hunting and fishing as the former President of the NRA recently stated. Rather, it’s about making the streets they walk, the schools where they study, and the malls they cruise safe.
Now this makes sense, is simple, and may create more buy-in from a public that is tired of this senseless yet preventable violence.
Let’s hope so.
Nearly 200 children have died since Newtown.
Let’s hope that next year, we aren’t mourning the loss of 200 more.
The Newtown anniversary and stalled gun safety laws was the primary topic I discussed on MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts Show Agenda panel with The Root.com’s Corey Dade and MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin on December 12, 2013.
Click below to watch:Do you believe gun safety will make it into our laws?