After Tragedy, Gun Reform Still Stalled
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 01:01
The day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I wrote a commentary for The Hoya on the event. Beyond the literal attack that my hometown had just suffered, I feared a media onslaught that was only just beginning. My home was about to become the epicenter and catalyst for our fight against gun violence. I was, and still am, accepting of the attention and scrutiny that Newtown receives, but I was desperate for some way to tell people how I knew my home for what it really was and is.
And, as expected, Newtown has become what seems to be a permanent political symbol. There are few headlines related to gun control, gun rights advocacy or violence that do not include the words “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook.”
Even in casual conversations, I’ve felt these effects. Reactions to my response to the question, “Where are you from?” have drastically changed. Before Dec. 14, 2012, my response would merely elicit replies like: “Newtown? Is that near Hartford? How far are you from New York City?” Now, however, I face awkward silences, responses of pity, the common wide-eyed, “Oh, wow. I’m sorry,” and the eventual lead to heated gun control debates. I do, admittedly, invite some of these conversations. I often proudly wear my “We are Newtown” T-shirt across campus, both my computer and backpack don green ribbons and my “Angels of Sandy Hook” bracelet never leaves my wrist. But now that over one month has passed, the media mob has vacated my church parking lot. But even though my community and — most importantly — those 27 families have been left to grieve in private, I have noticed that the country has given Newtown a huge responsibility. Although we did not ask for it and would do anything to return it if it meant having our children and teachers back, Newtown has been made responsible for making change. And I can think of no community more qualified for the job.
As a response to this challenge, I have found myself following the course of our gun control debates with intense scrutiny. On Jan. 16, President Obama announced 23 executive actions to strengthen gun control. They were cushions, at best — something to satisfy a majority’s anxious need for action. They included a call to “review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes,” launching a “national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign,” and providing “incentives for schools to hire school resource officers,” among other vague “solutions.” Additionally, the president called for Congress to reintroduce the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a piece of legislation in place from 1994 to 2004 that aimed to ban the manufacture, transfer and possession of semi-automatic assault weapons that have “features that appear useful in military and criminal applications.” The president, however, failed to mention this legislation’s shortcomings — namely that what Congress deemed assault weapons were used in only 2 percent of gun-related crimes prior to the act’s implementation. Furthermore, the language used in the act allows for loopholes that keep semi-automatics in circulation and only take those that resemble (or have stylistic features of) military style assault rifles out of circulation. Finally, five years following the implementation of this act, 12 students and one teacher were killed with a 99 mm Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic weapon at Columbine.
Right now, our country, our government and our Congress lack courage. Don’t get me wrong. These campaigns, incentives and reviews are positive steps in the right direction and Obama’s immediate reaction in the aftermath of the shooting made me proud to have him as my president. He showed compassion and a level of humanity I have felt have been missing from the presidency in recent years. His appearance in Newtown in the week following the shooting lent a sense of comfort to the community that I could not begin to articulate.
Nonetheless, these meager attempts at change demonstrate how intimidated we are by political obstacles. We are too fearful to step back and examine our own Bill of Rights in the historical context in which it was written. We fear the polarization and uproar that publicly questioning the Second Amendment would cause. We ultimately fear the idea that, when it comes to gun control, America might be too free.
Meagan Kelly is a senior in the College. She is a former photo editor for The Hoya.