There are at least 555 reasons to ask whether American children are safer from gun violence today than they were three years ago, when the unthinkable happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
That's how many kids under the age of 12 have died from gunshots — both intentional and accidental — since Adam Lanza stormed into the school in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, and shot dead 20 children and six staff members, according to an NBC News analysis.
That figure, derived from news reports, other publicly available information and data from the Gun Violence Archive, is likely significantly lower than the true number of child gun deaths, as suicides often are not covered by news media and other gun deaths sometimes go unreported. Even so, it works out to a rate of just under one death of a child by firearm every two days in this country.
I don't know about all of you but the massacre at Sandy Hook hit me almost as hard as the attacks of 9-11.
Just like 2001 I was riveted to my TV, completely unable to fathom what I was seeing.
And then I thought, "Well this is it. Surely NOW we will start working on comprehensive gun legislation to keep our children safe from another attack like this one."
And I could not have been more wrong.
It was not that there were more victims in the Newtown
shooting than in other massacres before it, but these were babies.
Surely that would be enough to shock people out of their complacency and get the country angry and frightened enough to insist that we do something.
Something perhaps like what Australia had done in the wake of THEIR mass killing.
But that didn't happen.
Instead NRA President Wayne LaPierre blamed the politicians and the schools themselves:
" Politicians pass laws for gun free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."
Sarah Palin responded by suggesting no real answer to gun violence other than more prayer:
Unspeakable evil slammed America in the beautiful little town of Newtown, Connecticut, just days ago. No words can express the collective shock and sorrow shared by Americans who know the murder of innocent children is the most horrendous crime imaginable. The Connecticut state motto, “Qui transtulit sustinet,” promises that only God can sustain us. Though still insufficient and unfulfilling for the grieving families of these beautiful babies in the Lord's arms now, perhaps those words are all the inconsolable loved ones can hold on to at this time. May God show His sustaining love to them right now. Please Lord.
(Palin also claims in her book "Good Tidings and Great Joy" that she responded to the calls for more gun laws after Sandy Hook, by buying Todd a new gun.)
Other conservative politicians responded in similarly cowardly ways, as did a few Democrats, and then of course we have the Sandy Hook Truthers who simply refuse to believe the attack happened at all.
However it was President Obama who went to Newtown and tried to comfort the people who had lost loved ones and try to ease their pain:
The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget.
Person after person received an engulfing hug from our commander in chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter. For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break.
And then the entire scene would repeat—for hours. Over and over and over again, through well over a hundred relatives of the fallen, each one equally broken, wrecked by the loss. After each classroom, we would go back into those fluorescent hallways and walk through the names of the coming families, and then the president would dive back in, like a soldier returning to a tour of duty in a worthy but wearing war. We spent what felt like a lifetime in those classrooms, and every single person received the same tender treatment. The same hugs. The same looks, directly in their eyes. The same sincere offer of support and prayer.
The staff did the preparation work, but the comfort and healing were all on President Obama. I remember worrying about the toll it was taking on him. And of course, even a president’s comfort was woefully inadequate for these families in the face of this particularly unspeakable loss. But it became some small measure of love, on a weekend when evil reigned.
In the end there were a few laws passed in Connecticut, New York, and Maryland, but nothing on the Federal level.
And here we sit, three years later, just as vulnerable as we were on December 14, 2012.
In fact it could be argued with this push for increased gun ownership and more conceal carry permits in the wake of recent terrorist attacks that the possibility for another school, mall, or theater mass shooting has only increased.
Because despite what the NRA might tell you, more guns mean more bullets, and more bullets mean more people killed and wounded.
It's just math.