The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened five years ago today.
I was only three days postpartum when the random daytime TV program I was watching cutaway to a breaking news story. There was a mass shooting. At an elementary school in Connecticut, a cowardly, homegrown terrorist stormed the building, shooting and killing 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six adult staff members.
I watched, horrified, as I nursed my newborn son. My thoughts, of course, went to my own children — my oldest would be starting kindergarten the following year — and to the children who were lost. I thought about beds that would be unslept in that night. I thought of holiday presents already addressed to little ones who would never unwrap them. I thought about parents who said goodbye to their children that morning, not knowing it would be their last parting.
I thought about how unfair and highly preventable it all was.
The news destroyed me, and as I saw more coverage on TV and online, I knew that we all felt this loss. This was personal. And we were never going to let it happen again.
Except, it has happened again. Many times.
Since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 1,576 mass shootings resulting in at least 1,788 dead and 6,333 injured. Though the outrage sparked by Sandy Hook inspired an impassioned renewal of the gun control debate, proposals for increased gun regulation were fruitless.
Months after the attack, Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 and the Manchin-Toomey Amendment were introduced during Congress’s first session of the year. This legislation would have limited the sell of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and introduced a universal background check, but the Senate defeated both pieces of legislation only four months after the events at Sandy Hook.
As a country, we’ve been given so many opportunities to take a stand against gun violence and take actionable measures to prevent another tragedy like Sandy Hook. Yet, we’ve done nothing to stop this senseless pattern. The current administration has even overturned an Obama-era policy that restricted the ability for mentally ill individuals to buy guns, potentially giving firearm access to mentally unstable individuals.
Instead of the gun control policies that are so desperately needed in order to prevent gun violence, thoughts and prayers are the only consolation offered by many of our elected officials. Whenever talk of gun reform is reintroduced, it is quickly attacked by the NRA and Second Amendment supporters who see these restrictions — which could prevent the next mass shooting — as a violation of their rights.
At this point, I couldn’t care less about the right to bear arms. I’m much more concerned with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — the three inalienable rights that all citizens are entitled to. But if we live in a world in which we constantly fear becoming a victim of the next mass shooting, these rights no longer belong to us.
Five years ago, a monster entered Sandy Hook and killed 26 innocent people. And, as a society, we did nothing about it.
But it’s not too late. We can still stand together and say, “Never again.” For Sandy Hook, and for the thousands of other people who have been wounded or lost their lives since that day in December.