It was a horrible day that was sure to change everything. Certainly it changed the lives of the families of the 20 children and 6 teachers who lost their lives one year ago this Saturday, innocent victims who happened to be at the wrong school at the wrong time. They were gunned down by a troubled young man with a history of mental illness who was tragically given easy access to assault rifles and decided to go on a shooting rampage, beginning with his mother and ending when he turned the weapon on himself.
It was widely believed to be a seminal moment in the national debate about gun safety. President Obama pledged to push legislation through Congress to reduce gun violence, including requiring universal background checks for all firearm sales, banning assault weapons, and improving the quality of our nation's mental-health treatment (especially for young people). In his Parents Facebook town-hall forum in February, Vice President Biden said, "We can't guarantee that another mother won't receive a dreaded phone call. But things will be a lot better. Fewer people will be victims. Fewer futures will be stamped out. Fewer kids will die."
A year later, those promises remain unfulfilled. Congress failed to act on the President's plan. Even the bill to expand background checks, supported by more than 90 percent of the American people, was voted down. We haven't heard a peep about gun control from the White House since then. In the meantime, there have been 26 more school shootings since that awful day, as a haunting ad from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns point out.
Mother Jones reports that 194 children 12 and under have died in gun accidents, homicides, and suicides since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Would all these senseless deaths have been prevented by gun legislation? Of course not. But isn't saving the lives of at least some citizens—particularly the youngest, who can't advocate for or protect themselves—a cause worth acting on, even if it means defying the powerful gun lobby? Yes, it will take guts—more than occupants of the House and Senate have displayed thus far.
At the least, we can and need to do a better job protecting our kids. And you can help. E-mail your congressperson asking him or her to support stronger childproofing regulations, including penalizing owners who leave their firearms unlocked and accessible to kids. Read Guns Within Reach, our report on how to teach firearm safety to your child. Before allowing a playdate at someone else's house, make sure that the family stores its guns safely: locked in a gun safe, unloaded, and out of reach and site of young kids. Finally, take the Parents Gun-Safety Pledge, and share it to a friend. Sadly, we can't bring those Newtown kids back. But we can still ensure that they didn't die in vain.
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Photo copyright Gina Jacobs via ShutterStock