One Year Later

Last Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Much has been written and spoken in recent weeks about the meaning of that event and how little, it seems, that has changed that might prevent a recurrence of something similar.

Not that many of us needed a reminder, but we got one anyway, when a high school student in Colorado last Friday critically wounded a fellow student apparently at random in the course of attempting to "settle" a dispute with the school's librarian or possibly another teacher. The student perpetrator than turned the gun on himself, with fatal consequences. The two situations are different in many respects. Last's week's assailant was a well-known and well-regarded, from most accounts, member of their school's community, and Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Newtown tragedy, was a troubled loner who in retrospect clearly needed help. But the common ground of both cases is that lethal weaponry was far too easy for both to obtain, which was then used to destructive and tragic purposes. Earlier this year the nation went through a protracted debate and discussion about tightening gun laws, or more precisely, the rules around who may or may not purchase a weapon that would seem to have more military applications than one intended for sport, hunting or recreation. The gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, won that debate, and little, if anything, has changed that might in some way help prevent the repetition of a mass shooting, whether at a school, a shopping mall or some other crowded venue where innocent people die or are seriously wounded when some unbalanced individual acts out some crazed fantasy. It's pathetic and shameful that this has been the outcome, but at this juncture, there seems little political will to fight that fight again. That's a sad eulogy. It's all about the access. There is a balance yet to be found between Second Amendment Constitutional privileges and public safety. No one wants to deny hunters or sportsman with legitimate or safe purposes their right to enjoy firearms. But owning a firearm should be a privilege that is earned. It's still far too easy to obtain one with the most marginal of background checks - and why any one needs a weapon capable of shooting a dozen or more rounds of ammunition at a rapid clip who is not in law enforcement or the military is another question. It's not the video games that account for the shockingly high level of gun violence in this country. Japan and other Asian nations have some of the most violence-laden video games anywhere, but the level of gun violence is very low, because of strict curbs on gun ownership. The NRA and other apologists for shootings such as Newtown an Aurora, Colo. are the thinnest of ice when they attempt to point to other cultural reasons why restricting access to high velocity weaponry wouldn't curb the numbers of shooting incidents made possible when someone who has no business owning a gun winds up having one. It's more in sorrow than in anger that we mark this anniversary, because it's almost just a matter of time before we have another tragedy to document and ponder - what if? What if a sizable enough consensus had emerged to overwhelm the need and greed of politicians who embrace the campaign contributions of the NRA? Hopefully, we'll get the answer before it's too late, but sadly, that seems entirely unlikely.


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