On Thursday of this week, my local chapter held a vigil on the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Since we had a dozen co-sponsors who helped us spread the word about the vigil, attendance was higher than expected. Participants sat in the sanctuary of a local church listening to beautiful piano music played by a friend as slides with the faces of the 20 children and 6 adults massacred 5 years ago looped in front of them. Earlier this fall, we held another vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, equally well attended and a solemn reminder that real people lose their lives every day to gunshot injuries. At that vigil, we said the names of each victim and rang the bell 58 times. It was moving to say the least.
A local reporter asked me in an interview before the vigil why we would hold a vigil for mass shooting victims when they happened so far away. My response? I don’t suppose the families of those small children expected that it would happen to them or in their town. I don’t think the residents of Sutherland, Texas imagined that it could have happened in their town. I never imagined that gun violence would affect my family.
That is why we do this.
There were vigils all over the country sponsored by Newtown Action Alliance and many other national gun violence prevention groups.
The reason I mention that vigil is that only 2 months ago, we held a vigil for the victims of the worst mass shooting in our country. And then the church shooting in Sutherland, Texas happened in November taking the lives of another 26. There were slides with photos of those victims as well as their names on the screen as well.
It was sobering, moving and powerful. After remarks from the pastor of the church urging peace and reminding us that, for Christians, this is the season of lighting advent candles to remind us of the reason we celebrate Christmas. But there were people of all faiths in the sanctuary including the local Rabbi, the Quaker community and those who don’t practice with any faith group.
As the participants lined up to light candles in memory of the victims of all gun violence and in particular the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the photos continued looping. It was seeing those happy faces of those 20 first graders that caused the tears and emotion as the candles were lit. Many of us also lit a candle for our own personal loss of a loved one and there were a number of victims in the sanctuary who cried over their own loss as well as the losses felt by way too many Americans.
As the vigil came to a close, we asked to honor the victims with action. That action included signing over 300 postcards that were mailed to our Congressional delegation urging them to support bills that would expand Brady background checks to all gun sales- something that makes so much common sense that 90-95% of Americans agree.
We have had enough. That was the overwhelming sentiment at our vigil and vigils all over the country to mark this particular anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one we thought was even too much for our lapdog politicians.
Alas, none of these mass shootings are enough. In fact, the stunning fact that 51% of Americans think that in order to protect gun rights, some mass shootings are OK with them.
This sad fact should make us wonder what in the world is wrong with us. These shootings just don’t happen anywhere else in the world in such large numbers or at all, actually.
At the same time as that 51% number revealed the insanity about our nation’s gun culture, people also said this ( from the linked article above):
About 61 per cent said the country’s gun laws should be tougher, while 27 per cent would rather see them remain the same, and 11 per cent want them to be less strict. That’s similar to the results of an Associated Press poll in July 2016.
What is happening in our country is just not normal. Nor is it inevitable. It is preventable. It is avoidable. It is lunacy itself.
5 years later, the victims’ families reflect on what happened and, of course, are still haunted by that day that changed their lives forever.
The ripple effect of gun violence spreads far and wide.
It is an American tragedy.
Something needs to change. We will not be held hostage by the corporate gun lobby.
As two of my friends who attended our vigil said, they both have granddaughters in first grade. Seeing those smiling faces hit home for them about how it would be if one of their own was massacred so violently and suddenly by a crazed person with a gun.
The enormity of our gun violence epidemic is very personal.
Say their names. Look at their photos.