On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 first-graders and six educators lost their lives in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. At the time, the shooting was the second deadliest to have occurred in America, behind the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting — and marked what seemed like a massive shift in the conversation about gun control. The loss of so many children at the hands of a shooter was so devastating that it brought then-President Barack Obama to tears, saying in a press conference, “I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.”
Immediately following what transpired at Sandy Hook, there was an urgency to fix the problem of gun control in America. A user-generated gun-control petition directed at the White House became the most popular, most supported measure. Obama presented a gun-control proposal to Congress to help solve the issue. And the NRA suggested putting armed police officers in every school.
Five years later, though, the issue of gun control remains largely the same, changed only in theory; Obama’s gun-control measures were predominately blocked by Congress, and the NRA assures us that legislating guns won’t stop mass shootings. The reality of post-Sandy Hook America is that not much has changed. In some ways, things have gotten more extreme, since a major shooting happens every two months and nearly 1,600 mass shootings have occurred since Dec. 14, 2012. The feeling of “never again,” rightly put forth after the death of nearly two dozen elementary school children, seems to have only extended so far.
Yet, some changes have been made. They’re mostly at the state level, since 49 percent of Americans now live in a state where expanded background checks for guns exist. Moreover, recent shootings in 2017 have motivated national efforts for background checks to be made. But, while this slow momentum toward change occurs, Congress has simultaneously worked on making the concealed carrying of guns easier. There is a deep feeling of two steps forward, one step back as it relates to fixing the problem of guns in America.
As the loss of lives from Sandy Hook weighs heavy on us today, the anniversary is a reminder that the problem is still at large. Sweeping reform may not ever come as easily as some may hope, and “thoughts and prayers” still dominate conversations. Regardless, the memory of these events looms large — and we’ll continue to push toward change, however slow that change might be.