This year’s journey to Bethlehem was re-routed through Sandy Hook. Visions of the baby lying in a manger transfigured into images of young children lying in coffins. Tragically this season was as much about the “Slaughter of the Innocents” as the birth of the Prince of Peace.
We’ve been here before. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, Tucson, a theater in Aurora, a shopping center in Omaha, a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, and now Webster, New York. Too many times angry, sometimes deranged people with guns used their last day on earth to make it so for others. Somehow this feels different. Twenty dead six and seven year olds, bodies ripped apart by bullets, will do that.
Our congressional delegation’s response was disappointing. Sandy Hook caused others to reassess, not Mike Enzi, John Barrasso or Cynthia Lummis. They cling to threadbare NRA positions. Wyoming is a “guns” state but given the choice, wouldn’t we prioritize children? Don’t be certain. Their constituents responded to the pain in Connecticut is buying more guns in Wyoming.
There was a time in Wyoming history when cowboys were required to check their guns at the Marshall’s office as soon as they tied their horse to the hitching post. Even old west communities felt safer when guns were controlled. Today legislators are more concerned with their “A” rating from the NRA.
Why are mass killings now a part of American life? It’s not like that in most nations. In the last 50 years, 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings happened in the United States. Finland was second with two. Among developed countries, America has the highest gun homicide rate and the highest number of guns per capita. America has more gun homicides than all other high-income countries combined, two-and-a-half times as many as Iraq!
The Supreme Court has ruled the right to bear arms is protected but not absolutely. It’s subject to regulations and controls. The Second Amendment allows citizens to bear arms but not to bear the kind of weapons used in this slaughter. One website (outdoorsnative.com) selling the Bushmaster model used at Sandy Hook describes the weapon (quote is abbreviated but verbatim).
“The Bushmaster rifle is legal in most states but unfortunately is illegal in a few states because of certain features (you know what states you are, wake up and give your citizens their rights!) We know we might hear a lot of negative feedback and disagreement because we are saying an AR with a .223 round is a great survival rifle. Do we care? Actually no we don’t. With 30 round magazines and the option to purchase aftermarket magazines that will hold even more rounds, this rifle has the capability to put a lot of rounds down range very quickly.”
The ad promises this gun can fire as many as 180 rounds in less than two minutes. “There is a reason why so many militaries around the world use this kind of weapon.”
These weapons were invented for only one purpose, to kill a lot of people very quickly. That’s why, as the ad says, militaries around the world use it. Army’s should have it, but not our neighbors.
The NRA is right about the culture. Children are force-fed an unhealthy diet of violence from movies and TV to computer games and cage-fighting. Guns are also part of American culture. Nations with lower levels of gun violence have all the former, little of the latter.
Self-reflection should move us from grief to the advocacy stage of the post-traumatic process. It’s time for people of good faith to speak. Gun-lovers, gun-haters, mental health experts, those with a stake in a dysfunctional cultural bent toward violent expression, need to abandon their talking points. There’s no room for them in those Sandy Hook graves.
Sandy Hook must change America if Bethlehem changed the world. The Biblical journey to Bethlehem included three wise men. Hopefully we’ll have that many wise men and women willing to make the sad journey through Sandy Hook.