The Tragedy of Sandy Hook

Nearly ten years ago, 20-year-old Adam Lanza murdered 28 Sandy Hook Elementary School students. The case finally concluded on February 16th, with the Connecticut State Supreme Court forcing gun manufacturing company Remington to pay $73 million to the families who had lost loved ones in the school shooting. While the current national conversation focuses on a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and an insurrection by Canadian truckers, gun violence – an issue central to the American way of life – receives very little coverage. This article will cover the legacy of gun control following the Sandy Hook Massacre.

Despite efforts by former President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress, the gun control discussion following the Sandy Hook Massacre resulted in no significant legislative changes. The sentiment can be best summed up in a comment from English columnist Daniel Pearce Jackson Hodges: “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

While many political issues can feel out-of-touch to the wider public, gun violence is felt by nearly all – especially the youth of the country. I can clearly remember teachers in the weeks following the Sandy Hook shooting putting tape over all classroom windows, checking and double-checking to ensure that all doors were locked. Students practiced numerous lockdown drills, and schools added various bulletproof fortifications around campus. These are simply not experiences that students and teachers in a developed country should be forced to undergo.

I am not naïve enough to believe that certain gun control measures will prevent all gun violence. But those who witnessed the violence towards the nation’s youth at Sandy Hook and refuse to do anything are despicable. It is such a painful experience to have to risk one’s life to attend classes – a painful experience that happens in so few other developed countries.

Turning such powerful emotion into concrete policy is straightforward. The system for background checks must be strengthened and loopholes for purchase without background checks – such as gun shows – must be eliminated. While the freeze to federally fund research gun violence was ended in 2021, more federal money must be allocated for this research. And progress, although minimal, has occurred in the years following the shooting. For example, the Trump Administration took a powerful step to ban the purchase of bump stocks.

President Biden has not done enough to pass comprehensive gun control legislation to benefit the American people; when he has attempted to, resistance from Independent and Republican members of Congress has halted any meaningful progress. Most recently, the father of one of the students murdered in the Parkland shooting, scaled a crane near the White House to bring greater attention to gun violence and to blame President Biden for the lack of any such gun control legislation.

In the rare instances that the Biden administration has undertaken powerful measures to prevent gun violence, they have faced hardened opposition. The president appointed longtime special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms David Chipman to be the director of the organization. In the department, Chipman worked as an advocate for banning assault weapons; he himself received a Bachelor of Science in Justice from American Studies. Yet, opposition from firearms organizations like the NRA and the politicians who are funded by these organizations caused President Biden to withdraw the nomination.

But there remains a great deal of hope in the movement for gun control legislation. The youth of this country serve as powerful leaders in a movement to provide solutions for gun violence. Powerful, youth-led organizations such as March for Our Lives, Students Demand Action, and Sandy Hook Promise continue to fight for progressive change and to end the horrific amounts of gun violence in the United States.

It is so disappointing that nearly ten years after the Sandy Hook Massacre and upon a conclusion to the lawsuit, so little has changed in the area of gun control.