A shameful legacy

Congress’ inaction has led to 1,500-plus mass-shooting deaths since Sandy Hook

I was up late last Sunday and tuned into cable news shows to learn more about the shooting at a concert in Las Vegas, which was being reported on live by affiliates in Sin City. I felt my body clench later that night as I watched video clips with the sound of sustained gunfire from what we now know was a cache of weapons, including some equipped with technology that makes them shoot like automatics.

When I went to bed that evening, there were mixed reports. Officials confirmed a few casualties, while one woman at the concert said she thought dozens had died.

I awoke to the news that at least 50 people had perished, and the first question that came to my mind was: “Were any of the victims kids?” A mother’s instinct, I suppose. Thus far, based on what’s been made public, it appears no young children were mortally wounded. Then again, each victim is somebody’s loved one—whether a child, mother, brother ….

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around such a horrific event and America’s lack of will to do anything about it. I thought Congress would take up stricter gun laws following the shooting at Sandy Hook back in 2012. Twenty-six people, including 20 children, died at that elementary school in Newtown, Conn., at the hands of a deranged man.

My son was just a baby when that mass killing took place. To this day, the school photo of one of the victims, Daniel Barden, remains etched into my memory. I don’t know what it is—his freckles, wavy red hair or the two missing front teeth—but I’ll never forget his sweet face. He was just 7 years old.

What has Congress done to pass sensible gun laws since Barden’s violent death five years ago? Not a single thing.

Nothing happened a few years later when a racist gunman killed nine parishioners attending Bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Nothing happened in response to a jihad-inspired married couple slaughtering 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino for an organization that provides services to disabled people. Nothing came out Congress when 49 others were exterminated at a nightclub in Orlando.

Tragically, without intervention at the federal level, many states have actually worked in the opposite direction—to place fewer restrictions on firearms (see Editorial, page 4).

And now Las Vegas, an event that eclipses all of the other mass shootings as the largest in modern American history. As of deadline, 58 were confirmed dead. Fifty-nine if you include the shooter. But again, it’s unlikely our federal legislators will take up the issue. If Congress wouldn’t enact restrictions in response to the death of 20 precious children, there’s little hope its members will do so now.

Keep in mind that the killings mentioned above are only the highest-profile incidents. According to a database compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit group formed after Sandy Hook that tracks gun-related violence in the United States, there have been more than 1,500 mass shootings resulting in more than 1,700 deaths since December 2012.

Congress owns this shameful legacy.