History will judge us

Flags half-staff at Salisbury Central School Photo by Anne Day

Americans love guns. There is ample evidence for that, including the sales of all kinds of them, whether pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, semi-automatic, pump-action, you name it, we love them. Though sales slumped immediately after Donald Trump’s election, it was only due to the large spike before the election, when many believed Hillary Clinton was going to win and wanted to stock up in advance of any gun control legislation a Democratic president might have gotten passed. And, of course, there were increased sales of guns every year during the Obama presidency.

Need more proof of our love for firearms? Take a look at many popular TV shows, video games and movies. There are guns pulled at every turn, and used with abandon to threaten good guys and bad guys alike. And look on social media, where many gun owners post photos of themselves and their guns. Are Americans really so comfortable with weapons as depicted in these places?

It doesn’t seem so, especially in the aftermath of another devastating and deadly school shooting, this time in Florida. For those of us who live in Connecticut, so close to the site of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown in 2012, each school shooting is another reason to push our legislators to figure out some real action on keeping guns out of the hands of those who will abuse them by using them for violent attacks on others.

Our Connecticut senators and our and Newtown’s Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-5) are in the forefront of advocacy for gun reform, and in the fight to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines nationally, as has been done in Connecticut. Sen. Chris Murphy was on the U.S. Senate floor immediately on Feb. 14 when the shooting in Florida was being reported, noting that it is only in the United States that there are such high numbers of school shootings, with 18 already in 2018.

Gun deaths have decreased in Connecticut since reform measures have been put in place. But if there is no national action, is state action not in some ways futile? 

What will it take to have all representatives in Washington who receive contributions from the NRA to be willing to work with those who support gun reform and mental health funding and come up with some solutions? Will every county, every congressional district, in every state have to endure a mass shooting in order for a national set of reforms to be passed in Congress? Is that when the pressure will be enough for the American love for guns to be overshadowed by a universal agreement on a commitment to making our schools, public places, and even our homes, safe?

If so, it will be too late. It would be the worst of ironies if the guns we cherish so and continue to buy in such large numbers completely destroy the stability of our society and immolate America from within. A much larger portion of the money spent on the U.S. Department of Defense, then, meant to protect us from invaders, might have been better spent on addressing every aspect of gun violence and the social unraveling inside our own borders.

History will judge this country harshly if the United States cannot come to terms with its self-destructive love affair with guns.