Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Emotional Weekend: Father's Day, Six Months After Sandy Hook

This is an emotional three-day weekend.  Friday was the 6 month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting, and Sunday will be Father's Day.

I'm a father to two small children, ages 7 and 8.  Sunday will be great, and I'm certain they've got a homemade goodie to give me.  I love my kids.  They are so special to me, and have such potential and strengths.

So it makes me grieve to think that those 20 little kids in Newtown leave behind 20 fathers who won't be celebrating Sunday, who won't be getting homemade gifts, who won't see the promise of their children fulfilled over time. 

Since that horrifying day, six months ago, I have watched as many of those fathers and family have lobbied endlessly for solutions to keep such a horror from happening again.  They are tireless, brave, and enduring.  It is their promise to their children, enshrined in the Sandy Hook Promise:
I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.   
I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.
You can sign that promise, too.  I have.

Many of those victim families were in Washington, D.C., today to lobby again, meeting with legislators and President Obama.  Said one father:
“I feel like it’s my responsibility as Ana’s dad to do something that honors her life and, in some small way, maybe prevents some other family from having to go through what we’ve had to go through,” Jimmy Greene said.

Said another father:
“We’re in mile one of a marathon, so we’re going to continue to work for this,” Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son, Daniel, was killed, told Spencer. “And we’re going continue to try to convince people and influence people that this really is the right thing to do.”
See an interview with some of these parents below:

Since the Newtown shooting, six months ago, another 5000 Americans have been killed in homicidal shootings.  An estimated 10,000 or so have died in suicides. 

According to one estimate from the Children's Defense Fund, 3000 children and teens a year die from gun homicides, suicides, and accidents.  Another 14,000 are injured.  That's a lot of fathers who won't be celebrating Father's Day!

And our legislators continue to do nothing about it.

“And how much has changed, really, since then?” a Darien, Conn., town policeman asked Friday morning, near one of the entrances to a cemetery where one of the small coffins was brought last December. 
“Tell me how much will ever change in this country.”
In the absence of leadership from our Federal legislators, states have instead had to take the lead:
And despite the shameful lack of progress at the federal level, state governments are not sitting still. In the past six months, several states have passed gun violence prevention legislation that will save lives and help prevent future shootings. 
Some of the states that have passed, or are currently considering strong gun violence legislation, include:
  • Connecticut enacted a strong package of laws, including: the strongest state assault weapons ban on the books; a ban on armor-piercing ammunition; a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines; and background checks for all gun purchases. 
  • A new law in New York State strengthened its ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and required background checks for all gun and ammunition sales, as well as other measures. 
  • Colorado put a new law in place that limits ammunition magazine capacity to 15 rounds and requires universal background checks for all gun sales. 
  • California, which already has some of the strongest laws in the country, is moving forward with a legislative package that passed the state Senate at the end of May, and is now awaiting action in the Assembly. The bill requires that all semiautomatic rifles have non-detachable ammunition magazines with a capacity of 10 rounds or less, requires background checks for ammunition sales, and expands the prohibited categories for gun possession (for example, those with multiple drug/alcohol convictions within a three-year period). It also closes the "bullet button" loophole that now allows gun manufacturers to circumvent the state's assault weapons ban by exploiting a definitional weakness in the law.
But in other states, there have been rollbacks in protections for citizens, from a weakening of gun laws.

Here in Oregon, despite widespread support for four bills to require universal background checks, prohibit guns in schools and government buildings, and require proficiency testing before being issued a concealed carry license, the bills nonetheless are not getting enough senators to support them.  With up to 90% support for universal background checks among Oregonians, according to a poll that was taken in the state, one has to ask:  Who, exactly, are these senators representing?

It's time to demand real change.  It's time to reduce the grieving.  It's time to put the welfare of our children and adults to the top of the priority list, above the concerns of a minority of extremist gun advocates.

Have a safe and happy Father's Day.

ADDENDUM (6/16/12): See below for a message from another father of a Sandy Hook victim: