Quite understandably, the Newtown, CT folks who had such unspeakable horror visited upon them one year ago last Saturday requested that the public respect their choosing to have their privacy a foremost consideration as they marked the anniversary. Heaven knows that in the time since that dark day’s events unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the people of Newtown, and especially those families directly impacted by the violence, have been nothing if not supreme exemplars of grace in the face of unimaginable heartbreak. Even as it has borne its grief, Newtown has summoned the strength to confront the core evil that delivered last December’s blast of notoriety – a gun culture in this country that defies logical explanation.
So Newtown went for a quiet observance of one year since the tragic theft of its innocence. But it is not Newtown’s resolve to be silent about what brought it to such a god-awful place.
Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, whose 5th District includes Newtown, talks today about the ongoing mobilization effort to get folks to “stand against cowardice in Washington,” as she declared in an MSNBC interview the other day. Esty reflects the determination one has seen typically displayed by the people of Newtown and, one gathers, much of the rest of the state. Outraged, like so many of us, that not even their nightmare experience could move Capitol Hill to show some spine against a callously uncaring gun lobby, the people of Newtown are evidently dedicated to stoutly carrying the fight forward. The voice of Newtown duly made itself heard when the Connecticut state legislature sought to tighten its gun laws and wound up passing a comprehensive reform package earlier this year.
That action by Connecticut’s legislators, as well as a few other states where there was courage enough to do likewise, only made more disdainful the rebuff dealt to reform efforts at the federal level. It makes for a pretty bleak outlook for gun violence legislation in Congress, given that what had been proposed, only to get derailed in the Senate, was no ground-breaking, tough measure. It was mild stuff which polls indicated having the support of 90 percent or thereabouts public support – closing background check loopholes, limiting magazine clip size…The infamous filibuster was once again brought out of the Republican obstructionist arsenal to kill anything fixing to happen in the Senate. And in the House Speaker John Boehner’s tactic of half-heartedly deferring to the Senate to act first was but a lame attempt to refute the “cowardice” label Rep. Esty very correctly slaps on Congress.
One wonders when will there be a true death-blow delivered to this absurdity of elected lawmakers in cavalier fashion stomping all over the will of the people. The big-stick capacity of lobby power is of course no stranger to the legislative process. But the manipulating ways of vested interests explode the shame on Congress to outsize proportions when they’re allowed to negate such overwhelming public approval as those modest reform measures enjoyed. What right to continued public service do senators have, who block legislation favored by very nearly all of the folks they represent? What possible justification can a lawmaker offer for kowtowing to lobbying influences, which contradict such a clamor from the masses?
In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, when the NRA and others of their ilk were in high profile as they readied pushback strategy in the midst of calls for gun law reform,speculation frequently centered on the timing element – that the preference of apologists for widespread gun use would be to have any reform move delayed until the emotionally charged public response had subsided. Disturbing as it may be to some of us that the fate met by those innocents last December gets tossed in with every other marketplace idea or product requiring “strategy,” that cold reality improbably becomes the other side’s focus. Of course, any thought among the Capitol Hill crowd, of seeking cover for their gutlessness in somewhat abated public emotion warrants instant rejection. There should be no quarter given to politicians with the wherewithal to respond decisively to what befell Sandy Hook Elementary School, who choose not to.
Speaker Boehner seemed to have all the proper atmospherics in place a few days ago when he went public with what some suggest was a long-simmering resentment against the far-right bully cartel’s dominion over space he should control. It’s risky betting that Boehner’s rant is good for any dialing back of the hard-line extremist posture on an issue like gun control, which isn’t exactly a GOP pet peeve. In the Senate, the Democratic majority’s recent changing of the filibuster rules should translate into elimination of what presented a barrier to any passage of gun legislation months ago.
So one doesn’t know where Congress will come down when and if the ball lands in its court again. We do know that even with random outbreaks of gun violence so frequent as to, God forbid, numb our senses to the phenomenon, Newtown’s hurt remains fresh and will, for a long time yet, refuse to grow old. Newtown isn’t done with us. And we dare not think to be done with Newtown. The huge debt to that community incurred last December by the nation, including a pathetically indifferent Congress, is one that has to be paid.