"Sandy Hook Truthers" are getting a fair amount of press these days. These conspiracy theorists are from a cross section of crazy — a melting pot of first class nut jobs, all alleging the Sandy Hook shooting was the result of a myriad of shadowy and sinister reasons. From a vindictive Obama Administration, to ensuring shooter Adam Lanza's father was unable to testify in a banking scandal, to something really hilarious about The Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins being from Newtown and so yeah, The Hunger Games made it happen. Naturally.
Of course, these are all beyond ridiculous, but let's pretend for just one moment that they're not. Let's pretend that The Dark Knight Returns predicted the Sandy Hook Shooting, or that the Obama Administration planned this as a double secret covert ops breaker breaker zero dark thirty so they could take away American's guns and then send black men in later that night to rob them. Assuming that's true, it just doesn't matter. It just doesn't matter because every 30 minutes in the United States a child or teen dies or is injured from guns. Sandy Hook Elementary is now center stage in the battle for change, but the reality is, it only takes a few days for the United States to rack up the same number of child and teen gun deaths.
It doesn't matter why the gun laws get passed, it just matters that they do.
According to the Children Defense Fund's Protect Children, Not Guns 2012 report, which is the most recent and reliable national and state data on gun violence in America:
In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740-one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years. Six times as many children and teens-34,387-suffered nonfatal gun injuries as gun deaths in 2008 and 2009. This is equal to one child or teen every 31 minutes, 47 every day, and 331 children and teens every week.
That means a child or teen dies or is injured from guns every half hour, and as disturbing as those numbers are, they still weren't enough to enact a push for gun regulation. The reasons for this are plentiful with the most obvious being that most gun violence doesn't happen in such sheer quantity at one time, and most of it doesn't happen in the shiny white suburbs many think of as safe.
Some more staggering statistics?
The number of children under 5 killed by guns in 2010 was more than the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty that same year. Between 1979 and 2010, 119,079 children and teens died from guns. This is more deaths in 32 years than U.S. soldiers killed in action in the Vietnam, Korean, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined.
Numbers like these are the reason we need gun regulation, and it plain fucking sucks that it takes a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking child massacre to get some movement from our government.
Yesterday, President Obama announced a $500 million gun control package, a compilation of ideas generated from Vice President Biden's task force on gun control. Some are more modest executive actions that successfully circumvented Congressional opposition when Obama signed them yesterday, but some of the heavy hitters will have to pass Congress. Yes, that Congress — our nearly useless collection of mostly infants who enjoy passing time by taking long walks on the beach with lobbyists, watching the sun set on Americans' dreams, and shooting down (ha?) the last two decades of gun control efforts.
The Senate will start addressing the package proposals next week, which include expanding background checks, strengthening gun-trafficking laws, and banning military-style assault weapons. The Democrat-controlled upper house will most likely go through each element individually for the vote, rather than tackling the whole thing in one bill. After the lower house sees what passes, they'll most likely begin working their way through, and all hell has the possibility of breaking loose. Democracy in action! Or, another possibility, they'll just sit on the ones they don't want to deal with and sit on them and sit on them, and Obama will plead for reason, and we might end up pretty close to where we started.
But maybe not.
During the President's announcement on Wednesday, he asked citizens to lean on their elected representatives, to be vocal, and to demand action. "I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it," he said. "And, by the way, that doesn't just mean from certain parts of the country. We're going to need voices in those areas, in those Congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong, to speak up and to say this is important. It can't just be the usual suspects."
Almost every day I walk by an Oakland church that has dozens of dingy white crosses stuck in its lawn, each one displaying the name, age, and date of death of one of the city's homicide victims that year. Every year they're removed, only to be quickly replaced by a fresh batch the following year. In 2012, 148 crosses crowded the yard, the final belonging to 15-year-old Jubrille Jordan who was gunned down while walking with friends.
Sandy Hook was immense in its tragedy, but equally awful are the every day deaths of the children who don't become front page news. Getting these laws and regulations passed is for all of these kids, our nation's supposed future.
Whatever outrage the public has because of the Sandy Hook shooting — whether due to the fact that its a very real tragedy or because they're nutters and think Katniss orchestrated it — only time will tell if sanity will win out over established, greed, and fear. Let's see if a historically stymied Congress — one that includes clowns like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio who are already violently foaming at the mouth over yesterday's announcement — will pass this imperfect but long overdue legislation.