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Lane: The year since Sandy Hook

BY JOE LANE | DECEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Saturday will mark the first anniversary of one of the most tragic events in my lifetime. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary heavily armed, and proceeded to kill 20 students (ages 6 and 7) and six adults.

The events that transpired on that horrific day were felt across the country and the world and intensified an already heated debate over gun control and school safety in the United States.

So here we are, almost one year removed from the infamous day, and I find myself asking the question: Has anything changed? Have we made any progress toward better protecting the students, and general public, of this country?

It is clear that, following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, great changes still have to be made to ensure that students (and adults alike) feel safe going to school.

In the debate over school safety, and the safety of the public in general, the two most important aspects to consider are mental-health support and proper gun-control laws.

In the year since the Sandy Hook massacre, those working toward these two goals have produced mixed results.

According to Fox News, between the years of 2009 and 2012, states collectively cut more than $4 billion from their mental-health budgets. Conversely, since the Sandy Hook shootings (related or not), 37 states have increased spending on mental health. Meanwhile, Congress has done very little to increase spending or change laws surrounding mental health on a national scale.

While it seems that, at the state level at least, mental-health support is now headed in the right direction, the debate over gun control rages on.

In Iowa, the public is characteristically conflicted. According to a Nov. 21 University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll, 43.7 percent of those polled said they would like to see gun-control laws made more strict, while 41.8 percent said they would like to see gun-control laws remain the same.

Despite widespread support for some measures such as stricter background checks, the public is still wary of an assault-weapons ban.

Those opposed to increasing the strictness of gun-control laws make the point that if an individual has the desire to murder, they will do so with or without a gun.

I find it hard to believe, however, that armed, for example, with only a knife Adam Lanza would have been capable of brutally killing 26 people in just over half an hour.

Unfortunately, gun-control laws have remained nearly stagnant since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, despite President Obama’s attempt at sweeping reform in early 2013. That failure has real consequences for public safety. If people with malicious intent are still capable of acquiring dangerous weapons then the all-important job of protecting American students falls almost entirely into the hands of educational institutions.

This raises a moral question for our legislators: should educational institutions have to take on this much responsibility when simple legislation can contribute to the solution?

While the forward progress in the past year with mental-health funding is excellent, I think we owe it to the victims of Sandy Hook (and all shootings in the U.S. and around the world) to strengthen our gun control laws.


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