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Editorial: On Sandy Hook anniversary, still no solutions

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | DECEMBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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The anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 students and six teachers in 2012, has brought with it a new development in the tragedy. A lawsuit is being filed by family members representing nine of the victims; it is directed against the manufacturers of the firearm used in the shooting.

Although the legality of the weapon sale isn’t being challenged, the underlying question being raised is why the assault weapon was made available to the general public in the first place. Bushmaster, a firearms manufacturer based in Madison, North Carolina, in addition to the retailer and distributor responsible for the sale of the actual firearm, is named in the lawsuit.

It is important to look at that this news in relation to the larger public debate on gun control vs. gun rights in the United States. Gun laws have become a point of contention among the American people with differing opinions on where public policy should stand in the wake of tragedies such as Sandy Hook in contrast to individual and constitutional liberties.

Naturally, support for stricter gun-control laws rose following the events of Sandy Hook. However, recent Gallup poll findings show that “fewer than half of Americans, 47 percent, say they favor stricter laws” in contrast to the “58 percent recorded in 2012.” Sandy Hook polarized a nation in mourning, but two years later, the emotional landscape of the argument for strict gun-control law has plateaued to some extent.

According to findings by the organization Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been “at least 94 school shootings in America — an average of nearly one a week” in the two years following Sandy Hook. These findings take into account instances that fall outside the traditional classification of premeditated massacres such as the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings. Instances such as gang-related activity, accidents, suicides, non-fatal incidents, and more were included when coming to this number.

The problem of guns in our schools is still a relevant, concerning problem that warrants the attention of the American people. The emphasis placed on such a prevalent issue should not fluctuate with the headlines and news coverage. That said, it is important to maintain a clear perspective on the issue as whole, as opposed to compartmentalizing the issue to the point of cultural solubility. The factors culminating in the Sandy Hook tragedy are multifaceted and extend further than one specific factor such as the manufacturing of the weapon in the first place.

Seeking justice for the families affected by the Sandy Hook massacre is an admirable goal. However, efforts must be made to holistically address the larger culture and factors that perpetuate rampant gun violence in the nation’s school systems.

It is hard to say if the manufacturers of the weapon used in the shooting shoulder the blame, and by acting under this assumption, one runs the risk of detracting from the larger conversation on gun violence reform. This measure may just be a means to keep the national spotlight focused on addressing gun violence, and a lawsuit is a sure way to do it. But pigeonholing the responsibility of preventing school shootings to gun manufacturers alone will foster a culture that does not address the litany of influences and factors that result in tragedies such as Sandy Hook. The larger goal should be the prevention of these types of tragedy in the future rather than retrospectively looking to pin blame.


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