It’s now November, and we’re approaching the five-year mark of the tragedy that befell Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. We know what it’s like to walk through the residual effects of a horrific shooting, wandering through the days at the grocery store, at school, head down, not knowing what to say, trying to move forward, trying to make sense of it, trying to reclaim normalcy for your children, for all the town’s children.
Our hearts break over and over again when we hear of each mass shooting—now over 300 of them in 2017 alone. This news hits our town so deep. We know the challenging road ahead for families, for survivors, for residents—now for Sutherland Springs, TX, a town so small.
A headline after the worst mass shooting in modern American history in Las Vegas reads “25 days later, survivors say they can still hear the bullets and the screams.” Those survivors will always hear those sounds. Mass shootings have long-lasting ripple effects. For those who’ve lost loved ones, grief never ends. Survivors endure severe feelings of guilt. Those of us who choose activism as a way to channel grief and guilt are accused of doing so for the sake of political gain. Yet we feel a sense of responsibility for speaking out about this pandemic of violence and want to do anything we can to keep this kind of thing from continuing.
The vast majority of Americans favor background checks on all gun sales, stronger limits on who can buy weapons, and limits on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines. Yet Congress does nothing. Since the Sandy Hook shootings five years ago, over 150,000 Americans have died from guns. And Congress does nothing.
Congress’s inaction is extremely frustrating for those directly affected by gun violence and activists in the gun violence prevention movement. How is it possible, five years after Sandy Hook and Aurora, almost twenty years after Columbine, that we have allowed the Brady Law to lapse? It’s unbelievable that we have elected a President and continue to elect legislators who favor gun industry profits over, as Sandy Hook parent David Wheeler has said, “the right of my son to his life.” It’s unconscionable that after Las Vegas we have a Congress who will do nothing about the lowest hanging fruit—outlawing devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to behave as automatic weapons. What will it take to protect ourselves from these weapons?
But we will not give up, we cannot give up. We garner strength from the countless survivors and activists we’ve met along the way. We know their stories. A whole community of survivors and activists has risen in this country, a club to which we never wanted to belong, as many say. The list is long. Perhaps you are one of them. We are in this fight for the long haul because we are unable to abandon the honor of those people; we hope that in their dark moments after every new shooting that we might provide some strength to them as well.
About the Authors
Abbey Clements was a teacher at Sandy Hook from 2004 to 2015.
Brian Clements is co-editor of the forthcoming Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence. Follow him on Twitter at @bri_clements.