By KIERSTEN E. TODT | OP-ED
The Hartford Courant
5:45 PM EDT, September 20, 2013
If you read the top news headlines online the day after a government contractor shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, you had to scroll down before you hit a story about the event.
Thirteen dead, including the gunman, making it one of the deadliest single events ever in the nation's capital. Where was the outrage? What happened to the public debate on gun control? Didn't people hear how easy it was for Aaron Alexis to buy the gun that he used to begin his shooting rampage?
Once gunmen like Alexis and Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, get inside the door of their intended target, it is not about prevention. Little can be done at that point; it is about containment. At Sandy Hook, we know that the school's security procedures and teacher training and heroism contained the violence. As tragic as that event was, it could have been much worse.
But, what are the circumstances that got Alexis and Lanza to the doors of their targets? One common factor that cannot be ignored is that they both had guns — and they shouldn't have.
A few months ago, I read a story about the parents of a Sandy Hook victim, who talked about their process fatigue in their personal mission against gun violence. The parents described how a U.S. senator wouldn't meet with them in person — not having the guts to look these grieving parents in the eye and then vote against the legislation that could potentially prevent a similar tragedy. The Sandy Hook parents were running out of energy, ideas and the nation was forgetting them.
Colin Goddard — shot multiple times as a Virginia Tech student by Seung-Hui Cho in 2007 and now working for the Brady Project — told me the day after the Sandy Hook shootings that most people in this country believe in background checks for gun purchases. The majority of people in this country have reached consensus on many gun control issues, but the minority voices on the periphery have been the loudest and are distracting us from necessary action. After Sandy Hook, we believed that if there were ever an event to move the needle on this issue, it would be the death of 20 first-graders and six female staffers.
Nine months later, the needle hasn't moved and we, as a nation, are paralyzed. We are embarrassed because we have done nothing, embarrassed that 20 first-graders did die in vain. Aren't we tired of being a nation that responds to a flash in the pan, but doesn't have the fortitude to effect change?
Six of the deadliest shootings in American history have happened within the last six years; approximately184 shootings have occurred in schools since Columbine. The statistics speak for themselves. Now, we, as a nation, have to speak — loudly. Our mission is to empower Americans, representing consensus and majority, to advocate for smart policies that restrict gun possession for those who should never be allowed to own a gun.
Vice President Joseph Biden should reconvene his White House gun control task force. Those feeling the outrage and sadness of events that may not have touched them personally need to help carry the torch for those who have. The circumstances are close to home: a college, high school, elementary school, army base, parking lot, movie theater, a place of work. The silent majority in this country favors a stronger and more viable gun control policy and we need to ensure this majority is heard and leads the effort toward sensible action. Look at the faces of the 20 Sandy Hook first-graders to remind yourself what gun violence feels like.
We failed after Sandy Hook. Now, the families of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora and Sandy Hook — to name just a few — are joined by another group of mourners, bound by similar tragedy, with a common cause. It will never be easy to take on the loud forces of the minority, but there will never be a better time.
Kiersten E. Todt, a native of Middlebury, is president of Liberty Group Ventures LLC, an Arlington, Va., company that develops and executes risk management and mitigation strategies. She previously worked for former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman on homeland security.
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