What We Can Do In the Face of Horrible Tragedies Like the Connecticut Massacre

News & Politics

I was just sitting down yesterday to write a fundraising appeal kicking off phase #2 of our year-end campaign, when I heard about the mass killing of 27 young children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut.

It was hard to take. I stopped writing. I obsessed over the details, many of which the media got wrong. And I also read the tide of commentators and advocates whom, rightly, in their anger and disgust with our violence-drenched culture, screamed for gun control. The horror in Connecticut is hard to imagine. State troopers had to lead parents into the school to identify which of the dead kids were theirs, because 5-year-olds don't carry identification.  

No Gun Control

But guess what? No gun control is going to come from the Sandy Hook massacre.

Just like none came from the Aurora slaughter, or the Virginia Tech or Columbine mass murders. In fact, we are so far away from gun control today, that President Barack Obama is even afraid to talk about it.

Consider that six of the 12 most deadly shootings in our history have been in the past five years. The large majority of the world's worst mass killings have taken place in the U.S. There have been 65 mass shootings in the U.S. since Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2009. 

According to the Pew Research Center, after the Columbine massacre, 65% said it was more important to control gun ownership while 30% said it was more important to protect gun rights. 

By the time of the Aurora, Colorado shooting, those numbers dropped to 47% for control, vs. 46% for protecting gun rights. Go figure, right? 

The NRA and right-wing legislatures have been hugely successful in expanding gun rights. This week, the Michigan House passed a bill expanding the state's concealed-handgun law, including a provision that allows concealed weapons in schools.

 Also this week, a federal appeals court ruled that Illinois' ban on concealed handguns is unconstitutional.

The Other Team Wants Guns at All Costs 

The problem is that there are two teams in this country, and the protect-the-guns-at-all-costs team is winning big-time. Just like the anti-union team just won in Michigan with its new "right-to-work" law. And the "don't-tax-the-rich" team is holding our economy hostage. Ladies and gentleman, it's the same team, funded by right-wing billionaires like the Kochs. Yes, Barack Obama won in November, but that hasn't changed anything.

Can we do better? We have to. Emotions are very raw. People are not doing well. The increase in random killings, along with the militarized police, invasive surveillance and mass incarceration are all making us less safe. There are few resources for the mentally ill. Poverty and unemployment are sky-high. Our society is basically being torn asunder. And the other team, the other side, insists on more guns, and less government. We don't seem to be able to protect our sellers as a society.

I wish I could say there was a way to heal the giant split in our country; that I can see a path to convince the conservatives they are wrong about guns and all the rest. But I seriously doubt we can. To keep thinking we can argue and debate our way out of these issues with facts is delusional.

We Need to Be Stronger

The only thing we can do is to make our side stronger and beat them. We have more people. We have to motivate and mobilize. We have to have more conviction, be able to join forces, and not be divided by our diversity, and our many issues. 

At AlterNet will be working to build our team -- in the largest sense, that includes those people who care about others and want gun restrictions. We will be doing it tomorrow, next week and far into the future; working to make our team stronger and bigger. It won't be fast or easy, but we have to persist. And you can help us. If you want to support us with a contribution to help us spread the word and recruit the unaffiliated and build confidence, please do. We would appreciate it. And no surprise: You will be hearing more from me before the end of the year, because we will need the resources to keep doing our job.

Don Hazen

P.S. All of us at AlterNet are very happy that in fundraising phase #1, 930 readers like you contributed $33,720 in support of our 12-12-12 Fight Poverty Journalism Fund to help keep digging, pushing and trying to help solve the problem of poverty and the incredible lack of economic fairness in our country. We are deeply committed to that. And we'll report more details in the near future. 

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