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Five year anniversary of Sandy Hook reminds us of the difference we can make


By Kaela Dockray ’20

I live in a gun-free home. I mean really gun free. We’re talking no water guns, no nerf guns and most certainly nothing that has the capability of shooting out a real bullet. As a product of the violence-free home in which I reside, I believe that it is within our own individual capability to control the mass shootings that have now become embedded in the fabric of America.

Dec. 14 marked the five-year anniversary since one of the most catastrophic, horrific shootings in our country’s history. Just over five years ago, a mentally unstable man stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School and took the lives of 26 students and teachers. The children who lost their lives were between the ages of five and 10 years old; they had places they wanted to travel, people they hoped to meet and long lives ahead of them where they would hopefully have had the opportunity to discover themselves and the world around them. But that was all taken away from them because of one person’s unthinkable use of firearms.

The world is unfair. We know that. But this instance shed light on the cruelty and inhumanity of which people are capable. I remember walking off the bus that afternoon to a teary-eyed mother, unable to explain the devastating events that had transpired so close to our home to her two fifth-grade daughters. I further recall the next morning, when she refused to let us step back on to that bus, instead driving us to school and waiting to depart until she knew that we were safe inside, or at least as safe as we could be.

It is now, just over five years since this tragedy, that it seems appropriate to consider how we have progressed in both our gun control laws and our mental healthcare system in treating those who have the potential to inflict such harm on others. One would think that the Sandy Hook tragedy would instigate change; however, just months after this mass shooting, two major pieces of legislation, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 and the Manchin-Toomey Amendment which required universal background checks for firearms sales, failed to pass in the Senate.

While improvements have been made at the state level — there have been 210 laws enacted to strengthen gun safety since Sandy Hook– not enough has been done at the federal level. Firearms are too easily accessible to citizens whose intentions are to harm others. Parents remain terrified for the fate of their children each morning when dropping them off at school. Not enough is being done to combat the national threat of another mass school shooting.

If the wake of the death of 20 young children and six educators failed to open people’s eyes to the dangers facing our nation when it comes to gun violence, what will? If just months after this travesty, federal legislation failed to pass something as reasonable as universal background checks, what will motivate our lawmakers to enact common sense laws to regulate who can access these weapons? Most significantly, how can we honor the legacy of the children and educators whose lives were lost if we don’t spur a real, tangible difference in our world?

I was in fifth grade when this shooting took place, far too young to understand the impact of these events. I was too naive to wrap my head around the fact that events like this transformed children’s fears from monsters under their bed or shadows in their closet to the legitimate and terrifying threat of being put in harm’s way in the middle of the school day. It is today that I became a member and donor for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, an organization founded by members of the Newtown Community to raise awareness to prevent gun violence.

Through the horrific events that took place just over five years ago, I ask you to make a difference to make the world a safer, more welcoming environment. Let us instigate change and grow from this heartbreaking tragedy. Let us inform ourselves and the people around us of the change, no matter how small, that we can make to protect the youth of this nation.

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