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OP-ED | Don’t Let Newtown Fade from Memory

by | Jan 17, 2014 9:51am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Civil Liberties, Opinion, Public Safety, Newtown

We are forgetting Newtown.

You think we’re not? You think it’s something so awful, so profound, so earth-shattering that we would hang on to it? We have the attention spans of flies buzzing in the summer sun; we fixate on something for a while, but when the wind changes we move on.

Case in point: Fred Dicker, a New York Post columnist, referred to Newtown as a “convenient little massacre” when talking about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s gun control efforts. “That was his anti-gun legislation, which he had promised not to do,” said Dicker, talking about Cuomo. “. . . But then he had a little convenient massacre that went on in Newtown, Conn., and all of a sudden there was an opportunity for him.” There was immediate fury. Dicker took a beating in rival media spaces, and he was dragged through the mud online for a day or so.

But then something remarkable happened: the tempest died down. Dicker put out a defensive statement; clearly we’d all just misunderstood what he was getting at. He didn’t apologize, and he still has a job.

We’re losing the sense of urgency we had just after that awful day, and it shows. Earlier this week a 12-year-old boy brought a shotgun into his Roswell, New Mexico school and opened fire. Two were wounded. Did you hear about it? No?

We’re getting used to bullets flying in schools.

I had hoped that the horrendous events at Sandy Hook would finally shame us into taking serious action on guns. Tens of thousands die in this country every year from guns, many of them children, and you can’t convince me that most of those deaths aren’t perfectly preventable. For a while it seemed like we might actually do something about it.

In the aftermath of Newtown, big majorities of people favored tightening gun restrictions, but those majorities have steadily eroded since. Just after Newtown 57 percent of those polled by CBS News favored stricter laws; now that number has fallen to 49 percent. CNN found the same trend: last January, 55 percent favored stricter gun control compared to 49 percent now. Gallup found 58 percent in favor of stricter laws in December of 2012, but only 49 percent by October of 2013.

We’re allowing ourselves be lulled back into complacency.

Tuesday night, presumptive gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley addressed a group of gun rights activists with the unsettlingly martial name of “Connecticut Citizens Defense League.” A year ago, someone in his position wouldn’t have dared to speak to them. But now, Foley can go up in front of them and promise that if he were elected governor, he would veto “any further attempts at restrictions on law-abiding gun owners” the legislature might send him. He also said that if he’d been governor when the massacre happened he would have done things differently. Instead of gun restrictions, Foley said, he would have focused on mental health.

Naturally. It was all because he was crazy, the shooter. It had nothing to do with the shocking number of guns this boy owned, or the fame-driven culture which obsessively picks over every nugget of a shooter’s life, making them into cult figures. It wasn’t the gun manufacturers, or the lobbyists, or the spineless politicians, or the people who elect them. It wasn’t our fault at all. It was his mental health, and nothing more.

Such an easy, comforting lie to believe.

I wrote last year that the gun lobby was desperate to change the subject, to focus all our anger and heartbreak on mental health parity instead of gun control. By and large, they did just that. Congress didn’t pass anything, and now suddenly mental health is the safe ground, the “sensible” alternative to gun control, that Republican candidates are walking on.

This is the same Foley who once said that Gov. Malloy was enjoying a “Newtown bounce” in the polls, which is very reminiscent of the “convenient massacre” remark by Fred Dicker, and the NRA’s president saying their lobbying efforts had been delayed by a “Connecticut effect.”

The pattern is clear. The pro-gun lobby and its allies see the death of 20 children and six adults as nothing more than an inconvenience for them, and a lucky break for their opponents. They see a senseless, horrible, gut-wrenching tragedy as politics, a hiccup in their strategy. They will make sure things get back to “normal” soon, preferably by talking about mental health and the rights of gun owners instead.

In short, they’re waiting for all of us to forget.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

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(7) Archived Comments

posted by: Fisherman | January 17, 2014  8:48pm

Simply put, others (both states and politicians) have learned from the Connecticut legislature’s blunders. Instead of fault the driver, they chose the easy-way out; by attempting to ban the vehicle. But other states saw that the easy-way was clearly the wrong way. The root cause of these shootings was, is, and will continue to be impaired mental health… but no politician wants to be the bad guy.

Tackling mental health is a tougher game; but it’s the game we should have started with. Until we address mental health, this problem will not diminish.

posted by: ASTANVET | January 18, 2014  8:26am

“shame” people into action… that sounds like sound legislative reasoning.  What could possibly go wrong.

posted by: justsayin | January 19, 2014  7:32am

The DEMS are the shameless ones. They prostituted this tragedy to push their agenda that would otherwise have not and was not moving. Taking a look at the whole issues is important. The report once vetted and finally released showed mental health and parenting were the major factors.

posted by: Historian | January 19, 2014  11:05am

Thousands of people have been killed in the last year in Syria, Egypt, Afganistan, etc. Hundreds have been killed in our inner cities, murdered by their neighbors. No editorials, hand wringing or memorials, etc for them.
  The only reason to make a major media issue over this incident - and it is only a incident in the normal flow of life - is the unexpected location - a white, upper middle class suburban town and the mayhem that occurred in the space of ten minutes to those considered “safe” by a real life boogy man - a horror movie come real and a reminder that with life comes misfortune no matter how you wrap the package.  PS Guns are here to stay - get used to it. 

posted by: OutBackJack312 | January 19, 2014  6:20pm


Not to mention how much money Malloy made the state…  50 bucks for ammo certificate, 50 bucks for a long rifle certificate…  new ammo taxes…  26 people murdered, Malloy’s first reaction, lets make millions ...

posted by: dano860 | January 20, 2014  9:34am

“We’re allowing ourselves be lulled back into complacency.” I don’t believe there was ever any complacency from the side of the law abiding firearm owner. Nancy Lanza owned the firearms, not Adam Lanza, used to perpetrate the horror we now refer to as “Newtown.” She is the one I hold responsible for the lack of caring for her son and others. I blame her and others that support firearm seizure leading to the destruction of the Constitution and the second amendment.
Why didn’t she continue his medications, how could she believe that she would get him into societies mainstream by putting firearms into his hands?
Adam Lanza was sick and required the professional help that he had but his mother took away.
Historian is correct in asking why we are’t horrified by the bombings in other countries. We have yet to see what will occur at the Olympics. We are less horrified by the Boston bombing than the events perpetrated by the sick and bullied with a single firearm.
The complacency in Ct comes through the usual fix…throw money at it and turn it over to the politicians and the authority figures. The police, the Homeboy Security, NSA, the firemen and SWAT teams we have created to stop terrorist and keep us safe. How’s that working? What have they prevented to date? The Times Square bomber was caught by a hot dog vendor! Information given to our national security people by the Russians didn’t stop the Boston event, did it?
Address the real problem and get involved with the sick people crying out for help.

posted by: Greg | January 20, 2014  3:34pm

The headline of this piece in itself is complete and utter political opportunism using “Newtown” as it’s rallying cry.  See Colin McEnroe’s column in the courant calling out the democrats for doing exactly that; invoking Newtown for political tit-for-tat in the governor’s race. 

Ms. Bigelow- The pattern is clear: Those with a certain political agenda will scream “NEWTOWN” whenever they want to change the story, akin to invoking Hitler, Jesus, or Somalia in a debate to attempt to make their opponent look like a jerk. 

“They will make sure things get back to “normal” soon, preferably by talking about mental health and the rights of gun owners instead.”

And what’s wrong with this? Actually debating the issues at hand on their merits without hysterically screaming NEWTOWN every 30 seconds for some emotional appeal, and somehow that’s wrong? When will someone invoke Newtown in a tax debate, school reform discussion, or in discussing the busway thus making a mockery of the horrific event?

Let Newtown heal and stop dragging those poor children through the political mud.  Enough is enough.

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