A week ago today, just hours prior to the horrific mass shooting in California, Michigan House Democrats offered a resolution to “declare December 9–16, 2015, as Remembrance For All Victims of Gun Violence Week in the state of Michigan” marking the three-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre which took the lives of twenty children and six teachers. The resolution was sent to the GOP-dominated Government Operations Committee, where it will predictably die a quiet death.
This isn’t the first time House Republicans have acted insensitively amidst a day of gun violence. On December 14th, 2012 — the day of the Sandy Hook shooting — GOP lawmakers passed a bill in a lame duck session to allow concealed carry of weapons in gun-free zones, including public schools. The 68 to 41 vote was more than politically tone-deaf, it was obscene. Governor Snyder quickly dispatched the legislation with a veto, including a public scolding for lawmakers.
This previous week, journalists and politicians alike have been wringing their hands over the semantics of whether the gunning-down of fourteen innocent souls in cold blood should be termed “terrorism”, “mental illness”, or a “co-worker dispute.” That premise is off the mark. It’s the gun culture in America at play here — a grossly perverted view of the Second Amendment that has made high-powered weaponry household items as ubiquitous as toasters. However, in truth, an argument can be made for mental illness, a madness of national scale.
Mid-day last week, before the shooting unfolded, I reached-out to Craig Hexham, Michigan’s representative for the non-profit group Everytown for Gun Safety. I was hoping he would help me mark the intent of the Democratic resolution to observe a week to remember those struck-down due to under-regulated fire power. After all, the House certainly wasn’t going to do it — its GOP members being more interested in preserving their shiny “A” ratings from the NRA.
Later that afternoon, Craig and I spoke by phone. By that time, social media had exploded with the horrific news out of California. Passionate about gun safety, Hexham wanted to gather his thoughts a bit first. He subsequently related his frustration over the sad arc of history of mass shootings in America — an arc that is not bending towards justice, but further away with each new incident.
“Appearing as if from nowhere, the story of two high school students in Colorado killing thirteen peers and a teacher before taking their own lives, captured the attention of the nation. Before long, “Columbine” became a byword, indicating a previously unthinkable tragedy. Thirteen years later, well east of Colorado, the nation was again shocked by the murders of twenty elementary schoolchildren and six faculty and staff. Once again, a school name—Sandy Hook—became a shorthand reference for an unconscionable act. These acts, however, as evil and shocking as they may have been, are not as rare as they may have seemed. Repeated in elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and colleges, they are little more than the best known examples of the rampant gun violence affecting this nation. Following every one of these events has been a seemingly endless series of analyses; each with conclusions about causation, blame, and suggested solutions.”
For this story, I had assembled a list of gun-related deaths occurring over the past week, intending to tell each tale. But, there were simply too many to catalogue here. Instead, Democracy Tree will reprint an infographic from NRACongress.com showing how much money spineless politicians from Michigan have taken from the NRA, and yet they refuse to act at the federal level to curb gun violence:
“Too often lost in the analyses are the people; the shooters, the victims, and the loved ones of both. More often noted are the compelling [titillating?] stories of fear, hatred, and a plethora of social ills that are used to capitalize on the events themselves. But despite the “newsworthiness” of the events, the lives of the survivors and the victims’ families are irrevocably changed. For them, the bywords and shorthand references are not curiosities, but the very narratives of their lives. Each victim leaves behind a broad range of family, friends, and associates. And each of them has a voice—although too often inadequate platforms from which to speak.”
Hexham asked me to share a resource for victims, Everytown Survivor Network. The organization brings together survivors to share their stories and to organize among themselves, and with other groups, to bring about change in their communities.
Let’s hope their efforts will give that arc a nudge in the right direction.
Here’s the full text of House Resolution 191:
A resolution to declare December 9–16, 2015, as Remembrance For All Victims of Gun Violence Week in the state of Michigan.
Whereas, Twenty children and six teachers were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012; and
Whereas, In the United States, an average of seven children and teens, under the age of 20, are killed by guns every day; and
Whereas, American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high income countries; and
Whereas, Since 1968, more Americans have perished in acts of domestic gun violence than in all wars in our nation’s history; and
Whereas, Gun violence claims the lives of over 30,000 Americans every year with over 19,000 suicides and over 11,000 homicides; and
Whereas, The faith communities, the peace communities, the education communities, and the medical communities of Michigan wish to honor and remember all victims of gun violence in thoughtful prayer, contemplation, and quiet reflection; and
Whereas, The National Vigil to End Gun Violence is a nationwide observance to honor their lives and memories from December 9-16, 2015; and
Whereas, We as a state must do what we can to reduce this growing epidemic of gun violence in our state and our country; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, That the members of this legislative body declare December 9-16, 2015, as Remembrance for All Victims of Gun Violence Week in the state of Michigan; and be it further
Resolved, That each of us is encouraged to honor our peacemakers and renew our commitment to the prevention of gun violence in the future.