Breaking Our National Silence on Gun Control
The following commentary by Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights appeared on HuffingtonPost.com.
(2012-12-19) Late last night, the National Rifle Association (NRA) released their long-awaited response to the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 children and 6 school officials dead. As the nation's attention remains focused on the aftermath of this tragedy, many of us wondered how the NRA justified its silence. They said they were waiting for a full investigation of what happened.
In four days after the shootings, before the NRA broke its silence, here are just a few of the details that this ongoing investigation uncovered:
That from the moment he shot through the doors of Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza needed just ten minutes to unleash at least three 30-round magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
That each one of the 20 child victims, all 1st graders, were either 6 or 7 years old.
That each child was shot multiple times, some struck by as many as 11 bullets.
That the gun that delivered those bullets was an AR-15, the best-selling rifle in America, and the same model used by James Holmes and Jacob Roberts to open fire in a Colorado movie theater last summer and an Oregon shopping mall last week.
Which of these details finally convinced the NRA that it was time to release a statement? Which of these questions, when still unanswered, left them wondering whether they could wait this out, hiding in the shadows until the cries for change passed them by?
The gun lobby hid for these last four days because they've seen this play out before. They've seen the nation go through this cycle of horror and inaction over and over again, and it has made them bolder.
They stayed silent in July 2012, and watched as support for gun ownership actually rose following the massacre in Aurora. They stayed silent and watched as the number of deaths by mass shooting doubled after the Assault Weapons Ban was lifted in 2004. They stayed silent as the number of victims grew to the point that now 87% of the children killed by guns in the 23 wealthiest nations in the world are American children.
A civilian weapon, Adam Lanza's AR-15 was nearly identical to the military's M16, a rifle for which the army required 103 hours of basic training. His mother was able to purchase it legally and bring it home without any safety training. We keep our children off the battlefield and then invite its rifles into their schools.
I was four years old when we lost my uncle President John F. Kennedy to a man with a gun. I was eight years old when we lost my father Robert Kennedy the same way. I can't begin to know what these days have been like for the families of Newtown. But I know that for loved ones left behind, some wounds may be healed by time, but there are others for which there is no cure but to take action.
Of the twelve deadliest shootings in American history, half of them have occurred in just the last five years. Make these the last American children to die by an assault weapon. We must permanently reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban and the restrictions on high capacity magazines.
As my father said after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., victim of yet another act of gun violence: "Whenever a person's life is taken by another unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence—whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole world is degraded."