On Dec. 17, Newtown, Conn., began to bury its dead.
There was Noah Pozner, an avid reader and taco enthusiast, who loved the dish so much that he had talked about becoming a manager in a taco factory to forever satisfy his craving and Jack Pinto, a devoted New York Giants fan and a whirling dervish of a boy, who bounced from one activity to another.
A somber sky mantled the anguished town as it buried the children in the first of many planned funerals following the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“There is a sense of shock and vulnerability…and outrage,” said Dr. Gerald Sheiner, a psychiatrist with the Detroit Medical Center and a professor at Wayne State University, of the town’s reaction to the killings.
And it’s a reaction that rippled through the nation—and across continents—as the rest of the globe joined Newtown in mourning.
“I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation,” President Obama said at an interfaith prayer vigil in Newtown on Dec. 16. “I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world, too, has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you, we’ve pulled our children tight.”
In Washington, D.C., the Sandy Hook slaughter has reignited the gun control debate, with a growing clamor of mostly-Democratic voices calling for policies that limit the easy access to certain weapons.
According to Connecticut law enforcement, the gunman, Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old mentally disabled man, shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home, and armed with an arsenal of guns, including a Bushmaster .223 semiautomatic carbine, a shotgun, and two semi-automatic pistols, visited a bloodbath on the school, killing 20 children and several employees. The coroner told reporters that all the victims’ bodies were riddled with bullets.
Some lawmakers question why an average American would need such firepower.
“Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools,” stated Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who said she plans to introduce a bill on the first day of 113th Congress to ban the sale, the transfer, the importation, and the possession of automatic weapons, as well as big clips, drums, or strips of more than 10 bullets.
“I hope and trust that in the next session of Congress there will be sustained and thoughtful debate about America’s gun culture and our responsibility to prevent more loss of life.”
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) also said he wants to introduce a ban on high-capacity magazines.
“Americans are sick and tired of these attacks on our children and neighbors and they are sick and tired of nothing being done in Washington to stop the bloodshed,” he said in a statement. “If we do not take action to address gun violence, shooting tragedies like this will continue.”
Pro-gun Democrats such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, and some conservatives signaled shifting opinions about gun regulation in the wake of the slayings.
However, Capitol Hill Republicans and other gun rights activists have mostly remained silent. The single GOP voice in the resurrected gun control debate has been right-wing Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) who suggested that more—not less—access to guns could have prevented the Sandy Hook carnage.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday on Dec. 16, he said, “I wish to God the (principal) had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”
Gohmert argued that states with stringent gun laws have the most violence—a fact disputed by the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in a study that concluded that seven of the 10 states with the strongest gun laws are among the jurisdictions with the lowest crime rates.
Gun control advocates seem positive that substantive changes will be made. Though an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken after the Newtown murders showed that 54 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control in general, 52 percent favor banning semi-automatic handguns and 59 percent support banning clips that carry more than 10 bullets, which is consistent with public opinion in recent years, a pro-gun control petition submitted Dec. 14 on the White House’s “We the People” online platform amassed almost 175,000 signatures in four days.
And, the NRA, the nation’s powerful gun lobby, didn’t speak until Dec. 18 when it issued a statement expressing dismay at the carnage. In the wake of the killings, its Facebook page disappeared and its Twitter chatter halted.
Meanwhile, the funerals continue.