[Ed. Note – As each year closes, this editorial space is usually reserved for year-end reflection. I would have loved to have penned such a column, but as this issue went to press, yet another in a long train of senseless mass shootings in this nation occurred, this time in Newtown, Conn. The commentary below, a version of which was originally published on my personal blog on Dec. 15, is reprinted here. Tragedies like that in Newtown affect each and every one of us, no matter our sexual orientation or gender. This is an American issue. And, it is one we can solve together, if we so choose. — Matt Comer]
Great power comes with great responsibility. And, so it is with the American people, who have been since the time of our founding entrusted with the rarest form of responsibility in all of human history: Self-governance.
Our freedom has given way to great achievements and successes. From rocky Great Experiment to shining savior of Europe, our nation forged ahead to become the most prosperous, the most powerful, the most influential.
Our freedom has also given way to dramatic failures. We grew through rape and pillage as we murdered natives and enslaved millions. We slaughtered each other in a brutal civil war, as the spilled blood of our brothers and the memories of division still soak the land beneath our feet. It has been so because, in all our glorious freedom, we chose to ignore our moral responsibilities to ourselves, to each other and, most importantly, to our children and future generations.
On Dec. 14, 2012, the lives of nearly two dozen children and several others at the Newtown, Conn., Sandy Hook Elementary School were cruelly and tragically ended. Their entire future lay ahead of them. We promised them it would be bright and rewarding — full of achievement and success, if only they worked hard and took advantage of all of the opportunities our freedoms enabled them. In the end, it was that very freedom and our moral irresponsibility, that ended their lives.
The shooting in Newtown isn’t an isolated event. We should have seen it coming. Since 1982, the U.S. has witnessed at least 62 mass shootings; 19 in the past five years alone. Half of all the 12 most deadly mass shootings in American history have occurred since 2007.
Each time, nearly a dozen or more people are shot, seriously injured or killed. We pause. We cry. We mourn. And, ultimately, we do nothing. After a week, the memory fades. The victims are forgotten to all but their families and friends. For the rest of us, the shock is absorbed and life goes on. Until, that is, another mass shooting just weeks or months down the road. We will pause. We will cry. We will mourn. Ultimately, we will do nothing.
Society will never be free of fear or violence. People with evil intentions will be born in every generation. These facts offer no rational or logical bases for our inaction.
“If we make guns illegal, criminals will always find guns or another way to kill,” they say.
This kind of silly argument seems to placate millions of Americans. Logically, it fails any test. There will always be murder, rape and theft, so why legislate against them? It is as if we are resigned to complacency and carelessness: “Oh well,” we might as well say. “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
But, if we so choose, we have the power to change and to prevent future tragedies. By now, the answer is abundantly clear: No private citizen should have access to the types of ultimate killing machines — high-powered, military-grade, semi-automatic or automatic assault weapons — often used in these crimes and almost always obtained legally.
Alternately, resigning ourselves to the status quo is a choice, too; a freely-made, irresponsible choice that prioritizes the rights enshrined in the Second Amendment over the ultimately-superior, universal and God-given dignity imparted to every living soul who passes from the womb into this world: The right to life.
Our nation and its people are faced now with a choice of grave importance. Only our commitment to responsibility — to ourselves and others — stands in the way. We cannot shirk our responsibility. We neither can afford nor should be satisfied with our current state of things.
We are a great nation, but whether that be a nation of fools or of wise men and women is ultimately up to us. Whatever the choice, our children — like the children in Newtown — will either reap its rewards or suffer the consequences. : :