Gun Violence

They Should Be High School Freshmen

December 14, 2020 | National

Eight years ago today, twenty first-graders and six teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in an unthinkable act of violence. Among the victims were children like Ana Grace, who liked to sing and dance; Noah, who loved superheroes and Legos; and Charlotte, who dreamed of opening an animal shelter. These and all the students horrifically murdered at Sandy Hook should have started high school this fall—but they never got the chance.

On December 14, 2012, their lives and futures were tragically cut short by gun violence our leaders had the power—but not the courage or the decency—to prevent. Parents lost sons and daughters. Children lost playmates and friends. Siblings lost brothers and sisters. And everyone lost their sense of security. Shortly after the massacre, a first-grader who survived the shooting told local leaders, “There is nothing you can do or say that will convince me that this will not happen again.”

Eight years later, our leaders have yet to prove this child’s truth wrong. Since Sandy Hook, Americans have witnessed, suffered, or died in 2,938 mass shootings. Mass shootings hit a record high this year, even with much of the country on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, there have been 599 mass shootings in 2020—up from 417 in 2019.

And in between, relentless everyday gun violence has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of children on their front porches, playgrounds, streets, and sidewalks. In 2017 and 2018, child and teen gun deaths hit levels not seen in nearly 20 years. In 2018 alone, 3,316 American children and teens were killed with guns—enough to fill more than 165 classrooms of 20. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are far from immune. Each year, more children under 5 are killed with guns than law enforcement officers in the line of duty. Just two weeks ago, 15-month-old Carmelo Duncan was shot and killed in our nation’s capital—the third child shot in his neighborhood that week.

This escalating gun violence against children and teens is no coincidence—it is a direct result of our leaders’ continued failure to act and curb our nation’s gun violence epidemic. In the eight years since Sandy Hook, Congress has enacted no new gun laws and placed no restrictions on AR-15 and other assault weapons. Year after year, Congress has turned a blind eye and wallowed in inaction as school shootings and child gun deaths have continued to surge.

When will we come to our senses? When will we end the relentless violence and carnage that has come to characterize childhood in America? How many more senseless and preventable deaths will it take before our policymakers take meaningful action to keep children safe where they live and learn?

Enough is enough. We cannot allow another anniversary of Sandy Hook to pass without common-sense gun violence prevention measures. In memory of the 20 children whose lives were taken at Sandy Hook and the tens of thousands killed by gunfire since, let’s stand up and demand our leaders protect children, not guns—now.