by Bill Batson
For the first 17 days after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the flag at the Soft Cloth Car Wash on Route 59 flew at half-mast. The massive flag dominates the view from my kitchen window. The custom of flying a banner at half-mast is to allow the invisible flag of death to ceremonially occupy the top spot. The flag returned to full mast on the first of January, but I detect a specter of despair that still hovers around the summit like a fog, dimming the stars and blurring the stripes. I wish that flags in our country could remain at half-mast until something concrete is done to restore domestic tranquility.
Much has happened in the 25 days since a gunman went on a rampage in an American schoolhouse, but nothing has changed. The President spoke at an inter-denominational memorial service in Newtown. The National Rifle Association (NRA) issued a statement. Two members of Congress have promised to introduce legislation to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons.
Locally, The Journal News published the personal information of gun owners and Rockland County legislators proposed a law to keep these records confidential.
And according to a running tally being kept at Slate.com, guns have killed 588 people in the United States since Dec. 14. (171 people died by gun between the first and final draft of this column.)
I admit that my knee jerks to the left when there is a massive shock to the psyche of the nation like the Newtown Massacre. Others flinch to the right when socially seismic events occur. But when children die by the dozens, it is time to control our partisan reflexes. The magnitude of the loss demands the reason of civics, not the rhetoric of politics. Calls to ban all guns and suggestions to arm everyone are equally unhelpful.
Already there seems to be, in some corners of our collective consciousness, an effort to be circumspect. Maybe it’s the fact that this tragedy occurred weeks after a divisive election was decisively won; in the wake of a super storm that strengthened our common bonds, during high holy days that many of us observe, and on the eve of the federal holiday to honor America’s martyr to non-violence, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Hopefully, on the heels of this national tragedy, we can have a period of reflection that precedes action, not overreaction followed by apathy.
But the calendar that provides some elevating context for the tragedy, also complicates the reform effort. With the passing of each day, the attention of the American public can be distracted more easily and the coalescing force of the shared event dissipates.
A comprehensive legislative proposal from the White House is days or weeks away. While we are still united by our grief, each of us can use this interregnum to conduct our own research. The issues at the root of gun violence in America are complex and require careful deliberation. I have assembled some links to help toward that end.
Senator Diane Feinstein (D- California) will re-introduce the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired Sept. 13, 2004.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) will introduce legislation that would reinstate the High-Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban, something that she has attempted to do every year since the ban expired in 2004. The ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines was included in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
In the spirit of crowd sourcing, if there are any relevant sites that you think would inform the public debate on gun violence, please leave them as a comment.
Bill Batson is an activist, artist and writer who lives and sketches in Nyack, NY. Nyack Sketch Log: ” 25 Days Since the Newtown Massacre” © 2013 Bill Batson.