It takes less than 10 seconds to report a murder on the news — a life completely obliterated. But what about all the time it takes to create and sustain the life that was just eliminated? How many meals did Charlotte Bacon’s parents prepare for her? How many times did they take her to the doctor and the dentist? How many hugs and kisses did Charlotte Bacon’s parents and grandparents give their beloved 7-year old girl before she was killed in her elementary school in Connecticut? The huge investments of love, time and dreams for their daughter, as well as their daughter’s descendants, were wiped out with a single lethal bullet. Do we even know how many children like Noah Pozner, another child killed in Newtown, and Victoria Soto, a first grade teacher at the school, are killed every day in the United States? It’s surely impossible to calculate the number of families and family members — parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and teachers — whose lives are eternally changed because of such devastating losses. But for those who haven’t yet endured such a loss, these people who perish are just numbers, names reported before or after the weather and sporting events.
As a mother, grandmother and educator, I can’t stop grieving over the stunning loss of life that occurs every day in the Philadelphia area where my children and I live and work. And I can’t stop thinking about the resistance to practical steps that Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other responsible lawmakers have recommended be taken in an attempt to avoid future carnage. Many Democrats, as well as most Republicans, clearly love their guns more than the people they represent. As I watch them on TV trying to defend their outrageous neglect, I’m overwhelmed with frustration, disappointment and disgust. Where is their humanity? Where is their shame at their own inaction? Are they genuinely serious when they say that they can’t support background checks for gun purchasers or the elimination of assault weapons because they are defending the Second Amendment? How do these changes endanger the Second Amendment? Nobody has ever threatened to take all of their destructive toys away from them, and they know it. They say they are worried about the “slippery slope.” The only things that are slippery in Washington are their slippery tongues. They believe they can say anything at any time, and with the right amount of money behind them, get away with it regardless of the harm their ideas and policies may do to fellow human beings. Anybody who is intelligent enough to get elected to a public office is smart enough to know that it is reasonable to ensure that guns should only be sold to law-abiding and mentally competent people and that nobody really needs an assault weapon to go hunting or to protect oneself.
The fact that these legislators would rather implement a filibuster than permit the American public to witness its leaders discuss, debate and vote to expand background checks and other legislation to reduce gun violence is a sign that they are afraid to be exposed any more than they already are. But what right do these people have to prevent the American people from witnessing their government representatives doing their job? This is supposed to be a government of the people and for the people! Who are these lawmakers representing when they refuse to officially vote on the gun bill? Especially when they know that 90 percent of Americans want background checks, and a majority of Americans want a ban on assault weapons! Who is being served when topics of great importance to the general public are not even allowed to be publicly aired?
Time and time again, we are all witnesses to the cowardly, self-serving behavior of our government officials, who are much more concerned about protecting their jobs with money and positive ratings from the NRA than protecting the lives of the people they serve. It’s not President Obama whom people should worry about; he doesn’t want to diminish the freedom of responsible citizens. He certainly doesn’t want to take away our guns. It’s our Congress we should fear — the members who are doing an amazing job of using the government to serve themselves at any cost. I can only hope that those responsible for blocking the passage of improved gun legislation will pay a penalty for paying homage to the wrong people. Until then, I’m grieving for the terrible loss of each life we hear reported and for the loss of faith in the ability of too many of our legislators to fulfill their obligations to the people they have sworn to represent.
Alexis Finger is an associate professor in the Department of English and Philosophy. She can be contacted at [email protected]