Five Years Since Sandy Hook Marks Five Years of Congressional Inaction

Rohan Batlanki

Tomorrow marks five years of mourning the loss of 27 lives in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was one of the deadliest, and by far the most disturbing, school shootings in American history, taking the lives of 20 children between ages 6 and 7. Surely this massacre of children warranted quick, decisive changes in policy to prevent such an incident from ever happening again. 

Apparently not. In the three years following Sandy Hook, 555 children under the age of 12 died by gun violence. In the five years since Sandy Hook, Congress has been characteristically useless in passing effective legislation. Bills fail to pass predominantly because of bureaucratic incompetence or powerful gun lobbies. This results in ineffective legislation that leaves blatant loopholes undermining the intent of proposed bills. In response, proponents of gun control must change their strategy by closing flaws in the existing law and combating attempts to add new laws that relax control. 

For example, legislators like to highlight the fact that automatic weapons are so strictly regulated in America that they are essentially banned. And yet, only a few months ago, America mourned again as it experienced its most deadly shooting in modern history. The perpetrator had modified his semi-automatic rifle by using a “bump-stock,” which allowed it to fire like an automatic one. This modification is one of many that can exploit inadequacies in the law. A proposal to close this loophole was put forth by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) after Sandy Hook — it never went to a vote in Congress.

Pro-gun senators further muddle the situation by proposing legislation to relax gun control. Moreover, rather than add an entirely new bill, many of the inefficiencies of gun legislation stem from senators like Jeff Duncan (R-SC) who added a provision removing restrictions on silencers and suppressors, alleging it would protect the hearing of hunters. This provision is attached to a completely unrelated bill — the SHARE act of 2017 opens up access to public land for hunting, fishing and shooting. Senator Duncan seems to believe a silenced weapon is somehow safer. 

Gun  lobbies seem to agree, as they have funded Senator Duncan’s campaign to the tune of almost $10,000 in the last two years.

Powerful lobbies, apathetic legislators and the imbalance of power in our bipartisan system hinder gun control legislation. Representatives pushing gun control bills through the House: consider a change in strategy. Counter provisions like the silencer provision of SHARE with your own provisions, such as one outlining ear protection while hunting. Requiring ear protection over allowing for the purchase of silencers eliminates the possibility of misuse. 

In the five years since perhaps one of the saddest shootings in American history, it is sadder still that we cannot mark any progress. The death of those 20 children will remain meaningless until legislators stop valuing campaign donations and outdated amendments more than American children. Until then, every family missing members this holiday season because of your inaction has little use for your “thoughts and prayers.”

Batlanki is a Neuroscience sophomore from Flower Mound. Follow him on Twitter @RohanBatlanki.