Full of Light and Love

Full of Light and Love

Hearing the news of a child killed. Reuters photo

Five years after a lone gunman massacred 20 first-graders and six staff members at  Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, many things haven't changed. The ungodly slaughter hasn't stopped: 49 people in Orlando last year, 58 people in Las Vegas this October, and, unimaginably, almost 1,000 children since Sandy Hook. Despite massive support by Americans for stronger gun laws - 94% support background checks - a gutless, NRA-bought, GOP-controlled Congress has failed to pass over 100 proposed gun control laws governing assault weapons, bump stocks, background checks, including the bipartisan Manchin-Toomey Amendment that sought to close gun show loopholes, which the NRA opposed. Especially these dark days, indifference and inertia by those in power grow like a sickness: Asked what might alter the country's bloody trajectory, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Whether or not there is a regulation that could be put in place or not that could have prevented those things, frankly, I’m not aware of what that would be.”

But social change comes not from the top but the bottom, where some things have changed. Over 200 state gun control laws have passed. Given the intransigence of Congress, grassroots advocates have moved to transform it: The group Moms Demand Action have begun training 400 political candidates, including shooting victims and their relatives; nine ran for and won office this year, and 14 more plan to run in 2018 for federal, state and local seats. Grieving families, meanwhile, are intent on honoring the legacies of those lost and working to ensure more won't be. The nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise advocates for mental health reform and has trained 2.5 million kids and adults to recognize and report signs of potential gun violence. Families have sued gun manufacturers, lobbied against gun advertising, started foundations and scholarships, written books and held "Love Wins" benefit concerts, established dog parks, arts programs, autism support projects, grief counseling resources, kindness campaigns. Saxophonist social worker Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose daughter was killed, began the Ana Grace Project, which partners with schools to help families in crisis. Citing the Bible, he speaks of hope: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” But at the end of each day, she insists, there is no real redemption. Says their surviving son, now 13, "No one deserves this."

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