Five years since the Newtown tragedy, and yesterday we almost repeated it

Realistically, it seems unlikely that anything significant will come from the appeal brought by the relatives of victims in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A state judge dismissed the case last year. The families have now appealed to the State Supreme Court to reverse that decision and allow a jury trial.

The defendants? Essentially the gun companies and specifically the methods they use to market their firearms, specifically the one Adam Lanza used to kill twenty children and six adults in Newtown that Friday in December. One line from a Bushmaster ad, “consider your man-card reissued” might particularly appeal to someone who has been slighted or bullied, or who lacks the emotional wherewithal to differentiate between an acceptable response and a murderous one.

A lot of mass-shooting history has been rewritten between 2012 and now, and in America we have become almost inured to the bloodshed. Those 26 deaths in Newtown have been surpassed many times; and though the horror evinced by the murder of children in what should be a sanctuary affects us more strongly, in the end any deaths from a madman with a gun are dreadful, whether the victims be church attendees in Texas, concertgoers in Nevada, or nightclub revelers in Orlando.

In the end the Newtown case will not be decided by horror or tragedy, nor by anger and revulsion. It will be settled by laws. Proving that a gun manufacturer, distributor, or seller willfully designed a firearm for a delusional teenager (or for his mother who purchased the gun and gave it to him) will be problematic. I don’t believe that the cowardice of Republican lawmakers, who keep snuggling up in bed with the NRA, extends to the judicial system, but I wonder what sort of recriminations might befall a judge who finds in favor of the Newtown plaintiffs.

And I wonder also, can the judges ignore what almost happened in California’s Tehama County yesterday? If not for the quick thinking of some school officials, Newtown could have been repeated, and by most estimates, surpassed. As it was, four innocent victims perished.

It’s November 15: so far this month America has counted seventeen mass shootings. Seventeen! One of them, in Gary, Indiana, injured seven but none fatally, and many others produced injuries only. In eight of them there was at least one fatality. And in all of them someone with a gun wanted to harm other people.

Like every resident of every state, we want our Supreme Court to be impartial—to decide each case on its merits. But we can hope that, maybe in this instance, someone will point out that “it almost happened again” and “maybe we should do something before it does.” It would never end all mass shootings, but it would be a start…and we haven’t had one of those since before president of the NRA became a Cabinet post.

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