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Five years after Sandy Hook, everything has changed.

By Penny Okamoto, Executive Director of Ceasefire Oregon

Five years ago, our nation was rocked by the massacre of twenty first-graders and six women who literally put themselves in front of bullets trying to save those young lives. Just days later, the National Rifle Association dismissed what they called “the Connecticut effect” as they assured their financial backers and supporters that the nation’s grief over Sandy Hook would soon subside. In a disgusting attempt to escape culpability, the National Rifle Association laid blame for the brutal, grisly killings on everything and everyone expect for guns. And, despite knowing the vast amount of evidence to the contrary, the National Rifle Association used these horrific murders as an opportunity to sell more of their products. (“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” – Wayne LaPierre, December 21, 2012. CBS)

On December 14, 2012, everything about gun violence in America changed–and the gun lobby knew it.

The corporate gun lobby knew they had to save their biggest market–the American gun market–so they pulled out all the stops to back politicians and they stooped to using vicious scare tacticsBut the gun lobby never understood the most critical point: that we love our children more than the gun lobby loves its profits. 
Americans simply didn’t “get over” Sandy Hook. Their grief did not “subside” after Aurora or Orlando. No. The horror, the anguish Americans experienced became disbelief, then anger, and is now fury. Americans know that the #1 reason for gun violence in America is weak gun laws. They also know that gun laws are kept weak because the corporate gun lobby must protect its only open market in the entire world: the United States. (The U.S. makes up 5% of the world’s population but owns 50% of all the guns in civilian hands. Three percent of those gun owners own half of the guns. In other words, 3% of Americans own 25% of all the civilian held guns in the world. The Guardian)

After Sandy Hook, Americans, both gun owners and non-gun owners, decided to arm themselves with reason (and votes!) to change our country’s gun laws and gun culture.

Today, gun violence prevention groups are flourishing everywhere. Five years ago, Ceasefire Oregon was our state’s only dedicated gun violence prevention organization. Oregon now has five vibrant, vocal gun violence prevention organizations all working together to reduce gun violence. (Ceasefire Oregon, Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, Brady, Giffords, the Oregon Alliance, and Moms Demand Action/Everytown.) We are a family of super heroes, each using our special talent to fight gun violence in Oregon and at the national level. In fact, Oregon is a model for the nation in working together for a common goal.

Because of our combined efforts, Oregon has passed strong, effective gun laws including universal background checks and extreme risk protection order laws.

In 2014, Oregon gun violence prevention advocates unseated two senators who opposed common sense gun laws and replaced them with senators who publicly supported universal background checks. In addition, Oregon easily beat back attempts by the gun lobby to unseat gun violence prevention champions.

In 2017, Oregon Republican State Senator Brian Boquist courageously took on the gun lobby to fight for ERPO.

And those are just the highlights of what has happened in Oregon. The rest of the nation has also witnessed huge changes.

Public support throughout the nation for stronger gun laws is at an all time high. That includes support for a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, higher standards for gun ownership (no guns for people convicted of violent misdemeanors), and a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases.

Throughout Oregon and nationwide, parents and grandparents are ASKing if there is a gun where their children play. Gun locks are free at Randall’s Children’s Hospital Safety Center. Oregon Public Health Association is devoted to educating people about the risk of unsecured guns and suicide by gun. Churches, Humanists, gun owners, and businesses are speaking out against gun violence.

Our country still has much work to be done as is evidenced by the massacres suffered in Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, and Roseburg. But make no mistake: the gun lobby is on the run, laws are changing, and gun-owners as well as non gun-owners are demanding changes to make all of us safer.

Today, I leave with images of those stolen from us five years through the actions of a single gunman, enabled by the greed of the corporate gun lobby. Please honor them with action and keep them in your heart.

Penny Okamoto

P.S. I included a link for Barber’s Adagio for Strings because the music was in my heart five years ago when I heard of the Clackamas Town Center shooting and stayed with me through Sandy Hook and all the years since.

Remembering Sandy Hook.

Barber’s Adagio for Strings