This week is the 10-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting. The anniversary stories are sobering, particularly the interviews with children who survived who are now in high school.
When the Sandy Hook murders happened I was the intern minister at our UU congregation in Rockville, Maryland. The shooting was on a Friday and I was scheduled to lead our holiday service that Sunday, complete with a pageant and the lighting of the menorah. Working with the minister, Rev. Lynn Strauss, we adjusted the service some, mostly making time to name the tragedy and to reflect together in quiet. When a member of the congregation lit the menorah that morning, and he led the blessing in Hebrew, it was a profound moment of connection for the congregation.
After Sandy Hook, I chose to center my internship project around gun violence. Working with Rev. Lynn, we hosted panels of speakers that spring, and worked in the community with law enforcement and interfaith groups. There was hope for change, and yet changes in national policy didn’t happen. If not after Sandy Hook, when? There was a clear sense that change was impossible.
Over the years we’ve continued to speak out and work for change. We have had vigils and rallies on the Eastern shore and in DC. We stood together after Orlando and Parkland. I recall helping lead a service of action that we titled, “It’s Not OK,” at Temple B’Nai Isreal after shootings in Dayton and El Paso in 2019. Many of us have joined Moms Demand Action and other groups. I’ve stood in protest with other UUs in front of the NRA on the anniversary of Sandy Hook. UUFE and UUCR members have advocated change in Annapolis. Letters have been written. Not knowing if change is possible or not, we’ve continued.
In an editorial this week by Dave Cullen (NY Times, Dec.13, “Gun Safety: Yes,There’s Actually a Reason to Have Hope”), he reflects upon the last 10 years and finds while the NRA has felt invincible for so long, in actuality, “Gun safety wasn’t buried in Newtown, Conn. The modern safety movement was born that day.” This editorial provides a robust summary of the work done over the last 10 years to organize power through coalitions, and recaps the ways that recent elections and policies are changing as a result. What has seemed impossible, is actually possible.
Bit by bit something is shifting for the better. Our continued efforts in partnership with so many others have mattered. Our continued commitment to gun safety is still needed going forward.