The Shame Of Using The Sandy Hook Parents

I know I am late to the game on commentary regarding the failed gun bill, but there is an aspect of it that hasn’t been covered, and it’s been bothering me.

As you probably know, Republican Senator Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania wrote the bipartisan background check measure with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. I was actually for this bill. I think it was a good compromise, and I have no problem with every single person buying a gun, whether at gun shows or not, having a background check. But it failed, largely due to the NRA’s opposition to it, but I think part of the reason it failed is how Pres. Obama handled it.

When the billed failed, it was quite a blow to Obama, and he wasn’t happy about it all. Obama called it, “A shameful day in Washington.” Do you know what else was a shameful day in Washington? The day Obama used the parents of the murdered Sandy Hook children for political gain to pass this legislation.

Obama was indignant that someone would suggest he used these parents as props, and said they had a right to have an opinion, which they certainly do, but let me explain why it was shameful.

Many times over the past few decades when a horrible tragedy has happened to a child that could have been prevented, the parents have gotten involved in promoting legislation that would prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening to anyone else.

When John Walsh’s son was abducted and murdered in 1981, the Walsh family organized a political campaign to help missing and exploited children. This led to the creation of the Missing Children Act of 1982 and the Missing Children’s Assistance Act of 1984. By the late 80’s department stores adopted what is known as “Code Adam” when children go missing in their stores. Then The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was signed in 2006. which mainly focuses on a national sex offender registry, tough penalties for not registering as a sex offender following release into society, and access by citizens to state websites that track sex offenders. John Walsh also has hosted “America’s Most Wanted” for decades, catching criminals.

In 1993, 12 year old Polly Klauss was taken from her home and murdered. Her parents were horrified that a repeat offender had taken their daughter. Their activism encouraged voters across the country to pass the 3 strike laws, so repeat offenders would face life in prison. They also introduced a huge technological innovation to the process of finding missing children with providing a digitized image on the missing child poster that was so much better than the blurry images of before.

In 1996 nine year old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered in Texas. Out of the activism from her family, we now have the AMBER ALERT child abduction alert system. The alerts are broadcast using the Emergency Alert System, which had previously been used primarily for weather bulletins, civil emergencies, or national emergencies.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with the gun bill and Pres. Obama using the Sandy Hook parents. You see, in all the cases above the parents will tell you that in their grief and tragedy they were able to move forward and find meaning by passing laws and improving systems so that other children will never suffer the same fate as their children did. There is healing in that. Parents who have experienced such loss want and need to find meaning in it. This is why you can’t blame the Sandy Hook parents for climbing aboard Air Force One and standing with President Obama.

In the cases listed above, all the legislation and changes were done and tailored to preventing the tragedy that happened to those children, and they have been successful, and the parents have had great satisfaction in that. It has helped them heal. The difference with gun bill is that the Sandy Hook tragedy would not have been any different with the President’s proposed gun legislation, and he knew that. The background check bill would not have prevented the murders of those children at Sandy Hook, nor will it prevent another school shooting. The guns that were used by the madman Adam Lanza were legally purchased by his mother, who had a background check. Even Chuck Schumer’s bill allows transfers among family members without background checks.

And this is where the shame lies. I can’t imagine what it took for the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hook to put their energy into supporting Pres. Obama on this. I am sure they were told how important this was, and how brave they were. And they were brave. But now they go home with failed legislation that wouldn’t have stopped the tragedy that they suffered through anyway. I am sure they just wanted to do something that they felt might prevent gun violence in this country. No one can blame them for that. But because President Obama chose the most offensive way to get his way, using these grief stricken parents because he knows no one would ever be critical of them, he turns off anyone who might have compromised with him. What breaks my heart is, that unlike the parents whose activism made a difference, the Sandy Hook parents now probably feel defeated. Another layer of sadness they certainly did not need.

The kind of bill that needs to go through Congress that could prevent another Sandy Hook is one that deals with school security and mental health. This kind of bill, like the ones before that protect children, would probably keep another Sandy Hook from happening, and would be supported by everyone.

The gun bill was a good bill in my opinion. It’s true it had nothing to do with school shootings (which is why it was wrong to use the parents), nor will it keep criminals from getting guns, but background checks across the board are a good thing. But unlike Pres. Bill Clinton, who reached across the aisle to get legislation through, Pres. Obama can only seem to insult the other side in word and in deed. This is not how one leads.

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