December 14 will mark the one year anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, which left 28 people dead; most of the victims were small children. It is surely a day that will bring up many complicated emotions, and we can expect to see a variety of vigils and commemorative events.
The shootings at Sandy Hook reinvigorated, at least temporarily, discussions of gun control in the United States. They became a rallying point for proponents of stronger restrictions on guns, as well as for those favoring fewer or less stringent gun control laws. Both camps pointed to the Sandy Hook shootings as an example of why their respective approaches to gun legislation were needed to prevent such a horrific event from occurring again. Ultimately, however, the legal changes that resulted from this mobilization were limited. President Obama signed several executive actions concerning background checks, gun safety, and mental health, but the Manchin-Toomey Background Checks Bill failed to pass the Senate.
But anniversary observances of events like the Sandy Hook shootings bring the event itself, and potentially the mobilization that followed, back into the public eye. Anniversaries of tragic events are highly emotional, almost sacred spaces, and opposing movements fight to present their vision for commemoration as the most appropriate and respectful. The Second Amendment Foundation, an organization founded by Alan Gottlieb, had planned to hold “Guns Save Lives Day” on December 14, 2013. No doubt the organization hoped to convince a large number of people that the best way to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings was to spend the day lobbying for and rallying on behalf of fewer gun control laws. However, this approach failed to resonate with many others’ ideas of how to commemorate the anniversary of the shootings. After strong backlash from Newtown residents and gun control proponents, the Second Amendment Foundation decided to move Guns Save Lives Day to December 15. While the Second Amendment Foundation may have lost that fight, they can still argue that the symbolism of December 15 is highly appropriate to their cause: it is the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.