Five years ago today, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT and murdered 26 people, 20 of whom were first graders. That means they were between six and seven years old.
The internet is alight with heartrending remembrances today. The Twitter feed of CNN anchor Jake Tapper has been especially poignant, with a stream of photos of the victims and concise, shattering memories from the family and friends who survived them.
It’s hard to talk about. But it’s time. Our family member is sharing their personal experience of the tragedy that forever changed our family, our lives, our nation -> https://t.co/YGTDumBjjb#Newtown #SandyHook5yrs #sandyhook #newtownct #SaySomething #WWDD pic.twitter.com/nKRIb3TWyf
— WhatWouldDanielDo? (@_WhatWdDanielDo) December 14, 2017
In addition to being especially shocking because the victims were tiny children—which necessitates that you imagine rooms full of terrified children being slaughtered by a truly disturbed person with easy access to an arsenal of weapons designed for precisely this kind of killing—the Sandy Hook shooting represented another unsurpassed moral nadir for Congress (or, to invoke a phrase Stranger readers are fond of employing: a new low even for you).
Sandy Hook also represented a particularly dreadful triumph of the NRA's aggressive lobbying tactics, which had, by 2012, effectively annexed the conscience of Republican representatives of both houses of the U.S. Congress, such that even a Democrat-controlled Senate and the just-commandingly-reelected Obama White House couldn't pass a measure to make background checks a little more stringent.
But the disgrace was more fundamental than which bills didn't get signed into law. One of the fundamental bastions of American innocence and privilege was brutally violated. A schoolhouse full of little kids—and not to put to fine a point on it, but little, rich, predominantly (though not all) white kids (which is only to say: the Republican party's bread and butter)—got murdered, and terrifyingly, and psychotically, and meaninglessly.
And Republicans weren't even allowed to admit aloud the obvious, evident fact that the killer's access to guns MIGHT have played some role in his having used those guns to commit these murders. Torn between reason and the gun lobby, they chose the gun lobby.
I'm sure this has been said before, but the only way the Grand Old Party would have lifted a finger to respond is if Lanza had killed them before they were born.
The party's refusal to be real about the empirical world continued to metastasize: Mike Huckabee, then a plausible presidential candidate, blamed the killings on "government-funded abortion pills," anti-discrimination laws, atheists, and liberals. Landfill media barons like Alex Jones would go on to claim the entire event was a hoax perpetrated by the Obama administration.
Lying on purpose, lying flagrantly, lying almost comedically, lying without conviction but with ironclad resolve, lying as a means of signaling to both their masters and their followers that they would say literally anything, no matter how specious, before conceding a single point to the other side—this would become the hallmark of the right's tactical playbook. It had to. How else could they look themselves in the mirror?
There were many previous ignominies—the invasion of Iraq, W ignoring the flooding of New Orleans, John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as running mate to name a few proximate ones—and countless more since that felt like the moment it was no longer possible to even pretend there was anything honorable left in the Republican party's ideology. But Sandy Hook was the moment when they stopped pretending.
And they never looked back.