After Newtown, Why No Progress on Guns?


Lost Our Compass: One Jewish mother wants to know why we have squandered an opportunity for change.
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Lost Our Compass: One Jewish mother wants to know why we have squandered an opportunity for change.

Published November 12, 2013, issue of November 15, 2013.
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Noah Pozner would have turned 7 years old this month. The youngest victim of the December 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the only Jew among them, his life was cut short because a deranged man was able to access weapons in a nation that cares more about its guns than its children.

“If there isn’t some kind of change in the national consciousness by 6 and 7-year-old children being gunned down in the sanctity of their school, then I think we have lost true north in this country,” Noah’s mother, Veronique Pozner, said after her son was murdered. “Our compass is broken.”

You can hear Pozner enunciate these words in a stunning video on accompanying her profile as the first of the Forward 50, our annual list of American Jews who have most dramatically impacted the national story. She is astonishingly composed. She looks straight into the camera. She looks straight into your heart.

But her words have gone largely unheeded. How can that be?

Her home state of Connecticut did approve a package of laws that included adding more than 100 guns to a list of banned assault weapons, banning armor-piercing bullets and putting limits on gun magazines. Maryland, New York, Delaware, California and Colorado also tightened their gun safety laws, many by expanding and improving background checks. Six months after Adam Lanza added “Newtown” to the ever-growing list of gun-fueled massacres, momentum seemed to be building in state capitols, even if Congress couldn’t manage to approve tepid legislation on background checks.

Progress, however hard-won, proved to be limited, elusive beyond the aforementioned states, all run by Democratic governors ensconced on America’s more liberal coasts. In Colorado, the geographic outlier, the backlash was swift and furious — two state senators who had backed stronger gun laws lost recall elections.

Instead of a developing national consciousness, we see a divide on America’s gun culture that is hardening like cold steel. According to a list compiled by CNN, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming have approved laws loosening gun restrictions in the past year.

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