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Four Years After Sandy Hook Shooting, Strong Emotions, But Little Change

Chion Wolf
A vigil at the state Capitol honored the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting in the days afterward.

Wednesday is the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. A gunman walked into the school and took the lives of 20 children and six educators.

The anniversary was marked by 15 minutes of silent reflection in Newtown at schools and town offices. 

On WNPR’s The Wheelhouse, Colin McEnroe said not much seems to have changed since four years ago, despite the horrors of that day.

"I’m thinking that next year will be a five-year anniversary, and there’ll be a temptation to say, well, what have we done? And I think we kind of know the answer. We won’t have done very much about this at all," McEnroe said. "You know, in a nation that is openly hungry for, or at least amenable to, expanded and more rigorous background checks, you can’t even get that thing through."

McEnroe said he's been thinking about the role of "fake news" since the shooting. He said fake news has been around for a while, but it compounded the tragedy of Sandy Hook.

"There emerged this whole group of people that has gotten larger rather than smaller – considerably larger, as far as I can tell, rather than smaller – that actually don’t believe it happened," McEnroe said. "I mean, this is just absurd and offensive to us. We know people like Jimmy Greene, you know, people we’ve known for a long time, whose lives were shattered by this. The notion that it didn’t happen is just insane. But it’s there, you know? And it’s been expounded by Alex Jones, who ...has received some thank-yous from the president-elect. I’m horrified by this. And I’m troubled by it. And it’s a symptom of a bigger problem, that as a nation we can’t even agree that something like this happened."

Suzanne Bates of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy said the memory of the day is burned in her mind, and yet it's been hard to find ways to talk about what to do next.

"It’s so frightening as a parent to think about it," she said. "It was horrifying. I think a lot of the things that we’d hoped we’d have conversations about, I just think it’s a shame that it’s very difficult right now for us to have conversations about mental health, about – you know, a lot of the gun laws that were proposed are not laws that would have changed that day. It’s been very difficult to have conversations about it. Ultimately, I think we need to take the day and remember, and mourn, and you know, hug your kids, and just be grateful."

Daniela Altimari of The Hartford Courant noted a mental health bill signed into law this week by President Barack Obama. It was co-written by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and is one of a few significant legal milestones post-Newtown.

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, who represents the fifth district that includes Newtown, called for acts of kindness to help heal communities. She said, “…make sure no one feels the kind of isolation, desperation, anger, and fear that in part led to those horrible events four years ago.”

This report includes information from WSHU Public Radio.

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