On December 14, 2013, the first anniversary of the horrific massacre of 20 young children and 6 adults by crazed gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the town of Newtown, Connecticut has decided not to hold a public commemoration in order to avoid a media circus and out of respect for families of the victims. That is perfectly understandable.
What is not understandable is how little has been accomplished in the area of gun control since that tragedy. In the immediate aftermath, there was considerable noise from both gun control groups and gun rights advocates and battle lines were sharply drawn in the debate even as the public's support for gun control skyrocketed. That support may have declined since then but is still fairly high. A recent poll by the Associated Press reveals that 52 percent of Americans still want stricter gun laws.
Unfortunately, our politicians have been unable to take advantage of this tailwind to get anything substantive done. A possible new assault weapons ban was the first to be abandoned, followed quickly by expanded background checks. Individual states like New York, Connecticut, and even Colorado have passed their own legislation, but at the federal level, the Democrats have been ineffective in defeating the obstructionism of House Republicans or the National Rifle Association on this issue.
That will not change until the Democrats, and President Obama in particular, make gun control a national priority comparable to immigration reform or fighting inequality. Gun control cannot be an issue that is put on the legislative agenda every time there is a mass shooting, and then dropped from the agenda just as quickly.
It's a tough battle to be sure, with gun manufacturers and the NRA feeding vast sums of money to their Republican lapdogs in Washington to defeat any new legislation that comes up, but that does not mean that the Democrats should give up the fight. To accomplish anything, they need to keep pushing for stricter guns laws and to rally support from the public in an organized, determined, and persistent manner. If the president can stump tirelessly to promote economic initiatives to help the poor or Medicare expansion to help seniors, why can he not do the same to promote the right to be free of gun violence for all Americans?
The families of Newtown victims have done a lot to push for gun control and their work will surely continue to make a difference both in terms of public awareness and also legislation, but the burden of restoring sanity to a nation gone gun crazy should not fall to them alone. Organizations like Moms Demand Action are not going to wilt in the face of opposition but their efforts need to be supported by the White House and Congress in order to have a real impact.
It's acceptable for Democrats to lose individual battles on gun control, but not to abandon the war. Gun violence is an obstacle to a civilized society that cannot be broken through with a single strike of a legislative hammer, but it can be broken through with many little taps -- as long as the taps are applied unceasingly.
In the meantime, here is a statistic that should chill you to the bone regardless of how you feel about gun control: According to CDC estimates, 33,173 Americans have died in gun-related violence since the Newtown shooting, which translates to almost 100 people per day this December 14.
The war against guns is not over.
SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator. He has worked at leading investment banks as well as at a multi-billion dollar hedge fund. His opinion pieces appear in Huffington Post, TIME, Bloomberg Businessweek, FORTUNE, and Christian Science Monitor, and he has appeared on HuffPost Live, CNBC's 'Closing Bell', TheStreet.com, and MSNBC's 'The Cycle'. He is also the author of two thriller novels.
For more information, please visit www.sanghoee.com