I’m sickened by the extremes to which pro-gun activists go to reinforce their Second Amendment beliefs. There are arguments to be made for why various firearms should be kept legal; however, the tactics that some use to diminish lives lost from gun violence and bully those families that have suffered through these tragedies is truly appalling.
The Sandy Hook shooting is one tragic event that most Americans will never forget. On Dec. 14, 2014, a lone gunman, armed with high-capacity weapons, stormed a suburban school in Newtown, Connecticut, and viciously murdered 20 six-year-olds along with six staff. The sheer brutality of the attack on such young children was unprecedented.
Imagine the fear that community experienced when they learned about the shooting. Imagine the grief that the parents of those 20 first-graders felt when they weren’t reunited with their children. Imagine the pain these families must endure every day.
Now imagine someone claiming that your fear, your pain, your loss, is a hoax. That’s exactly what right-wing provocateur Alex Jones did when he asserted repeatedly that the Sandy Hook shooting was nothing more than a government conspiracy. His cruel actions were intended to create doubt among his audience and, ultimately, prevent any gun control measures from being proposed.
For years, Jones and his conspiracy theorist henchman relentlessly tormented the victims’ parents, traveling to Newtown to harass the families and spread ridiculous claims that their children were still alive. Jones continuously aired false reports and, to his audience, legitimized these cruel lies.
It’s hard to believe anyone would trust the rants of a madman over the pleas of grieving parents. It is hard to imagine anyone being so hateful as to attack families that had endured such a horrific experience.
Yet, Alex Jones persisted, while his trusting audience watched on.
So now, what does Jones say about the latest Newtown casualty? Dr. Jeremy Richman, a grieving father, recently took his own life after struggling for seven years to cope with the loss of Avielle, his beloved daughter. Jones and his crew tormented Dr. Richman and his wife, who after the shooting, had established a foundation in their daughter’s name to combat violence through research and community engagement.
Will Jones deny the death of Avielle’s father, too?
Now, Jones is blaming his lies and cruel acts on a form of psychosis. It’s his latest defense as defamation lawsuits mount against him by the grieving families who have grown weary from his profiting off their heartbreak.
In depositions in the Jones case, we learned that the National Rifle Association (NRA) has also pursued conspiracy theory tactics, through a long-time employee, by attempting to disseminate lies about the 2018 Parkland Florida school shooting, when 17 students and faculty were shot and killed.
The ripple effect of gun violence is unending; for the families that are directly impacted, the anguish never recedes. To manipulate these tragedies as a way to promote doubt and conspiracy is beyond forgivable.
Within a week of Dr. Richman’s suicide, two survivors of the Parkland school shooting had also taken their own lives. Sydney Aiello suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and survivor’s remorse after losing her best friend in the shooting. An underclassman followed suit mere days later.
Once the cameras recede and the public’s memory fades, the families are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and establish some sense of normalcy. This is a difficult process even without the concerted effort of vicious profiteers who will stop at nothing to promote their own agenda.
Alex Jones and his channel of misinformation continues to bleed lies. The NRA continues to be the most powerful pro-gun lobbying force in America, yielding influence in Congress while assailing innocent victims of gun violence on any willing media outlet.
Dr. Richman often quoted this phrase by A.J. Herchel: “Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
I could not agree more.
We should especially have higher standards when it comes to our nation’s leadership. Our elected officials must act responsibly and condemn, not only the acts of shooters, but also public voices like the NRA and Jones, who delegitimize, harass and further harm innocent victims of gun violence.