It is now almost five terrible years since a young man got into his car, drove five miles from his home to the elementary school he had once attended, shot his way through the locked front door, and then proceeded to murder twenty first-graders and six school staff, including the school principal, who happened to be the first adult to get killed. The death toll ended up at 28, because the shooter had already killed his mother before setting out for the school, and at the end of the rampage he shot himself.
Before writing this book I conducted an informal survey to get some sense of the effect of this event on Americans who lived both near and at a distance from Sandy Hook. Over a period of several days I randomly called about a dozen people, six of whom lived within the tri-state area surrounding Sandy Hook (CT, NY, MA) and six other people who lived in the Midwest or the West Coast. I asked them all to tell me what they remembered about the event, and with one exception, every one of them not only remembered where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the massacre, but they remembered details – the shooter’s name, his mother’s first name, the type of gun he used, and so forth.
Most of the individuals who took my brief ‘survey’ also remembered the fact that a week after the rampage, the ATF raided the gun shop where Nancy Lanza purchased the AR-15, which I found very interesting, because as much as I know about mass shootings, I couldn’t tell you the name of any shop which supplied the guns used at Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Aurora, or any of the other mass shootings which seem to occur on a continuous basis within the United States. Nevertheless, just about all the respondents with whom I talked mentioned the gun shop being closed down by the ATF, and several even remembered the name of the store -Riverview Sales.
I happen to know the owner of Riverview, Dave Laguercia, because my gun shop was located about twenty miles away from his shop and we both purchased inventory from the same wholesaler, so we would meet from time to time when we went to pick up guns, ammo and other stuff for reselling in our respective stores. I called Dave after I completed my little survey and asked him why he thought his shop was so prominent in what people remembered about Sandy Hook and he said, “Oh, that’s easy. Once the ATF raided my store, there were more stories about the fact that I sold the gun than there were stories about what happened at the school.”
It was Dave’s comment that persuaded to write a book about Sandy Hook from the perspective of what happened to him. But understand one thing: the book is not an apologia for the gun dealer, in no way is this book an attempt to shift the discussion about Sandy Hook and other gun violence events away from where the discussion needs to focus and remain, namely, the inability of the most advanced society in the contemporary world to prevent 125,000 gun deaths and injuries from occurring every year.
What this book attempts to explain is that the only difference between what happens when someone shoots someone else as opposed to someone shooting lots of people is a difference in degree, but certainly not in kind. And to the extent that mass shootings like Sandy Hook are considered by the experts to be unique events, this both distorts and obscures what gun violence – every type of gun violence – is really all about. The book goes into detail to explain this point of view.
The families and friends of the Sandy Hook victims will never overcome their loss. Neither will the families and friends of anyone else whose life is shattered by the irrational and unstoppable violence caused by guns.
— Mike Weisser (@MikeTheGunGuy) September 25, 2017