The implications from the mass shooting at the Appalachian School of Law on January 16, 2002 far exceed the deaths of three decent, innocent people and the wounding of three others. That tragedy underscores the extent to which elected officials, as well as medical professionals, and members of the law enforcement and legal professions, are willing to face up to and admit their shortcomings, are willing to engage in disingenuous expressions of sympathy, and are willing to distort the truth to protect their careers and mask their lack of ethics and moral courage. The net result is our schools, shopping malls, theaters, and other public places remain shooting galleries.
Death is death, no matter where or how it occurs. Lies are lies no matter where they occur. The survivors of a shooting calamity share a pain and agony that defies description. The survivors and their families have every right to hold people accountable for their actions and inactions; to hold politicians, people in positions of authority, and law enforcement officials accountable for what they do and equally important—what they do not do.
“The natural bureaucratic response is to be defensive. Officials hide behind the veil of secrecy or national security, or executive privilege. They fear embarrassment, personal or institutional. Elected officials fear retribution from the electorate. Yet demanding accountability from elected and appointed officials of the government, and insisting on revealing and correcting their shortcomings, are the most basic right and duties of citizens in a democracy.”
Craig R. Whitney, “New York Times,” Introduction to“The 9/11 Investigation, Public Affairs, New York, 2004
Mr. Whitney’s words concerning accountability are painful and poignant. The truth is that all Americans believe thy have “the right” to demand accountability, but in fact the distance between “having the right” and “exercising the right” is nearly insurmountable.
I can personally speak to the last point. In my work on behalf of victims of gun violence, roadblock after roadblock has been put in my way. I have been threatened, I have been stalked, Virginia newspapers have refused to print my words because I make politicians they endorsed “look bad,” in and around Roanoke and Blacksburg there is a news black-out on my book analyzing the Virginia Tech shooting, and on and on it goes. People in Virginia who beat their chests about Second Amendment rights find all sorts of excuses to silence the victims and families of school shootings—including resorting threats.
I will go into greater detail on all of the above in future posts. (To be continued)