Newtown, Conn. — Mark Barden was flying home from Ohio recently after working on the gun control issue — his full-time career now — and thinking of his son Daniel, who was murdered in the Sandy Hook school massacre here on Dec. 14, 2012. He texted a memo to himself about the loss of the 7-year-old, who was shot to death with 19 other first graders and six educators in one of the nation’s horrific yet endless series of mass shootings.
“I desperately want to just bask in his sweetness, his smiles, hugs, kisses,” the father wrote, yearning to keep Daniel’s image clear in his mind as he wonders what he’d be like today, at 12. “Enjoy a moment of pure, pleasant memories of the smart, affectionate little boy.”
Mr. Barden shared the memo in the spirit of a parent who has nothing more precious to lose and says why not. Such daily notions are part of the hard, desperate routine of the surviving families spiritually scarred in the nation’s gun carnage. Sympathetic strangers often tell the parents, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through.” Jeremy Richman, who lost his daughter Avielle at Sandy Hook, has a challenging response. “As hard and as horrible as it sounds, we need people to imagine what it is like,” he says. “Without that imagination, we’ll never change.”
In his memo, Mr. Barden described “an overwhelming, very specific sadness for which there is no word.” He wrote: “It is laced with a profound sense of longing and deep sorrow and is further compounded by the darkness and finality of death. And not a natural, biological death either.”
Mr. Barden and other Sandy Hook parents finally had a day in court this month at a State Supreme Court hearing to press their difficult attempt to sue Remington, the gun manufacturer. They’re asking why fast-firing, modified battlefield weapons with large ammunition clips should ever be legally marketed to disturbed and in many cases unhinged civilians via lurid, macho-steeped advertising. The adapted wartime rifle like the one used in the Sandy Hook spree has become the weapon of choice in mass shootings across the last five years, in which hundreds of people have been murdered. The special state commission that investigated Sandy Hook warned that these weapons have “no legitimate place in the civilian population.”
“It’s as simple as convenience in target shooting,” a Remington lawyer told a skeptical judge about the rapid-fire feature while arguing the rifle could prove helpful, too, in a “firefight” with a home intruder. Shooters’ convenience? Firefight? The parents find the tragedy devoid of all the “sportsmanship” regularly hyped by the National Rifle Association and its obedient cohort in Congress. Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old killer, sprayed his victims in a 154-round, five-minute onslaught.