As politicians debate gun policy and gun-rights advocates trumpet antiseptic legal arguments, Christine Rizkalla, a pediatric ER doctor, remembers the first child she saw struck by gunfire.
The boy, I’ll call him Dylan, had run a few steps in front of his family as they strolled down a Bronx sidewalk one early evening in late November, a couple days before Thanksgiving. It was a few short blocks to Dylan’s grandmother’s house, but as Dylan reached the intersection, he walked directly into the crossfire of a gunfight. A bullet hit him square in the back. He was 5 years old.
Twenty-seven wooden angels stand in a yard down the street from the Sandy Hook School Dec. 16, 2012 in Newtown, Conn. Twenty-six people were shot dead, including 20 children, after a gunman identified as Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Lanza also reportedly had committed suicide at the scene. A 28th person, believed to be Nancy Lanza, found dead in a house in town, was also believed to have been shot by Adam Lanza. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
I was working the evening shift in my last year of medical school when they wheeled Dylan into the pediatric emergency room. It was 11 years ago, but all the details of that night came flooding back to me last Friday when I heard about the school shooting in Newtown. I was on my way into work, and as I entered I heard the sounds of a normal day in the pediatric ER: A child declared, “I don’t want any needles!” Another child sat nearby, coloring wild streaks on a piece of paper while an IV dangled from his arm. A baby wailed while a doctor examined her ears. In the background, I could hear endless news updates about the massacre on the waiting-room TV.
In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre I’ve heard people arguing loudly about policy and politics, and it seems that what is missing from almost all of these debates is the central, horrific reality of what it looks like when a child is shot. Outside of emergency rooms and ambulances, very few people have any idea what we’re actually talking about when we talk about a bullet ripping into a small body—even once, let alone 11 times.
So this is what it looks like:
Dylan was limp and unconscious, and his lips were colorless. His ski jacket had been thrown aside, and his T-shirt and jeans had been cut off. His chest was not rising. It was covered with a mix of fresh and dried blood, which obscured the small maroon hole the bullet had made as it tore into his soft back.
He had a breathing tube down his throat, and each time the doctors compressed his chest, blood bubbled into the tube. The monitor showed his heart was not beating. Everyone on shift came to his room to help: the nurses and doctors inserted IV tubes into his leg and arm and pressed down again and again on his delicate torso. Countless syringes were passed over his small frame, and it struck me that he had the body of any other healthy, strong child, except that he was completely motionless.
While the police and Dylan’s family gathered in the ER, doctors yelled orders back and forth for surgery, respiratory, ﬂuids, epinephrine, a chest tube, more epinephrine, fresh blood … Every few moments the doctor doing the compressions would pause with a hand over his pulse, and everyone would look toward the monitor in the hope that his heartbeat would start up again. It didn’t.
Want an abortion in Missouri? It’ll be tougher than buying a gun. What about selling lemonade in Iowa? You'll need to jump through more hoops than if you wanted to sell your piece. The Daily Beast lines up the laws side by side.
Needless to say, it’s always been a contentious issue. The Second Amendment protects the right of U.S. citizens to keep and bear arms. Federal law requires gun owners to be 21 and to submit to a background check before any licensed dealer (though not a private seller) is allowed to sell them a firearm. Which means, based on age alone, it’s easier to buy cigarettes, to vote, or join the Army than it is to buy a gun.
But any regulations beyond the federal limits are up to each state, hence the complicated and inconsistent nature of gun laws across the U.S. Many states don’t require permits to purchase handguns and long guns or licenses to carry them. Concealed weapons are even permitted in schools, workplaces, and churches in certain locales.
In fact, based on certain criteria (and nuances), procuring a gun—whether a handgun or an assault rifle—requires less effort and time than it does to acquire or access a number of other products or services that are subject to legal oversight. The Daily Beast compared the difficulty of acquiring a weapon with that of accessing or using other restricted or bureaucratic services and procedures like having an abortion and getting a driver’s license. Here’s what we found:
In Missouri, it can take less time to buy a gun than get an abortion.
According to state law, a woman wanting an abortion must see a counselor and complete a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before receiving an abortion. There's no mandatory waiting period for wannabe gun owners.
In Iowa, it’s easier to sell a gun than it is to sell lemonade.
The Connecticut town hadn’t seen a murder since 2005. Last month, a fatal skateboarding incident shocked everyone. Christine Pelisek on how residents are coping with their new infamy.
Less than weeks before Adam Lanza went on a rampage and killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the bucolic town of Newtown, Conn., was mourning the loss of an 18-year-old skateboarder. Christopher Mulligan was struck by a box truck as he attempted to cross a busy street on Nov. 28. His friends held an impromptu memorial at the local skate park to memorialize his young life, which was covered by local and state media.
Connecticut State Police officers respond to a bomb threat outside of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. Worshippers hurriedly left the church Sunday, not far from where a gunman opened fire Friday inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Mulligan’s death was a rarity in this town of approximately 26,000, which is mostly known for its Friday night varsity football games and its yearly Halloween haunts on Main Street.
“It has been a really tough month for us,” 16-year-old Danielle Shine told The Daily Beast. “We have always considered our town very boring. The morning of the shooting we went into lockdown and the worst we thought was there was an animal in the building.”
Until now, murder was mostly unheard of here. The last reported homicide cases was in April 2010, when the skeletal remains of 32-year-old Elizabeth Heath, who had vanished without a trace in April 1984, were discovered hidden beneath the floor of a Newtown barn. Her husband, now 68, was arrested for her murder. According to the Newtown Bee, the couple was in divorce proceedings when Heath went missing. The trial is scheduled for sometime next year in a Danbury courthouse. Before that, the last murders occurred in 2005 and 1999. Both were solved.
“It is scary,” said Ellen Atkinson, 16. “Now it is known as a murder town.”
Indeed, Newtown is a town on edge. Helicopters fly over million-dollar homes and quaint churches. Police officers are posted at the town square, directing traffic away from the elementary school—and also stationed at the victims’ homes, so that the press will leave their families alone. When kids go back to school on Wednesday, most likely in a neighboring town, police officers will be there, too. Television crews and reporters make up the bulk of the pedestrians walking along the quaint downtown streets.
Connecticut Gov. Malloy mourned Newtown victims Sunday night.
Police say those pretending to be the Newtown school shooter could be prosecuted. Lauren Ashburn on the dark side of social media.
Some creeps, it turns out, are impersonating a mass murderer online.
Getty Images; AP Photo
How exactly one pretends to be someone who just killed himself is beyond me. That it is being done at all is sickening and unspeakably cruel.
At a Sunday news conference, Connecticut police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said some people on social media were pretending to be the shooter in the Newtown school massacre, Adam Lanza, and others—and that they could be prosecuted. “There has been misinformation coming from people posing as the shooter in this case, posing using other identities, mimicking this crime scene …There’s been some things in somewhat of a threatening manner,” Vance said.
And threatening language is not just being spewed by those impersonating Lanza. Consider
@sammyswordfish All NRA members should be shot!!!!
@90sRememberer Murder every NRA member
@prisonforbush Someone should shoot this motherfucker NRA President David Keene weighs in on 2012 election - Glenn Beck glennbeck.com/2012/10/31/nra. via @glennbeck
The coverage briefly surges after each mass shooting but quickly recedes. Howard Kurtz on why the press should lead a national debate.
One of my television guests didn’t pull punches in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings.
On ‘Meet The Press,’ New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the NRA's power was “overrated.”
“There needs to be a real media agenda here,” Frank Sesno, director of George Washington’s School of Media and Public Affairs, told me on CNN.
A media agenda—the phrase sounds like a crusade in which committed journalists won’t rest until politicians are pressured into passing stricter gun-control laws. That’s not how Sesno frames it.
“Not a media agenda to take sides,” says Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief. “But a media agenda to keep a very sensitive, very difficult situation and issue in the public light, and to bring all sides.”
Which is precisely what the press has failed to do.
The news business, with few exceptions, pays little attention to the gun issue except in the immediate aftermath of the latest mass shooting in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, or Newtown.
No less a figure than Rupert Murdoch tweeted about the “terrible news” in Connecticut, asking: “When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?” But I don’t expect Fox News to echo that view.
Investigators are doggedly trying to answer a fundamental but elusive question: what made the nephew of a hero cop take the lives of 20 innocent children? Michael Daly reports.
On the morning Adam Lanza allegedly gunned down his mother, 20 small children, and five adults in a Connecticut school, his uncle was on the front page of a New Hampshire newspaper for bringing a man back to life.
On Saturday, NBC News reported on Adam Lanza's warning signs, including a failed attempt to buy a gun and an argument with school staff.
The uncle, Officer James Champion of the Kingston Police Department in New Hampshire, had revived a jogger felled by a sudden heart attack who had gone into cardiac arrest.
“It’s a miracle,” Champion was quoted as saying of his lifesaving ministrations. “His family’s going to have him for Christmas.”
The story was on the newsstands when Champion got word of the carnage in Newtown, Conn., where his sister and her family had moved in 1998 after leaving the house next door to the one in which he still lived.
While Champion took in the horrifying news, fellow officers in Connecticut began to work on what they called the Puzzle; not just why 20-year-old Lanza went on a murderous rampage, but how he could possibly have chosen the target he did.
Adam did not go with his guns to his high school, as had the Columbine killers.
He did not go to a nearby college where he had studied, as had the Virginia Tech killer.
It’s the fourth time the president has had to ‘comfort a grieving community torn apart by mass shootings.’ See Obama’s addresses on Sandy Hook Elementary, the Aurora movie theater, the Wisconsin Sikh temple, and a Tucson supermarket.
Newtown, Conn.: ‘They’re All Our Children’
“All across this land of ours, we have wept with you,” President Obama said Sunday night in Newtown, Conn. The president told a grieving Newtown that the town would be remembered for inspirational “stories of strength, resolve, and sacrifice.” He then spoke of parenting and communal responsibility, admitting that we’re not doing enough as a nation to “keep our children, all of them, safe from harm,” and demanding change. Obama promised to use his position “in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this,” but he didn’t give specifics, instead focusing on the general impact of the tragedy. In a life that is uncertain, he said, “there’s only one thing that we can be sure of. And that is the love that we have.” He concluded by naming each of the children who died and implored America to “make our country worthy of their memory.”
Oak Creek, Wis.: ‘All of Us Are Heartbroken’
Obama gave a short, solemn speech after six people were killed at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., on Aug. 5, 2012, offering condolences on behalf of his wife, Michelle, and the nation. “I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible tragic events are happening with too much regularity,” said the president, who called for “some soul-searching to examine additional ways that we can reduce violence.”
Aurora, Colo.: ‘Out of This Darkness, a Brighter Day Is Going to Come’
The hero principal who took on the shooter. The girl who dreamed of horses. The rambunctious boy. See photos of some of the 27 whose lives were lost when a gunman went on a rampage in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Dawn Hochsprung was a beloved principal who lost her life trying to lunge at the gunman. Jesse Lewis was praised as always being able to “put a smile on your face.” Jessica Rekos dreamed of horses and asked for new cowgirl boots and a hat this Christmas. See photos of the victims, young and old, who tragically lost their lives on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Charlotte Bacon, 6
On Friday morning, Charlotte Bacon begged her mother to let her wear a new pink dress and white boots to school—her Christmas outfit—and won. “She was going to go some places in this world,” her uncle said in an interview with Newsday. The Bacon family tragedy could have been worse yet—Charlotte’s older brother, Guy, also attended Sandy Hook but survived the attack.
Daniel Barden, 7
Daniel Barden’s father, a longtime area musician, affectionately called his red-headed boy “Daniel the Maniel” on his blog, and Daniel and his family would often go to his father’s shows. “Words really cannot express what a special boy Daniel was…a constant source of laughter and joy. He earned his ripped jeans and missing two front teeth. Despite that, he was, as his mother said, ‘Just so good.’ He embodied everything that is wholesome and innocent in the world. Our hearts break over losing him,” the Barden family wrote of their son.
Olivia Engel, 6
Olivia Engel’s parents, too distraught to speak in public, asked a cousin to relay some memories about their little girl to the press. The brightly smiling child seen in pictures loved school, drawing, soccer, and theater, and danced ballet and hip-hop. Olivia had landed the role of an angel at a nativity performance on Friday night, which she had been looking forward to. On a Facebook memorial, one post remembered her bright demeanor: “I can not stop thinking about her beautiful smile, her sweet voice, and her infectious laugh. Heaven got a beautiful little angel and I know her grandpa is loving every moment, getting to know this precious little girl.”
‘I come to offer you the prayers of the nation.’
After a series of prayers from leaders of multiple faith traditions, President Obama addressed the families of the 26 victims who were killed in the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Friday. “Newtown is not alone,” Obama said. “I come to offer you the love and prayers of the nation.” The president said the nation had been “inspired” by stories of strength and resolve during the horror. “They lost their lives at a school that could have been any school, in any town in America.” Taking a political turn, Obama said he had been reflecting on whether the country is doing enough to keep its citizens safe. “The answer is no,” he concluded, “We’re not doing enough, and we will have to change.”
Friends and family members reflect on a 6-year-old girl cut down by a killer. Matt DeLuca reports.
No one smiled like Olivia Engel. The bright-eyed, brunette 6-year-old, who was killed last Friday in the Newtown school massacre, was all set to play an angel in her church’s nativity play that night.
“She was supposed to be an angel in the play,” Msgr. Robert Weiss told congregants at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Saturday. “Now she’s an angel up in heaven.”
What does a little girl do? She plays, she races into school, she flashes her gapped teeth. This is childhood perfection—and it was all shattered in a matter of minutes on a quiet Friday morning. Olivia’s mother, Shannon, and her father, Brian, will never hug their little girl again. Brayden, her 3-year-old brother, will never get to tease his older sister as she gets older and prepares for dates.
“She had perfect manners, perfect table manners. She was the teacher’s pet, the line leader,” Dan Merton, a family friend, told a local news station. “Her only crime is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old.”
Merton said that on Friday, Olivia had been excited to get home from school and make a gingerbread house.
“She was the closest thing I felt like I had to a daughter,” Merton told The Daily Beast on Sunday. “Brayden is just now starting to become a little person, and it was very cute to see them playing together. Olivia would help her mother take care of him. It was so cute to see these two little siblings.”
That Brayden will not get to grow up with his big sister is perhaps what hurts the Engels the most, Merton said.
State police have responded.
St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, Conn., was evacuated Sunday after state police responded to a threat during noon mass—and rehearsal for the Christmas pagent. Officials cleared the church by 2 p.m. More than a dozen state troopers armed with assault rifles entered a home next to the church, said NBC reporter Audrey Washington. A SWAT team began a sweep of the church after the evacuation. The town is still reeling after 20 children and six adults were killed Friday when Adam Lanza opened fire at a local elementary school. His mother was also found dead in her Newtown home Friday.
While mother shot multiple times.
Adam Lanza, the man who allegedly shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, died from a single self-inflicted gunshot to the head, the coroner said Sunday. The govenor said Lanza committed suicide as the first responders closed in on the Newtown, Conn., elementary school—causing speculation Lanza had an even more deadly rampage planned. His mother, who was found dead at her Newtown home nearby, died from multiple gunshot wounds, the coroner said. The weapons found at the school were legally registered to Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza.
Will not return to scene of massacre.
The 436 students who survived the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school will attend an unused school in a neighboring town, Newtown schools superintendent Janet Robinson said Sunday. It is still unclear when they will return to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where Adam Lanza allegedly shot and killed 20 children and six adults Friday. The school remains an active crime scene. All seven of Newtown’s public schools, which have more than 5,000 students, will be closed Monday.
Will introduce assault-weapons ban.
It’s time for Congress to enact a ban on assault weapons, Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Sunday on Meet the Press. Feinstein has been a leading advocate for gun-control reform on Capitol Hill. “I’m going to introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons,” Feinstein said Sunday. The senator’s support for a revival of the ban on high-powered guns comes amid demands for stricter regulations from politicians including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
They might be famous for being diehards, but Lloyd Grove finds the NRA museum silent and somber the day after the Newtown shooting—and some who are willing to admit some more gun laws are needed.
It was eerily still Saturday afternoon at the National Rifle Association’s corporate headquarters, just beyond the Washington Beltway down Route 66 in northern Virginia. With its golden eagle digging its talons into a cross of golden rifles in a field of blue, the NRA flag flew at half-staff along with the Stars and Stripes. The parking lot was empty, except for a few visitors to the NRA’s National Firearms Museum on the ground floor. The “home of the NRA gun collection” was as quiet as a crypt.
“They should ban all automatic weapons,” said Army wife and paralegal Petra Biggans in hushed tones. She was moving through the galleries—named for Theodore Roosevelt, Charlton Heston, and other deceased gun enthusiasts—with her in-laws and her 8-year-old daughter, Zooey, a third-grader, who owns a .22-caliber hunting rifle given to her by her officer father (currently deployed in Afghanistan). Zooey is an admirer of Annie Oakley, whose rifle and pistol were on display. “A private person has no business owning an automatic weapon,” Zooey’s mom said. “It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not right. The NRA lobbying for AK-47s? That’s crazy!”
When even firearms fans are questioning the NRA's take-no-prisoners policy of easy access to terrible killing power (including the semiautomatic weapons reportedly used by 20-year-old Adam Lanza to wreak mayhem on a Connecticut grade school before killing himself), you know a tipping point has been reached.
The day after yet another horrific mass shooting in a recent series of massacres perpetrated by madmen—this one perhaps hardest to comprehend, because 20 of the 28 dead were young children—the nation's powerful pro-gun lobby was hunkered down for the coming storm. And keeping its powder dry: immediately after Friday’s carnage, the NRA canceled a Twitter promotion of a country-music concert featuring a golfer turned rapper named Colt Ford. The lobby declined to explain the cancellation or, for that matter, offer any comment at all on the events in Newtown, Conn.
The flag of the National Rifle Association flies in front of the organization’s headquarters in Fairfax, Va. (Karen Bleier/AFP, via Getty)
“She watched the news with us—she wants to know what happened,” said Zooey’s mom, a native of Germany who met Zooey’s father when he was stationed there with the U.S. Army. “And the two questions she asked were, who was that man, and why did he do that? It’s hard to explain.” Biggans was standing beside a glass case containing an elaborately filigreed Merkel 303 over-under shotgun once owned by Hermann Göring. “I guess I’ll have to explain that to my daughter, too,” she said with a wan smile.
Army Lt. Col. Jeff Ritsick, who spent two years in Afghanistan, was touring the museum with Phil Fourie, a relative by marriage from Cape Town, where Fourie enters target-shooting competitions.
“It’s just a shame when anything like that happens to anyone,” said Ritsick, 44. “It’s also a shame to the people who actually obey gun laws and supporters of the NRA, as though they’re the problem.” Ritsick, who grew up hunting in Pennsylvania and said he’s not an NRA member, added: “It’s a very complex issue.”
A mother of a 10-year-old boy at Sandy Hook Elementary School broke down while talking to CBS News on Friday. 'I get to put my kids to bed at night, and I’m very lucky,' she said, while tearfully acknowledging that 'there’s a lot of parents tonight that have not gotten that miracle.'
Friday’s horrific Colorado shooting has reignited the debate on gun control. Just how bad is the problem?
We as a society are held hostage by the NRA’s thugs. This must be the time for change. By Robert Shrum.
Gov. Dan Malloy mourned the loss of 'beautiful beautiful children' in a poignant speech on Friday evening. To those who want to help, Malloy said the best way is to “say a prayer or send a best wish or to be thinking of these individuals who have suffered so mightily today.”
The president got emotional discussing today’s school shooting in Connecticut. Read his words.
Kevin Fallon pieces together details about the Connecticut shooter.