When the family of Noah Pozner was laying to rest the youngest of the young children mowed down in the Sandy Hook school massacre, they placed a cloth over the lower half of his face. One or more of the 11 bullets that killed him had taken away his jaw. His mother, Veronique, placed in his right hand a clear plastic stone with a small angel inside.
She'd planned to place a similar item in his other hand, but the bullets had mangled his left hand.
Sandy Hook's first responders have only recently started to speak of the horrible scene that greeted them that day. In one of the cursed classrooms, a teacher's dead body was surrounded by children pressed against her as chicks rush to their hen -- dead, all dead save one.
When Noah's family laid him to rest, they asked for an open casket, and we must look.
This is the reality of what a bullet can do the human flesh, but that seems to be missing in the debate. Maybe it's a misplaced sense of wanting to spare the families reliving the awful event. Or maybe we prefer to pretend that shootings are like Hollywood, where the bad guys fall to the ground and the blood is strictly there for entertainment.
In fact, there is a part of me that very much wishes the most vociferous opponents of gun legislation be made to walk through the crime scenes they so much want to ignore while they bray about their Second Amendment rights, which – frankly – no one's threatening in any meaningful way, anyway. Let them stop fearing their government coming for their guns long enough to bend over that grave, and look without blinking.
The nonsense has reached a fever pitch, and I helped. I recently got spanked online for starting a drinking game on Twitter the night more than 1,000 people testified in front of the state's subcommittee on gun violence prevention. The trigger was every time a gun legislation opponent called him- or herself a “law-abiding citizen.” So was the mother of the shooter, who from all indications assembled her arsenal legally. She's dead, too, so drink up, and try to keep up.
The anti-crowd got in a lather while they were pumping their chests and thumping tables while they berated the gun legislation crowd – the parents of the dead, the people who want sane legislation – for being too emotional.
Is it emotional, to examine an exit wound? Is it emotional, to recite what gun violence can do to the human brain? Sarah A. Raskin, a neuropsychologist and a Trinity College professor, went to Hartford's LOB to testify among more those 1,000-plus. Raskin researches ways to improve the lives of people with brain injury, and every day, she told the legislators, she sees the interplay of guns and mental illness –including the “constant feedback loop that must be changed.”
Her testimony was a plea for greater controls over gun access and use. Firearm-related incidents accounted for 40 percent of brain injury-related deaths, she said. Compare that to motor vehicles crashes, at 34 percent. Imagine if we applied the same sort of regulations to gun ownership and access as we do to our cars and trucks.
The night of Noah's murder, his mother, Veronique, asked to go into the school and place a blanket over his body, but she was told it was a crime scene. When Noah was laid to rest, he wore a suit and a little-boy tie bought by a family friend. We who survive must look, and not look away.