From the President of Americans Against Gun Violence


Dear PBS NewsHour,


Is the interview that William Brangham conducted on December 14, 2022, with Nicole Hockley, the devastated mother of Dylan Hockley, one of the 20 children murdered in the mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, the best that the PBS NewsHour can do on the 10th anniversary of this preventable tragedy? And is “helping students identify and report the warning signs of someone who is planning violence,” which is the main focus of Sandy Hook Promise, the organization co-founded by Ms. Hockley, the best our country can do in response to the Sandy Hook massacre?


The PBS NewsHour should have pointed out that other high income democratic countries like Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand all reacted promptly and definitively in response to mass shootings committed with semi-automatic rifles like the one that Adam Lanza used to commit the Sandy Hook massacre by banning civilian ownership of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles, not just so-called “assault weapons.” And the NewsHour should have interviewed Dr. Michael North of Scotland, who lost his 5 year-old daughter Sophie in the 1996 Dunblane Primary School massacre, in which Thomas Hamilton used handguns that he legally owned to kill 16 students, including Sophie, and their teacher. Dr. North subsequently helped lead a successful campaign to completely ban civilian ownership of handguns in Great Britain. There hasn’t been another school shooting since the ban went into effect, and the rate of gun related deaths in the UK is currently 1/70th the rate in the United States.


The NewsHour should have pointed out that since the horrific Sandy Hook massacre 10 years ago, the United States has taken no significant action to prevent such tragedies from recurring over and over again, and that not unexpectedly, another horrific mass shooting similar to the Sandy Hook massacre occurred at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 of this year in which 19 students and two teachers were killed.


The NewsHour should have pointed out that prior to the Supreme Court’s rogue 5-4 Heller decision in 2008, there was no constitutional obstacle to the adoption of stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws that have long been in effect in all the other high income democratic countries of the world. The NewsHour should have replayed its 1991 interview with the late Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger in which Justice Burger called the misrepresentation of the Second Amendment by the gun lobby “one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word, ‘fraud’ – on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” And the NewsHour should have pointed out that in Heller, and again in its June 23, 2022 Bruen decision, the Supreme Court endorsed this fraud.


And finally, the NewsHour should have pointed out that there is currently only one gun violence prevention organization in the United States, Americans Against Gun Violence, that openly advocates and is actively working toward overturning the Heller decision and its progeny and adopting stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in Great Britain, New Zealand, and Australia.


The late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in 1958:
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
Rev. King was referring, of course, to silence on the subject of civil rights, but the above quotation is also germane to our country’s epidemic of gun violence – an epidemic that took Rev. King’s own life a decade after he wrote the essay from which the above quotation was taken.


The silence on the part of the PBS NewsHour – and most of the rest of our country – concerning the main cause of our country’s shameful epidemic of gun violence, which is our lax gun laws and the related vast pool of privately owned guns; and the silence concerning the definitive steps needed to stop this epidemic, including overturning the Heller decision and its progeny and adopting stringent gun control laws in the United States comparable to the laws in other high income democratic counties, is truly appalling.


Yours truly,


Bill Durston, MD
President, Americans Against Gun Violence

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