Countless cameras descended on Newtown, Connecticut, in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. Most of them were news cameras, and they soon left to cover the next crisis of national interest. Kim Snyder stayed. She remained with the families who lost children in the tragedy. She sat with them as they grieved. She filmed the community’s grieving process for over a year. Newtown is the documentary Snyder and her team made to share with the rest of us a small part of Newtown’s grief.
The documentary focuses on three families who lost children as well as a few families who did not and a couple of other community members. They talk about what their life was before the shooting and how it has changed since. Some of them have become activists. Others don’t know what to do. All of them are haunted by what happened that December day in 2012. Newtown is a haunting film.
Shortly after the Newtown shooting, Congress had a chance to pass a bill that would require background checks prior to the sell of assault weapons like those used by the killer at Sandy Hook. The bill failed to pass. This tragedy is shown in the documentary as well. This is inconceivable both because of how horrendous the Sandy Hook tragedy was and because it is well-known that upwards of ninety percent of Americans support this kind of legislation. After this bill failed, our national attention moved elsewhere. The residents of Newtown are still hurting and still hoping for positive change to our nation’s gun laws.
Newtown doesn’t want you to forget what happened. The film wants to reignite the pain we should have felt the day it happened. Newtown wants us to feel a small part of what the citizens of Newtown feel so that we’ll be as passionate about gun control reform as they are. They know what happened in their community can happen anywhere. They don’t want it to happen again. They know it will only be prevented if we come together to change the way we distribute guns in this country.
Most of the time, I avoid advocacy docs. I think films work better when they ask questions rather than when they try to convince the audience of certain answers. In the case of this issue though, I’ll make an exception. We need stricter gun control laws in this country. My wife is an elementary school teacher. As I listened to the Sandy Hook teachers talk about the terror of that day, I thought about how I would react if something happened to my wife while she was teaching.
I’m not afraid. This life cannot be stolen from her. If something does happen to her, I believe in resurrection. I have hope that goes beyond the grave.
But no one should have to feel the pain that the Newtown parents have felt every day of their lives since the Sandy Hook massacre. No one should value his personal freedom over another human’s life, especially the life of a child.
I remember how in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, the national conversation quickly shifted off of enacting tougher gun control laws and onto the idea of stationing armed police officers in schools. That is a ludicrous idea. That’s what they do in violence-ridden, developing nations to curb organized crime violence. They create police states. That’s not what we should do here. No one sane wants the United States of America to become a police state. Moving the conversation that direction was a ploy from the pro-gun lobby to make sure we didn’t enact rational gun regulation in the wake of Sandy Hook.
We need more gun control in this country. Newtown is a respectful and emotionally charged reminder why. We need change before this happens again.