In last week’s Independent, Paul Benson reported on the new Provincetown drop-in center of the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod and the long-term battle against sexually transmitted infections and the spread of disease among intravenous drug users. The news was both encouraging and grim.
The increasing incidence of fentanyl mixed into other drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine, has alarmed health workers. Fentanyl kills quickly, and it “has just been sweeping the Cape,” said Support Group CEO Dan Gates. He wants to see Narcan kept on hand in every business and to train as many people as possible to recognize the signs of an overdose.
At the same time, Gates reports progress in the gay community on the widespread acceptance of screening for infections. He called the change in attitudes “staggering.” Combined with the near 100-percent effectiveness of medications that prevent HIV transmission, this is truly cause for optimism.
Our hopes for a safer and saner world were fractured, however, on the weekend before Thanksgiving by the killings at Club Q in Colorado Springs. Yet again, the unimaginable violation of a safe space by a young sociopath with an assault weapon was followed by general agreement that nothing can be done — because Congress will not act and the gun lobby is just too powerful.
Dec. 14 will mark the tenth anniversary of the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 first-graders died. Their parents have not accepted the idea that nothing can be done.
Mark Keierleber, writing in The Trace last week, detailed the efforts of Sandy Hook Promise and other advocacy groups created by those families. They have achieved some notable victories in spite of the constant death threats they receive from gun-loving maniacs.
Their initial goals were to enact new firearm laws, banning assault rifles and limiting the size of magazines. “The Newtown gunman managed to unload 154 rounds of ammunition in less than four minutes from an AR-15-style rifle,” Keierleber wrote. Less than three months after the shooting, the state of Connecticut passed an assault weapons ban.
It took nine more years before Congress approved a bipartisan gun-control bill last summer. The legislation, which expands background checks and encourages “red flag” laws, does not go nearly far enough. But these were the first new federal gun restrictions in nearly three decades, with 14 House Republicans and 15 Republican senators on board — a turning point in the fight for sanity, and a clear sign of the weakened influence of the National Rifle Association.
Perhaps even more significant, the Sandy Hook families won a $73-million settlement this year from Remington, the company that made the murderer’s weapon, by showing that its marketing targeted unstable young males.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” Dr. King told us. The road to dignity, equality, health, and a civil society is hard, but we owe it to those we’ve lost to stay in the fight.