The mass murder Friday of innocents and the teachers who sought to nurture and protect them has saddened Connecticut and the nation, and moved its president to tears along with many of his fellow Americans.
As horrible as the events in Newtown are, what is most troubling, what will make parents ever more fearful to send their children out in the world, what makes many fear when they will be in the wrong place at the wrong time, is the terrifying reality that such acts of violence are becoming commonplace.
Periodically it seems to happen somewhere in this all too violent nation and this time it happened here in Connecticut. Other times it was a high school in Colorado, and years later a movie theater in that same state. Arizona witnessed a routine town meeting held by a congresswoman turn into a shooting rampage. At Virginia Tech the gun massacre killed 33. Earlier this week the victims were shoppers at an Portland,Ore., mall.
Something is very wrong with the frequency of these events. Instead of, "I can't believe it," often our only question is, "Where now?"
But this, the slaughter of young innocents, is especially appalling. What depraved state, illness of the mind, hatred or evil would lead someone to aim a gun at a child and fire … over and over again.
Our hearts go out to the families of all these victims. How many Christmas gifts sit hidden in closets and attics this morning, but with a child no longer alive to give them to? Connecticut as a state must do all it can to provide comfort to that community and the families of the many victims.
We do know what makes such mass killings physically possible — guns. Guns are the common and irrefutable thread running through all these cases of mass violence. This is a nation awash in guns. There are too many and they are too easy to get. In our inner cities the gun violence casualties accumulate over time, with shootings on city streets week after week, year after year, but the cumulative result is no less appalling.
Yes, details of how the perpetrator of this heinous act got the guns he used, his mental state, his history and actions leading up to this event were not fully available Friday. It would be wrong to jump to conclusions whether any effective and sensible gun control legislation would have prevented this particular crime. But it is not premature to argue that something must be done to reduce gun violence.
On Friday, even as the details of this terrible event were still unfolding, the gun lobby was reacting, some pushing the absurd argument that if only teachers and administrators had guns they could have fought back and prevented this. Gun-toting kindergarten teachers, that's the answer?
Those wed to the ideology that the Second Amendment, authored at a time of muskets and citizen militias, provides a constitutional and moral bulwark against any gun control, are bracing for a backlash. And they should. This time the country may finally say enough is enough.
We have no designs on interfering with the hunting culture of this nation. But handguns designed for human-on-human violence should be difficult to get, only after thorough background checks and reasonable waiting periods. President Obama should push Congress to adopt a new assault weapons ban, prohibit high-capacity bullet clips and consider other reasonable actions.
The nation's and the state's political leaders need the courage to take on the gun lobby and have this discussion.