Mass Killings are American as Apple Pie Redux

Four months ago in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater tragedy I wrote about gun killings in America.  I thought after that atrocity that discussion about gun control might be put on the table during the Presidential election.

It wasn’t.

Both sides remained silent and the killing went on.  Now we have a new benchmark in mass killing — Newtown, Connecticut.  Newtown, from everything I have seen, is the quintessential American small town.  It looks like a nice quiet place to live and to raise a family.

So how is it, a week before Christmas, that this town and, by extension, the entire world, is in mourning after the deaths of twenty children and six of their teachers?

Perhaps this time grief will turn to anger.  We’ve seen this already with spontaneous silent vigils held outside the White House in the past few days.  The President’s spokesperson told us on Friday that “this is not the day for the gun discussion”.  This seems to be one of the National Rifle Associations favorite talking points, along with “the killer could have just as easily used a knife” or “if they’d had guns they could have protected themselves”.  To this last point, I shudder at the potential body counts in  a gunfight in a crowded and dark movie theater or a school.

The NRA has championed legislation making it legal to carry automatic weapons, to buy Kevlar piercing Teflon coated bullets, extended magazines and a general dismantling of concealed carry laws throughout the country.

And yet even the magnitude of Friday’s horror in Connecticut knocked the NRA for a loop.  Uncharacteristically, they had nothing to say.  Their spinmasters weren’t airlifted into Newtown to parrot their opposition to limiting Americans’ access to more weapons than Patton had in his entire Third Army.

The NRA cautions us not to “politicize this tragedy” but that is exactly what it is going to take.

It is entirely too easy for faceless entities like the shooter in Friday’s massacre to become a somebody by taking up an arsenal of high-powered firearms.  We’ve all seen their faces, after Virginia Tech, after Gabby Giffords, after the Aurora movie theater massacre.

I grew up around guns.  We always had at least one in the house.  My uncles and cousins hunted.  I learned at an early age to respect the power of a firearm.  Occasionally I even go up to the one public pistol range in the area and shoot under the supervision of a qualified range master.  It’s challenging and it’s fun.  Try hitting a paper target from sixty feet with a Glock and you learn to appreciate the skill involved.

That said, I have never had the desire to keep a firearm in my home.  It’s not necessary.  And it’s dangerous.  If you choose a firearm for protection there is a better than even chance it will be taken from you and used against you by the bad guys.

Firearms need to be controlled.  The madness that the NRA peddles as Second Amendment rights is causing a cancer on the very soul of a great nation.  No one is talking about taking away a hunter’s right to own a long gun.  No one is talking about taking away a person’s right to own a pistol for target shooting or personal protection.

What the discussion needs to focus on is creating a sane framework to help keep massive fire-power out of the hands of the killers of children.

So today let’s think about those twenty six families in Newtown who are suffering unimaginable grief and who will never enjoy a happy holiday season again.  Let’s open our hearts and grieve with them.  Tomorrow, however, let’s forge our grief into anger and demand that lawmakers start to at least address the problem.

The time for the gun discussion is long past due.

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