The slaughter of innocents

The slaughter of innocents

December 15th, 2012 in Opinion Times

People leave the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire House in tears after a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Friday morning in Newtown, Conn.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in a small Connecticut town Friday morning will be as inexplicable, in its own way, as all such shootings are.

There is no way to rationally explain, or understand, how a demented soul can shoot to death his mother, a kindergarten teacher, and then shoot to death 20 small children she taught, who must have watched in horror until a bullet ended each of their brief lives.

There is no way to explain why he would kill six more, all adults and teachers, or wound others who rushed to the sound of the rapid gunfire to protect their students. And as this was written, it remained unclear if Adam Lanza then killed himself, or was shot dead by someone else.

What we do know is this: There is only more blood, more tragedy, more needless death of innocents, more broken hearts, more devastated families, more unmitigated shock, more numbing grief, more tears, more unanswered questions.

None of this is new. This is too much like the Columbine shootings in a Colorado school, a Pennsylvania school, a Denver theater, a neighborhood political rally in Phoenix, a New York subway, a Milwaukee spa, an Oregon shopping mall, a Virginia college, among many other places.

It is a relentless and endless litany, which only grows longer. The only change is the varying venue, the year, the place, the number of slain or crippled victims, the names of the diminished families, and types of guns and large ammunition clips the killers used in their rapid-fire slaughters.

We repeatedly endure these unimaginably horrific and random serial murders, experience the shared grief, moan at the awfulness of it all, and ask, yet again, why do we, as a nation -- unlike so many safer nations -- continue to allow such easy access to the machines of mayhem and to the deranged death stalkers who deploy them.

And then, after a few days, comes the witlessly predictable chants from the NRA and its hard-core minions -- a tiny minority of Americans, actually -- who say that the problem is there aren't enough guns; not enough vigilante gunners. That more people need to carry guns -- in bars, parks, churches, schools and their employers' parking lots -- to be ready to shoot the shooters.

Never, they say, should we tighten the rules of purchase at gunshops, or plunge deeper into background and mental health records of buyers, or make a uniform federal requirement to regulate purchases at gun shows, which now are often wide open, with no state requirement for background checks or recorded sales of private sellers and buyers.

In fact, many states, including Tennessee, keep moving to expand gun rights, along with the right to shoot and kill anyone who comes on our private property and who can be said, later, to have appeared to threaten a homeowner.

So the question now, in the wake of the latest massacre of innocents and small children, is when we will learn. When will our political leaders stand up and declare -- as President Obama seemed to suggest Friday -- that our nation needs to do something more than just lament these tragedies, and that a large part of the answer is stiffer gun control. It is that time.

We need, as a nation, to take concrete action, now, to eliminate the assault rifles, large clips and ammo magazines, online markets, and indiscriminate sales of these weapons and accessories of war on our society. If we only wring our hands -- and kowtow to the NRA's relentless expansion of gun-rights propaganda to keep its membership up -- we will not begin to solve the problem of mass murders of innocents in public places. They will just continue, and we will just continue to mourn.

It ever there is a time to act, it surely is now.