A reader writes:
My boys are about the same age as the victims – 7 and 5. The immediacy of this morning is very real and utterly horrific. My spouse emailed me to say she cried in her office. My personal, emotional reaction to this story, is that I am done – done with the absolutists whose only contribution to the conversation is that there be no comprise, that it be all or nothing. I am done. Period. It is time to have the conversation again, to break the Second Amendment taboo and have a civic conversation. I suspect patience/tolerance towards the far right will be in short supply. The blood of innocents is a deeply rooted, ancient, psychological thing. And these were innocents in the purest sense.
I am very far away in Seattle, but this kindles a certain sadness and fury I have not had since 9/11. This has to change. My heart tells me the response will likewise be primal and communal. Maybe I am completely/emotionally wrong. Yet, it is in these moments when the tide turns and public sentiment sweeps away barriers that the day before seemed so strong – this feels like one of those moments. Today is not the day … but tomorrow may be.
Guns don't kill people – people do. By the same token, planes don't kill people – people flying them into buildings do. And yet, I recall that we immediately and decisively worked to keep deranged people from gaining possession of planes when a handful of those people used them as tools of mass murder; indeed, we made it much more difficult for the overwhelming majority of peaceful, law-abiding citizens to board a plane.
If the mass-murder of children isn't enough to actually do something about gun control, I don't know if we'll ever have the courage to do anything.
At least start with background checks, eliminating the gun-show loophole. Then an assault-weapons ban would be nice. Nothing good can come from unstable people having guns. And you don't hunt deer or protect your family with assault-weapons. If you like cool gadgets, get a PS3, or noise-cancelling headphones, or something.
Today, as you noted, there was also an elementary school assault in China, where private gun ownership is prohibited. Some kids were horribly injured by the knife attack, but no one was killed. Guns do make it much easier to kill people. The defense of "Guns don't kill people. People kill people" needs to be retired. It's as idiotic as "Fried food doesn't make you fat … unless you eat it."
I know it's easy to say guns aren't the problem if you haven't been in this situation. But people need to put themselves in the shoes of the children who survived, who will live the rest of their lives with the scar of losing their best friends while their social development was just beginning. And think of the parents, some of whom may not have other children and may not be able to have another in the future. Their children were everything to them. Their lives were built for and around these kids who were stolen from them by a lunatic with a near military-grade weapon. And the teachers, many of whom grow to love and care for their students almost as if they are their own.
If you don't think we need more gun control, try to see it from the perspective of these kids and parents. That's a good rule, not only in this situation, but for life in general. Try to see things from the perspective of the victims, not the unaffected.
I've been reading the comments and comparisons of today's massacre with the attack in China, and I've got to tell you it only adds to the sadness and disgust I'm feeling. I think anyone making that comparison is missing a fundamental point. Do we want to be a society that compares itself to China and feels somehow absolved by coming up only slightly short, regardless of the weapon employed? I've spent time there – China is an insecure, deeply troubled society with a lot of violence bubbling beneath the surface. What makes me sick is that we are increasingly the same way.
As I drove around today, my day off, all I felt was sadness and disgust listening to the radio. The complete unwillingness to reflect on why this country is so full of violence. I could never feel anything but contempt for the asshole who did this, but the truth is we are a nation of assholes. I include myself in that. Most radio stations I heard could only be bothered to touch on this massacre of children for a moment or two before getting back to the critical topic of football. That wonderful game full of violence that has no regard for the well being of the young men who play it. It was such an apt representation of the priorities of our country. I watch it too, but at least I'm willing to examine it.
The radio stations that did discuss the killings were quick to blame silent doctors for protecting the crazies, then followed the obligatory self congratulation about how so many Americans are decent and come together at times like this. No where to be found was any discussion of why we breed such violence, what sicknesses in our collective unconscious give rise to such soaring levels of senselessness. I live in Baltimore, I hear it everyday. A murder everyday, often of children, and we're still such a great town because we've got the Ravens and what a great season the Orioles had. Sports are just one example of many, many childish distractions that we use to ever avoid looking in the mirror.
I'm a conservative in the vein you are, and I still think this country is exceptional, but our heads are too far up our own asses to look at why we kill each other at exceptionally high rates. If even the massacre of innocent children won't wake us up, it's because we've become a nation of children!
Another looks to the right-wing blogosphere:
Only Drudge headlines the atrocity in Newton. There is a Fox news clip buried deep on the National Review's front page. Nothing on The Corner. Nothing on Michelle Malkin. Nothing on Red State (I don't think, best as I could tell from the front of the paywall).
Did I cherry pick the right wing sites? Yes. Did I want some response, even if it would opine something (again) about the danger of jumping to conclusions, about people killing people, about guns as necessary machines of defense? Yes. Why? TWENTY CHILDREN ARE MURDERED IN A KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM and half of the bloggers on our political spectrum are not reporting it! I can picture these people, definitely horrified by the killings, but also slapping their heads thinking "Aw jeez, not again, these crazies are really giving us a bad name," all the while constructing some appropriately sympathetic-but-not-damaging-to-their-benefactors column. It's good to think before you type. But sometimes, it's good to just think - and I really hope that that is what these defenders of guns-for-all are doing.
Another reacts to Obama's press conference:
This paragraph carries more weight than it seems at first glance:
As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.
Tying the American habit of shooting strangers in public spaces with the American street crime epidemic is the first step towards bringing conversations about all crime together under a single rubric. Which means its the first step towards serious discussions about controlling guns. Maybe.
I also want to say one thing about the president crying. My first thought when I saw it happen was that that is no way for a president to respond. I don't buy all that "president is father of the nation" bunk, but I do think in situations like this, there is more truth to it than at other times. I thought he should be a source of stability and calm, and when he cried he was betraying that responsibility.
Yet, after that initial reaction, I began to think the opposite. This is a president who has had to console families after the Giffords shooting, the Aurora shootings, and others, and now he is faced with the unambiguously and overwhelmingly senseless murder of kindergarteners. There really isn't anything more sorrowful and lamentable than that, and composure wouldn't have been an apt response in my view. (Now if he tumbles into a pit of dispair, that's another thing.)
I'm not sure if he's been criticized or of he will be, but I think it would be senseless to expect anyone, even the president, to present a false sense of composure in the face of something so clearly tragic and inhumane.
It revealed why I love this president as a human being. Another:
After all these years of hearing from politicians of both parties – both publicly and personally, in response to my letters – that there's nothing we can do, I can't tell you what it meant to me to see even a small indication that the President Obama might genuinely take responsibility for preventing future school shootings and get other elected officials to do the same. These are public institutions, and we need to figure out how to make people safer there, to say nothing of the broader problem of gun violence in this country. We probably don't want to see our public officials crying most of the time, but watching our president fight back tears gave me hope, and in that moment I truly loved him for that.
Another notes a news item from Michigan:
Changes to the concealed weapons law passed the [GOP-controlled] state House and Senate late Thursday, allowing trained gun owners to carry their weapons in formerly forbidden places, such as schools, day care centers, stadiums and churches.
No word post-Newtown on whether the Republican governor will veto it. I'd bet against it.
Blog reax here.
(Photo: Scene outside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman opened fire inside the school killing 27 people, including 18 children. By Howard Simmons/NY Daily News via Getty Images)