It is human to wish that Dawn Hochsprung, the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, who died heroically [Friday], enjoyed some weaponry beyond her body. But are we then asking for a world in which the educators of small children are strapped? Do we want our hospital workers, our librarians, our baby-sitters, and little league coaches all armed? What is the message that such a society sends to itself and its children? What does it say about its government's ability to perform the most essential of services–protection? And is it enough to simply be wholly sane? What do we say to the ghost of Jordan Davis, shot down over an argument of loud music, by a man who was quite sane? And where does it end? If more mass killers don body-armor, should we then start fitting ourselves in kevlar too?
Gun violence is one of those things that an immigrant is first amazed by in America. The second thing a non-American is shocked by is the sheer passion of those who own and use guns in this country. When you come from a country like Britain where the government has effectively been a Leviathan of force for centuries, the wild west of America's inner cities – and the frequent massacres or assassinations that occur in US history – is an adjustment.
I've come to accept that I am going to witness a debate I find almost absurd in a mind shaped first of all by British culture. I understand the constitutional resonance of an armed citizenry vis-vis its potentially abusive government. And I can also see why this makes America different.
But I cannot quite get past the paramilitary weaponry and armor that entered an elementary school and gunned down so many First Graders. Every society will have individuals with demons like the killer's. But not every society allows them legally to get dressed up and armed like a figure from a mega-violent videogame and blast their way into an elementary school.
To put it simply, I do not understand how the citizenry's right to bear arms means making available to a disturbed individual a weapon that can kill dozens of children without re-loading, with bullets to spare. No serious supporters of gun rights can support that too, can they? If they can, what limits can society place at all on the safety of its children?