Twenty-seven people were shot and killed in Newtown, Connecticut today. Eighteen of them are children. I’m writing this only minutes after the story broke, so most of the details haven’t come out yet. But after Aurora and Oak Creek and Tucson, and before that Fort Hood and Virginia Tech and West Nickel Mines, and before that Columbine and after all the other shootings that have faded from memory, the details will no doubt be familiar. The shooter will have been troubled and mentally unstable. He will have used automatic or semi-automatic weapons (reports say over 100 rounds were fired). And, in all likelihood, the gun he used will have been obtained legally.
Every time a mass shooting occurs, our airways and Facebook feeds fill up with condolences and prayers for the victims and outrage at the perpetrators. And then — it seems more and more quickly each time — we move on. Maybe we talk briefly about civility and violence in our culture, and maybe a few liberals write columns calling for gun control, but that’s it. No one wants to politicize a tragedy.
And as long as that is our attitude, this will just keep happening. Already, shootings where only a few people die, like the one in Oregon earlier this week, barely raise an eyebrow. It’s about damn time we start politicizing tragedies, because then we can prevent tragedies. What happened today wasn’t a quirk of nature or an act of God. It was a crime committed by a man, and facilitated by a product we buy and sell with roughly the same regulation as fireworks.
I do not know much about guns, but on days like today I want to find an NRA member and ask him some questions. I want to know what possible good purpose the weapon used to mow down kindergarteners could have been put to. I want to know why it has been the project of the political right to roll back background checks and waiting periods that could have stopped this evil madman from getting an incredibly deadly weapon. And I want to know if anyone honestly believes that the answer to today’s massacre is more guns, if anyone thinks school principals and janitors should be packing heat in case this should happen again.
Twenty-seven people were shot and killed in Newtown, Connecticut today. Eighteen of them were children. They have my condolences and my prayers. I am outraged at the perpetrator. But my sympathy and my anger are not enough, and neither are yours, because they will do nothing to stop this from happening again. There’s evil in the world, and there always will be. But we can mitigate that evil, and if anyone thinks gun control won’t do that, I encourage them to imagine today’s headline reading “Mass Stabbing.” Guns, particularly assault weapons, have the power to kill so many, so quickly. And they need to be regulated.
[EDIT: There was, in fact, a mass stabbing in a Chinese school today, which makes my line about mass stabbings appear to be in much poorer taste. I apologize. That said, I can't help pointing out that while several people were critically injured in the knife attack, nobody died.]