The desolation one feels about the slaughter of innocents in Connecticut is compounded by the knowledge that under current circumstances it inevitably will happen again — that when the shock fades, the political climate will allow it to be repeated.
In that regard, the word “unimaginable” to describe the
precision murder of 20 6 -and 7-year-old children and six of their adult supervisors is utterly inaccurate. It is imaginable considering the development of a culture that puts more value on instruments of death than on human life and does so with the complete concurrence of those we elect to be responsible.
As the bits and pieces of this horror are put together, what has emerged so far is the picture of a mother who ultimately paid the price for her own paranoia and a son who in some ways was a victim of that disease. Nancy Lanza, it seems, was suffering from the same fears that grip millions of Americans who believe that without firearms they will be slain on the streets or in their beds.
The son, Adam, has been described in news reports as a loner and a “gamer” who may have, like so many of his generation, spent too much time counting the number of kills on a television or computer screen as a major achievement. Put together with easy access to the real thing — weapons meant for the battlefield — the result can be lethal.
We have seen this over and over and will in the future unless ... but with an estimated 300 million firearms in circulation what chance is there that something meaningful to reduce the probability will emerge from this tragedy?
For that to occur there must be leadership, not just expressions of “heartbreak” from the nation’s key politicians. The president of the United States, who for obvious political reasons has done nothing to curb the circulation of these weapons designed only for warfare, must now take charge.
He must open a national dialogue on the need to ban the semiautomatic devices that fire multiple bullets at 3,000 feet per second and are worthless in legitimate sporting activities — not skeet nor trap nor deer hunting nor anything else.
Barack Obama has nothing now to lose except historic perception. He is a lame duck and owes no one the benefit of timidity on this subject. Even if his chances of success are slim in a Congress of gutless wonders who always think of their own survival first, he should demand a national moratorium on the sale of banana clip devices and the closing of loopholes that permit gun show operators to avoid the necessity of checking out their purchasers.
Even if he foresees an unfavorable decision by a Supreme Court with recalcitrant gun nuts holding sway, he should do this. It clearly is time. The Second Amendment has been distorted enough. He should appoint the only
national politician with the courage to oppose the supporters of carnage — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — to help lead the charge.
Furthermore, he needs to quit treating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives like a stepchild. He needs to beef up the agent force and give them the tools to do their job. That includes demanding that the National Rifle Association and other members of the unthinking gun lobby quit opposing a permanent director.
Will he do all these things? Who knows? But he will never get a better opportunity in a national atmosphere of desperation and devastation. Or perhaps he will again before his term is ended considering the likelihood of such an “unimaginable” tragedy being repeated. His second inaugural address would be an effective place to begin.
The irony of all this is that in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, firearms sales apparently are soaring in anticipation of those who look at civilization down a gun barrel that the president will now move, a fear they have had since he took office four years ago. They needn’t have worried then. Should they do so now?
We’ll see. But then how does one overcome the twisted reasoning of an official of a gun owner’s association I saw on TV immediately after the news broke. If teachers could carry weapons, it might not have happened, he said.
Dan K. Thomasson, a Hoosier native and Franklin College trustee, is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service. Send comments to email@example.com.