PD Editorial: How many more shootings like this?
Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 3:56 p.m.
What more can be said about a shooting rampage that leaves 28 people, including 20 schoolchildren, dead?
If there are words for the tragedy that has decimated the peaceful Connecticut community of Newtown, President Barack Obama found them.
“Our hearts are broken,” he said as he choked back tears Friday. “The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.”
And now those futures are gone, at the will of a 20-year-old man, who, despite an apparent history of mental illness, found a way to arm himself with at least two handguns.
Authorities say the suspect, Adam Lanza, killed his mother Friday morning in their home, then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she worked as a teacher. Dressed in combat gear, he opened fire in a classroom, in a bathroom and in a hallway. Afterward, he turned the gun on himself.
At least two pistols were found at the school — a Glock and a Sig Sauer. A .223-caliber rifle also was recovered from the back of a car parked outside the school. They are now part of what appears to be the worst mass shooting at an elementary or high school in the nation's history.
What's most heart-rending is that we have been here before.
We thought we had seen the worst in 1999 when two teenagers went on a rampage at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing 12 students and one teacher. Then, eight years later, 33 people were killed in a shooting spree at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Three people were shot dead this year in a high school cafeteria in Chardon, Ohio, but schools haven't been the scenes of frightening carnage. In July, a masked gunman killed 12 people and wounded 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Six were killed in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and six more at a sign-making company in Minneapolis. On Tuesday, a gunman opened fire in a shopping mall near Portland, Ore., killing two people.
Now, it has happened yet again. Obama called the shooting a “heinous crime” and pledged to push for meaningful action to prevent more of these kinds of tragedies from occurring. “We've endured too many of these tragedies in the last few years, and each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would, as a parent.”
We don't question the president's resolve. But we do question that of the rest of the nation — whether this country is ready to get serious about keeping guns out of the hands of those most at risk of these kind of rampages.
We don't know enough as yet about the details concerning how this man got these weapons and what demons possessed him. But we do know enough about the root of the problem — that guns are too easily available, especially for those bent on this level of destruction.
We also know that it was not the intent of our forefathers when they drafted the Second Amendment of our Constitution long ago to protect this kind of slaughter. This is not freedom. This is a massacre.
Obama spoke for many when he said he and Michelle would “hug our children a little tighter” on Friday night. The question is whether the nation is willing to hold tighter still to a tired notion that America needs unbridled access to firearms.
America can't keep pretending it can hold onto both.
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