Americans are horrified by the carnage delivered to Sandy Hook schoolchildren last week. They are frightened and they are furious.
But they should not be shocked. Such tragedy has become the price of life in a country awash in guns and we seem bound to endure it again and again and again.
At elementary schools, high schools, fast food places, post offices and college campuses, this nation has been staggered by massacres of increasing ferocity. No place is safe, not even an Amish schoolhouse.
The questions began before the final body count was in. How could somebody break into a school and kill so easily? If, as some have said, this young man was so evidently troubled, why did somebody not intervene years ago.
Valid questions, but no policy, no reaction plan is much of a match for one who is disturbed, determined and armed to the teeth. This time, an evidently tormented young man found the legal and licensed guns at home. His arsenal included semi-automatic 9 mm Glock and Sig Sauer handguns capable of firing five rounds a second, and a Bushmaster assault rifle.
Sickened by and made wiser by the toll, other nations have had the gumption to do what Americans by now must know is needed.
The United Kingdom banned all handguns a few years back. A British citizen is 50 times less likely to be a victim of gun homicide than an American.
Twelve days after 35 people were shot dead by a gunman in Tasmania, Australia enacted gun laws requiring registration and restricting access to many weapons.
In Canada, handguns must be registered and may be kept only by police, collectors and gun club members. While the murder rate without guns is about the same in the U.S. as in Canada, the murder rate with handguns here is 14.5 times the Canadian rate.
But here no tragedy seems sufficient to derail the National Rifle Association and its Second Amendment spoutings. That amendment, written back when the single-shot flintlock was the state of the art, does indeed call for “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” — for the purpose (and this is the part the NRA likes to skip) of “A well regulated militia.” There is nothing the least “well-regulated” about a system in which any lunatic can get his hands on high-powered, rapid-fire weapons that are a match for anything police carry — often with no background check or license needed. Guns like that Glock aren’t built for hunting. They’re meant for one thing — killing human beings.
If experience is any guide, this massacre will spark a brief outcry for tougher gun laws. It’s happened over and over again since Virginia Tech and Columbine — In just the past three years there have been nearly a dozen US gun massacres with a half dozen or more dead — remember Binghamton, Aurora, Geneva County, the Sikh Temple, Tucson mall, Seal Beach, Manchester? The names, places and body counts blur.
Cloaked in their take on the Second Amendment, the NRA and its legion of well-paid lawmakers will deflect this nuisance as they have so many before.
Then, not so many months from now, the news teams will speed off to the next bloodied schoolyard, campus or mall. And Americans will marvel again at the ease with which the latest madman loaded up.