The news of the Newton horror struck me dumb. I’m a writer, but words failed me. The enormity of the crime, the acute pain, the loss of little children, the parents’ loss, the futures lost, the unspeakable suffering— so many thoughts flooded my mind. I’m haunted by my imagination, a nightmare of the harrowing scene of terror, blood, screaming and dying of those little innocents. I envy the people who were able to write their reactions and opinions.
Garry Wills wrote about the idolization of firearms in this country: we keep offering human sacrifices to the god; we dare not offend him. “That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god [the gun].”
Nick Kristof asked why we don’t see violent shootings as a “a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes.” We regulate so many aspects of our lives— ladders, for example, even toy guns, but we can’t curb firearms. “Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000,” he wrote.
While many demanded new and revamped gun safety laws, the NRA went completely and uncharacteristically silent. Many vented their frustration with Pres. Obama for not pursuing gun control in his first term after pledging to do so when former congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot. Rather than restrict them, the President actually expanded gun rights. He was criticized for not addressing gun safety immediately following the Newtown tragedy.
It was “a day for tears, not politics.” wrote John Dickerson, defending Obama’s decision to grieve first: “The president’s job today,” he wrote, “is to comfort a nation, not score political points.”
That’s right. The massacre is so unthinkable and Americans are so shaken and shocked that we need time and space to process our own grief. We are all traumatized by the unthinkable atrocity.
There’s new hope today. With this latest mass murder, gun enthusiasts who have always defended their gun rights are finally acknowledging that we must take action to prevent future Newtowns.
The NRA has has strongly backed Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, because of his pro-gun rights position. But on Monday he said on CNN, “Who would have ever thought, in America, or anywhere in the world, that children would be slaughtered?” And then, “You know, that–it’s changed me.”
We are all changed. Let’s do something about it.