Can the terror and insanity get any worse than yesterday's atrocity, the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.?
"The massacre of 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school elicited horror and soul-searching around the world even as it raised more basic questions about why the gunman, a 20-year-old described as brilliant but remote, was driven to such a crime and how he chose his victims," The Associated Press reported in one of the hundreds of news stories coming out of this tragedy.
Why, indeed. Why would a human commit such an inhuman and evil act? The inhumanity and insanity of it all stabs at our hearts, baffles our brains and rips at our guts. How can there be an explanation for such an unspeakable act? It's beyond explaining. A believer in The Almighty understandably might question her or his own belief in a loving God. The slaughter was unbelievable.
Shortly after the massacre, in a statement to the press in the White House briefing room, President Obama vowed action, "regardless of the politics," to stop such violence.
Said the president: "As a country, we have been through this too many times. We're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wasted no time condemning not only the terrible slaughter, but also the availability of the guns used in such horrific crimes. He responded almost immediately yesterday.
Bloomberg issued this statement: “With all the carnage from gun violence in our country, it’s still almost impossible to believe that a mass shooting in a kindergarten class could happen. It has come to that. Not even kindergarteners learning their A,B,Cs are safe. We heard after Columbine that it was too soon to talk about gun laws. We heard it after Virginia Tech. After Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek. And now we are hearing it again. For every day we wait, 34 more people are murdered with guns. Today, many of them were five-year-olds. President Obama rightly sent his heartfelt condolences to the families in Newtown. But the country needs him to send a bill to Congress to fix this problem. Calling for ‘meaningful action’ is not enough. We need immediate action. We have heard all the rhetoric before. What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today. This is a national tragedy and it demands a national response. My deepest sympathies are with the families of all those affected, and my determination to stop this madness is stronger than ever.”
Obama, when he spoke of "meaningful action" despite "politics," was talking about gun-control politics and the partisan inflexibility in dealing with such an important, vital issue in our country. Whether talking about the dreaded fiscal cliff or about the important issue of gun control, the partisanship involved in discussing such important matters these days is unsatisfactory and unacceptable.
On one end of the gun-control spectrum, many law makers would like to see all guns dumped into a giant cauldron in a steel mill and melted down into molten steel. Conservative lawmakers, the National Rifle Association and multitudes of gun owners on the other end of the spectrum all cite the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.
It was on this very day 221 years ago that Virginia became the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights, enacting into law the first 10 amendments to our Constitution. While the Congress had drafted the Bill of Rights on Dec. 25, 1789, it was not until Virginia's ratification on Dec. 15, 1791, that the three-fourths majority was reached in order to make the amendments law.
Our Founding Fathers wrote in the Second Amendment that all Americans had the "right to bear arms for the purpose of a well-regulated militia."
The need for such a militia in 2012 has been eliminated by the existence of the most powerful military in the world.
I was a member of that military for 20 years of my adult life. I served in the U.S. Marine Corps, where every Marine is basically a rifleman. I used my rifle in combat, and I used my rifle during peacetime in military exercises and on the rifle range for annual requalification. I used an M14 rifle in boot camp, an M14 in infantry training, an M1 Garand rifle in Recon School, an M16 automatic rifle and an M-79 grenade launcher in combat in the Vietnam War, an M60 machine gun in training and in combat, a Smith and Wesson .38-caliber revolver on embassy duty, and I carried a .45-caliber Colt service pistol in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War. Also during my career in the Corps, I fired the M1 carbine, .50-caliber machine gun, AK47 assault rifle, SKS semi-automatic rifle, the Heckler and Koch G3 automatic rifle, and the Marine Corps M40A1 sniper rifle, among others.
So, I know a lot about guns, and I know I don't really need any of the aforementioned firearms to protect myself in civilian life or to hunt deer or bag some ducks.
My grandfather, who was a farmer and a great outdoorsman, taught me how to hunt. Growing up, I had my .22-caliber, single-shot, bolt-action, Remington rifle for squirrel hunting. And my grandfather gave me a 12-gauge, semi-automatic shotgun for everything else – rabbits, quail, ducks, deer. Those firearms, I really do need.
Unfortunately, too many gun owners, the NRA and the law makers they influence think the Second Amendment means we have the right and deserve to own all kinds of firearms, all guns, leaving no room for negotiation, no reasonable regulations for controlling assault guns and similar firearms that are more inclined to kill people than to kill ducks.
I don't need an M-16 or a semi-automatic AR-15 – with a 20-round magazine – to down
a whitetail deer. I can do it with a three-round, 12-gauge shotgun. I, likewise, have no use for the multiple-round firepower of a Glock pistol or a Sig Sauer pistol or a Bushmaster .223-caliber assault-style rifle, all of which were carried by the murderer in Newton, Conn., yesterday.
The difference between the types of weapons people do not need and the types of recreational firearms that should be allowed for hunting is obvious. It is obvious, right? Yes, it is. So, why cannot those people at the two ends of that gun-control tolerance spectrum get together and hammer out some sensible gun control laws?
These senseless, bloody massacres must stop. We must make our schools and public places safe for our children and all our fellow Americans.
What did the president say? "As a country, we have been through this too many times."