Where do you go? Where can you hide? What or where is “safe?” Twelve people were massacred in July while watching a movie in Aurora, Colo.
Six more were slaughtered last August at a religious service in suburban Milwaukee.
Now, horribly, 27 are dead – 20 of them children – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the leafy Connecticut suburb of Newtown.
What kind of society have we created? What is the price, in innocent blood and in everyday risk, for our freedoms?
I know that, despite the mass media coverage, these are isolated incidents. I know that each of us is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed by a psychotic shooter’s bullet.
But when a man walks into an elementary school armed with semiautomatic, military-grade pistols and slaughters innocent children, it shatters any notion of safety and security and sanity.
What is so troubling and so frightening is not just the randomness of the violence. It is the ease with which a psychotic can acquire weapons of such destruction.
Once again in America, a deeply disturbed – no sane person would do this – and heavily armed man has slaughtered innocent people. The difference this time is most of the victims were not adults. They were children. Grade-school children. It does not get more innocent – or more vulnerable – than little kids sitting in a classroom.
Mass shootings happen with such frequency that we become conditioned, desensitized. They run together in our minds, get lost in the mist of memory.
But when the body count is this high, when most of the bodies are this small, it is enough to crack the hardest cynic’s shell.
In the wake of the slaughter of innocents, I cannot see how any thinking person can argue against tighter gun controls. I am not talking about taking the rifle out of a responsible hunter’s hands. I am not talking about denying any sane person the choice of a gun for home protection.
But seriously, how can anyone at this point – NRA officials included – argue that a private citizen needs to be more heavily armed than a cop or a soldier?
Time and again, deeply disturbed people have gotten their hands on weapons that can kill a lot of people in short amount of time.
It has to stop. The level of firepower is the one thing about these mass slaughters that we can control. And, in so doing, we at least can reduce the body count.
“The thing that all of these shootings have in common is they involve the sort of firearms there is no need for the general public to have,” UB professor Charles Ewing said. “There is no reason for the average citizen to have this kind of firepower.”
Ewing is familiar with violence. The forensic psychologist and author has interviewed serial killers and studied mass murderers. He is more conditioned to horror than most people. Yet he told me Friday that the news of this massacre of children brought him to tears.
“If this doesn’t bring you to your knees, what will?” he wondered. “Something must be done.”
According to CBS News, the 20-year-old gunman was armed with a Glock 9mm pistol, a semiautomatic commonly used by police, and a Sig Sauer handgun, favored by the military. Each has an easily reloadable magazine holding at least 10 rounds. A military-style assault rifle was found in his vehicle.
Weapons made for combat were turned on grade-school kids. A young madman got his hands on a stockpile of semiautomatic weapons.
How insane of a society are we?
Yes, you can kill with a rock or a knife or a standard handgun. But each of those weapons limits the amount of mayhem someone can do in a short period of time. The longer it takes to shoot multiple times, and the longer it takes to reload, the more people who can run, or hide, or fight back or call for help. Our latest American madman had the firepower to massacre 26 people in a matter of minutes.
There is no getting around it: Advanced weaponry makes mass slaughter easier. Just count the little bodies at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Across America today, there is a heaviness in the air. We grieve for the victims. We pray for their families. And we hope, at long last, that something will be done.