There are statistics of gun deaths in America; rankings of which shootings were “the worst ever”; the same pictures of panic, confusion and grief.
I’ve seen too many massacres in my lifetime played out across the news – you even start switching off to them in many ways. That was my initial reaction to the Newtown, Connecticut, “breaking news”. “Ho hum, ok, another one.”
President Barack Obama, showing the grief of a father that we rarely see in our political leaders, particularly in the US, said “we’ve endured too many of these tragedies“.
Even one is too many for the families and friends left behind.
The age of the victims – so young this time it is difficult for the mind to grasp – has made the desire for answers and meaningful solutions to prevent these incidents ever happening again. Obama hinted at something when he said, “we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics”. Nobody really knows what that means.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg put out a more blunt statement: “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.”
Though Bloomberg has called for tighter gun controls in the past, even he isn’t specifying what the solution is. Other solutions floating around the web in the aftermath included banning certain guns, arming teachers, psychological evaluations on everyone from age 10, and the perennial favourite, banning violent video games.
The idea of more guns is scary. The political realities are such that fewer guns in America is nearly impossible. And almost every other solution leads down a paranoid path so narrow that we’d struggle to breathe.
There is no easy solution – that’s the sad truth. In no way am I trying to agree with pro-gun theorists, but they are accurate when they say someone intent on killing will find a way, whether you restrict guns or not. There is no way to ensure absolute safety from accident, crime, tragedy. However, that said, America has been living with its head in the sand for too long. There have been attempts in the past to find solutions, but not in a comprehensive or bipartisan way. Mostly politicians are long on rhetoric and short on action, including Obama.
There may not be easy answers, but looking at pictures of children running away from their classrooms and the sounds of gunshots is not easy. And when we see the small coffins of the deceased – since the media will inevitably show it – that will not be easy.
Obama is right to say action is needed. In his second-term, he has potentially more freedom to chart a course. As frustrating and impossible as the “why” question smothering Newtown is and will be, everyone needs to pause and reflect on how violence of any sort can be reduced. One child dying is too many, and 20 is surely reason enough to take baby steps forward, even if we don’t yet know the end result.
The America that exists beyond a grieving town, and indeed any nation that holds its children as precious, must do all it can to protect them.
Give us statistics and rankings and pictures of what we value so we don’t forget why we’re here.