University students have died. High school kids have been gunned down. In Newtown, Conn., it was first-graders.
It remains to be seen if Americans will connect the dots between access to guns and gun violence. Already some are calling for teachers to be armed. Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert is leading the charge, saying the Sandy Hook principal could have saved lives if she had a gun.
“I wish to God she had had an M4 (rifle) in her office locked up and so when she heard gunshots … she takes his head off before he can hurt those kids,” Gohmert said on FOX News Sunday.
School buildings will come under review too, but Sandy Hook was not an easy target and it saw 26 people killed. The Connecticut school had a locked entry and the gunman appears to have shot out some glass to gain access. To make a school harder to attack, you’d need guard towers and a barbed wire fence.
While the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted to mean that citizens can own guns, it doesn’t dictate the type of arms. At the very least, American lawmakers could reduce the number of bullets in a clip and the rate of fire of guns. Those changes wouldn’t stop mass shootings but they could reduce the number of people killed.
Connecticut’s governor pointed out the senselessness of people owning what are effectively tools of war.
“These guns aren’t used to hunt deer,” he said on Monday.
Even a simple change – no new semi-automatic guns or long clips – would be opposed by the gun lobby in the United States. The NRA has many members and lots of money for lobbying. The association has a history of targeting any lawmaker who supports greater gun control with election defeat, and that puts a chill on politicians.
But there is safety in numbers and if ever there was a time for a majority of congressmen and senators to support the most basic gun control, the deaths of 20 young children should provide them with backbone.
President Obama all but promised improved gun control in his comments after the shooting but he will still need the support of legislators to get any meaningful changes enacted. Obama doesn’t have to worry about re-election, but his Democratic allies do, making real change subject to intense lobbying by the gun nuts.
The NRA has read the public mood, issuing a press release on Tuesday that says the organization is “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” about the events in Newtown, and goes so far as to offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
Of course, what the NRA considers a meaningful contribution may be the most token of measures. Expect to see the association drag its feet if real gun control is suggested, falling back on its mantra of blaming people, not firearms for gun deaths.
No society can completely separate children – or any other group of people – from those who want to hurt them, so the focus must be the attackers and their weapons.
Despite the wall-to-wall news coverage, the U.S. will do what it’s done after every other school shooting: ignore the problem and await the next gunshots.