We make a living with words, but none can express the depth of sorrow and grief this nation -- let alone the families -- have experienced in Newtown, Conn., in the wake of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Even if they find the motive, it won't make sense. Nothing about this makes sense. It was brutal and terrible beyond belief. Pure innocence struck down. One citizen of that small town, which could have been Anytown, USA, said that "20 families lost their joy." It was the perfect summation of unspeakable tragedy.
Because of the victims, this went beyond what we, unfortunately, have come to call "the typical mass shooting" incident. Some people have given up watching the news while the follow-up coverage is on, because, as far removed as we are from the families themselves, it is still too powerful, too heart-wrenching, to deal with.
What's worse, this is a case where very little was done wrong by anyone except the shooter. The school had good security measures and training in place. Better than many in this country. To go beyond those measures would be to send our children to facilities that would look more like prisons than schools. It wasn't the school's fault.
Connecticut has one of the tougher sets of gun control laws in the nation, and like those few states that do have them, gun violence is generally less that the rest of the country. Everything here was legally owned by the shooter's mother. He killed her, stole her weapons, and began his march to horror. It wasn't the law's fault.
Although his family said he had mental health issues, there are no indications, at present, that the shooter was a violent person who intended violence. It would have been almost impossible to catch him early and stop him. You really can't find fault with anyone here, either -- except the shooter, himself.
In the days and weeks and months ahead, we will look at what needs to be done and -- perhaps -- act on this tragedy.
When budgets get tight, one of the first things we cut are mental health services, school resource officers, etc., all the "soft" budget items that actually can make a big long-term difference. We only know when things break down, but when things go right we never hear about it because it never happened in the first place, usually due to these "silent services" of the government. But we need to re-emphasize them in order to short circuit at least half of the "nut with a gun" combinations.
And while the NRA will scream bloody murder and contend the high emotional content of the time is not the time to discuss gun control, we can't think of a better time to reopen that debate and discuss it seriously for once.
Begin with the assumption that you are not going to eliminate firearms in this country. They are too deeply ingrained in our history and culture and far too widespread. The recent Chicago decision of the U.S. Supreme Court clearly states each person, individually, has the right to keep and bear arms.
But you can put limits on those arms. Unless the deer start shooting back (or you're a really, really bad hunter), you don't need an assault rifle to go deer hunting.
The recently expired Brady Bill's limitations on assault weapons should be reviewed and largely renewed, perhaps even expanded. Murders by handguns are out of hand, with 10-12 people dying every day from handgun violence, at least half of them young adults. There's a lot of options to look at there, some of which might help.
And don't talk to us about "packing for protection." The instances of someone protecting themself or their family because they were "packing" are true, but very, very rare. Much more commonly, similar incidents result in the good guy's death, instead. Furthermore, the most dangerous parts of our nation, the gang-controlled inner cities, also have the highest density of people "packing" in the country. It clearly doesn't lead to safety there.
Then there's the "stand your ground" laws that encourage vigilante justice (and vigilantes quite often get things wrong). They fly in the face of a thousand years of English Common Law that essentially says if you can avoid a confrontation, you should do so. Sometimes, it takes more guts to walk away than it does to stand.
Improved social and mental services, more cops on the street so citizens won't feel the need to take matters in their own hands, restrictions on some types of weapons being allowed, closing the loopholes in gun show sales, seriously conducting background checks to limit the number of felons and known crazy people from getting guns, and registration of handguns when they're sold, could all potentially slow down the violence in one degree or another.
It can't stop it, however. To a limited extent, you can control the guns. But you can't control the crazy people, the psychopaths and sociopaths who don't care what's at the end of their gun barrel.
In fact, none of the suggestions made above that we think should at least be honestly discussed for inclusion or rejection in state and federal laws, would have made a single difference at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Because in the end, there's not much you can do when a nut and a gun come together.
-- Kelly Everitt