The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School shocked and deeply saddened me. The shootings no doubt had the same impact on you and certainly on every other sane, rational person who heard about what transpired in Newtown that cold winter day.
I feel the same shock and sorrow every time a shooting like this happens. I attended a high school located less than twelve miles away from Columbine, and in 1999 as a junior I remembered feeling that cold shudder coursing through my body when I heard about the horror that transpired there. I would feel the cold shudder again when I heard about the horror at Virginia Tech, again in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and yet again in Aurora, Colorado.
The Economist in one of its articles pointed out that on the same day the Sandy Hook shootings took place, an equally deranged person in China attacked more than a dozen elementary school students. The difference, of course, is that the attacker in China wielded a knife, not a semiautomatic. Nobody died.
In Schenck vs. United States, in an unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision decided that limits to free speech exist. Shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is imminently dangerous when there is no fire to speak of. If the right to free speech can be theoretically restricted, then why not draw a bright line between guns for hunting and semiautomatic and automatic weapons that belong nowhere else than in a theater of war? Since when does the right to bear arms become an absolute, even when the weapons of war pose a clear and imminent threat to our own citizens?
On April 25, 1999, Al Gore came to Colorado after the tragedy at Columbine and gave a rousing speech, saying:
Parents, we can stop the violence and the hate. In a culture rife with violence — where too many young people place too little value on a human life — we can rise up and say no more. We have seen enough violence in our schools.
Thirteen years and countless tragedies perpetrated by guns later, President Obama would say on December 16, 2012, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.”
I wholeheartedly agree. But until policymakers draw the line in the sand and clearly demark that the 2nd Amendment does not, cannot, and shall not protect anybody’s right to bear (semi)automatic weapons, I am already beginning to feel that all-too-familiar chill down my spine. No guns will save us from the next tragedy. Instead, the guns will be the perpetrators, more innocent lives will be forever lost, and the words “never again” will be uttered yet again, with convincing determination, conviction, urgency, and an all too real futility.
American Rhetoric, The Washington Post, and The Economist contributed to this blog.
I plan to continue to write more on gun control in the coming days and weeks.