I tried to imagine what it must have been like at Sandy Hook Elementary School on that Friday morning that will forever be part of our collective psyche. Then I tried not to. I thought about a precious three year-old child to whom I am deeply attached and felt the pain of what it would be like to lose her in so vicious and horrific a way. Again, I tried not to. I wept for the loss of the six brave women, still so young themselves, who did everything in their power to keep their young students safe.
When a minister cried trying to say what it was like to tell a child that his sibling was dead, I cried with him. When a teacher said, "I told them I loved them very much. I wanted that to be the last thing they heard, not a gun shot," I wept again. And I wept to see the pain our president struggled to contain as he spoke to a stunned nation immediately after the tragedy occurred.
Who among us did not weep at the thought of the all mighty wail that arose when terrified parents were told there would be no more children coming out of the firehouse on that dreadful day?
Sadly, the answer is the monsters who posted social media messages using the N-word to refer to the president when their football game was interrupted for Mr. Obama's remarks. It is the NRA's gutless leadership who took four days to issue a tepid and gratuitous comment but who did not have the courage to face the cameras on news programs and Sunday morning talk shows. It's Republican governors and legislators who also refused to stand up and be counted in the name of ending the slaughter of innocents. It is also the insane among us who argue for the legality of concealed weapons and for armed educators, among others.
The often cited data about guns in this country are stunning. Over the past two years, as newly seated Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out in a letter to her supporters, more than 6,000 children have been killed by guns. That number went up even after the Sandy Hook massacre: children died from guns on the day after the school shooting and on the day after that. (So did two police officers in Kansas.) Eighty-three Americans die every day from gun violence in America and eight of them are children or teenagers. That's thousands every year, tens of thousands in the last decade alone.
The rest of the civilized world is stunned in disbelief, and so they should be.
It does no good to divert attention away from the urgent need to pass gun legislation immediately by talking about media violence and mental health issues. Certainly they are part of the picture and must be addressed in a comprehensive approach to stopping America's madness. But the last thing we need to do is stigmatize people with autism or Asperger's Syndrome, developmental disorders that bear no relation to violent behavior.
First and foremost, we must get a grip on our gun-loving culture. As Boston Mayor Tom Menino, a co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has said, "Now is the time for a national policy on guns that takes the loopholes out of the laws, the automatic weapons out of our neighborhoods, and the tragedies like [Newtown] out of our future."