Tuesday December 18, 2012

It was inevitable that in the wake of Friday’s horrible slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut, the assertion would be made that the teachers and administrators should have been armed with assault weapons in anticipation of the arrival of a similarly armed lunatic. This claim was made on Fox News Sunday by Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, who said that an armed teacher or principal could have taken the killer’s "head off." This is one of many preposterous arguments that will be heard in the weeks and months ahead to stem the movement for tougher national gun control laws, which is no surprise as these arguments always work. They must not this time.

More gun violence is not the answer to gun violence any more than more cancer is the answer to cancer. The Wild West mentality may have helped the Texans fend off the Mexicans but it is not applicable to a 21st century nation in which high-tech weaponry and ammunition are readily available to mow down political officials, ex-spouses, movie-goers, teachers, and now, elementary school children.

There can be no more hiding behind a 2nd Amendment written when muskets had to be painstakingly loaded to fire off an occasional shot at a menacing Indian or Redcoat. The argument that homeowners need guns to defend themselves has long been sabotaged by the reality that guns in the home are more likely to kill people living in the home than intruders. No one will ever know why Nancy Lanza found it necessary to stock weapons in her Newtown home but her life ended last Friday when her son Adam evidently used one of them to shoot her in the face.

If al-Qaida terrorists shot a congresswoman in the head and killed those attending her community meeting, as happened in Arizona, Americans would demand that they be tracked to the ends of the earth and brought to justice, and justifiably so. The same would apply to a terrorist attack on movie patrons in Colorado or children a short drive down Route 7 from the Berkshires. But when the killers are domestic, their mayhem is supposed to accepted as the price of living, or of trying to live, in America. Americans are told that they must arm themselves to the teeth, to combat violence with violence. That argument can’t win the day anymore.

The strict gun control laws that must come in the wake of Newtown need not threaten hunters, who as a rule are responsible gun owners. They will not constitute an attempt by President Obama to "take away our guns," a gnawing fear peculiar to Obama-haters. The laws will constitute a modest attempt to restore sanity to a gun-sickened society. The assault weapon ban should be restored as no one beyond the military needs such implements of destruction. Gun show loopholes must be closed to deprive criminals and madmen from easy access to guns.

As the president said Sunday night in a speech to a devastated Newtown and a mourning nation, "We will have to change." For that change to come, Democrats and Republicans must find the courage to stand up to the political bullies and the gun violence apologists and pass tough laws backed by tough enforcement measures. Civilized nations around the world have done so and now watch in horror and confusion as the United States endures one brutal mass slaughter of innocents after another without responding. If we are truly a civilized nation, this time we will respond, if for no other reason than to assure that some good comes out of the massacre of children in Newtown.