No more excuses: It’s time to talk about guns

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time the slaughter of young innocents in a Connecticut elementary school will be enough to end the national paralysis that grips this nation every time a madman with access to guns unleashes death and destruction upon an unsuspecting community.

A shopping mall in Oregon. A spa in Wisconsin. A sign-making company in Minnesota. Outside the Texas A&M campus. A Sikh temple in Wisconsin. A movie theater in Colorado. A coffee shop in Washington state. Four spots around town in Tulsa, Okla. A university in California. A psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania. A high school cafeteria in Ohio. A family spa in Georgia.

So far this year, according to The Washington Post, 81 people have been killed in 13 mass shootings – roughly one incident a month – and that tally doesn’t include nine of the deranged gunmen who took their own lives after completing their dastardly deeds.

Since 1982, it is estimated there have been more than 60 mass murders spread across 30 states, including the deadliest ever at Virginia Tech (33 dead), Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas (24) and Columbine High School (15).

Generally, the response to each of these senseless killings from the nation’s elected leaders has been the same: Outrage. Vague calls to action. Silence. Repeat.

After Friday, that behavior is no longer acceptable.

Not after a disturbed young man shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and indiscriminately killed 20 children – 12 girls and eight boys, all ages 6 and 7 – and six heroic educators before taking his own life.

What does it say about us as a nation that we can engage in a yearlong public debate over whether to raise the marginal income tax rate by several percentage points on the wealthiest Americans, but we can’t have a grown-up conversation about what could be done to lessen the frequency of these wanton massacres?

Fortunately, there are some early signs that things could be different this time.

President Barack Obama, delivering arguably his finest address Sunday night at a Newtown memorial service, suggested he, too, has seen enough.

“In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this,” he said during a 20-minute
nationally televised address. “Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.”

And on Monday, two Democratic senators with solid ratings from the National Rifle Association – Mark Warner of Virginia and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – said they might support legislation next session that would impose greater restrictions on assault weapons.

To be clear, we’re not advocating for a universal ban on guns; but neither do we support the alternate view that the solution to gun crime is to arm more people with guns.

At this point, all we want is an open and honest debate among our elected officials next year focused strictly on what can be done – at the very least – to make it more difficult for disturbed individuals to slaughter their fellow citizens.

Is that too much to ask?