In this photo provided by the Newtown Bee, Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following a reported shooting there Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.

Shannon Hicks, Associated Press - Ap

David McCumber: What our nation owes the victims

  • Article by: DAVID McCUMBER
  • New York Times News Service
  • December 15, 2012 - 5:24 PM

Shooting presidents has never been enough.

Shooting Columbine high school students wasn't enough.

Shooting a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and a congresswoman talking with her constituents in a grocery-store parking lot wasn't enough.

Shooting up a theater, and a temple, and a university campus wasn't enough.

Shooting cops, convenience-store clerks, rival gang members, domestic partners, women under protective orders, home invasion victims, innocent drive-by victims, infants, 10-year-olds, any-year-olds, an average of 34 times a day, every day in America apparently isn't enough.

So I have to ask: Is shooting 27 people dead at an elementary school in a quiet New England town -- 20 of them little children -- enough to get this country and Congress into a serious conversation about guns?

Odds are that this event, beyond horrible, an event to make a president cry, won't be enough either.

It should be.

I know all of the arguments. More guns mean less crime. If more armed people were out there, this wouldn't have happened. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, thinks more people should have been blasting away in the dark, in that Aurora theater, trying to shoot the shooter.

Must teachers arm themselves? Elementary school teachers? No. Should armed guards have to patrol every school in America? No.

Should we be able to rationally control the size of magazines for today's high-tech pistols like the Glock and the Sig-Sauer used Friday? Absolutely.

You don't need a 30-round magazine for personal protection. You just need it to kill a lot of people quickly.

We don't know if large magazines were used in Sandy Hook, as they were in Tucson and Aurora, for instance. The truth is these weapons are so advanced now, so easy and quick to reload, that you can probably kill 27 people with a bunch of normal-sized magazines. But you'd have to reload more often. Jared Loughner was stopped from killing more people in Arizona only because his large magazine ran out and he had to reload. That's at least something to talk about, isn't it?

I cannot begin to imagine the horror that has been visited on the community of Newtown -- victims' families and survivors' families alike.

My son and daughter went to elementary school in Connecticut, 19 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary. Now, my son goes to middle school, and I mourn the fact that he must pass through a metal detector on the way to class every morning. I will mourn that no longer. But it's hardly the long-term answer, is it?

I have written before that America's gun lobby has blood on its hands up to its shoulders. It does, and we as a country have somehow come to accept that.

But 20 elementary school students?

The country is praying for their families. That's as it should be.

But in addition to our prayers, don't we owe them a serious conversation about our gun laws?


David McCumber is Hearst Newspapers' Washington Bureau Chief.


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