Hard to Understand,…

There are many reasons why I get the NYT on Sundays. First, my parents always had the Sunday edition delivered; they eventually went to getting the Times every day–my mother read it from cover to cover, and was one of the best-informed people I knew. I dream of the day when I will be able to luxuriate with a daily paper like the NYT. Second, in general, the NYT represents and writes to points of view and with candor that suit my own perspectives and political persuasions. Thirdly, the op-ed page has been the home of wonderful political commentators and humorists like Molly Ivins and now, Maureen Dowd. Finally, the NYT, and its writers, regularly and reliably provide their readers with outstanding writing about important issues of the day.

Which brings me to their coverage of the recent massacre of little children in Newtown, Connecticut. It has been excellent: thorough; accurate; touching but unsentimental—not maudlin; appropriate; informative; and sensitive to who, what, where, and when that sensitivity was best deserved.

On Sunday, December 23, in an article title A Bleak Procession of Funerals for Shooting Victims Ends in Newtown, I read a brief account of the last of the twenty funerals for the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Josephine Grace Gay, age 7, was buried on Saturday. The words of Monsignor Robert Weiss touched me greatly.

“This has been a challenge for us,” Msgr. Robert E. Weiss said during his homily at Josephine’s funeral mass at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. Funeral after funeral, wake after wake, he said, it had been faith, family, and friendship that held the community together. He recalled the terrible hours after the shooting stopped on Dec. 14, when he waited with families at the firehouse near the school, with parents clinging to the hope that their children had made it out unharmed.

At 3:00 p.m. that day, he said, Josephine’s parents were told that she had not survived. “It does not make sense,” Monsignor Weiss said, adding that the children did not die in vain. “If these 20 cannot change the world, then no one can,” he said. He added that it is now up to everyone to bring out the best in themselves and one another.”

“If these 20 cannot change the world, then no one can.”

This captures exactly what this event portends. This is it. This is our calling. This is our responsibility—our obligation to these six- and seven-year-old children.

This is what the twenty are owed by all of us survivors and “rememberers.” Individually and collectively, every sentient adult in America has been called upon to do the right thing—to enter into a conversation about guns, gun violence, gun regulation, and yes, gun control. The conversations must lead to change in the manufacture, distribution, sale, and oversight of assault-style weapons—both semi- and fully-automatic rifles and hand guns.

[I am a gun owner. I have shotguns and a muzzle-loading rifle, as well as a hunting crossbow, used by my son to hunt deer and waterfowl. The guns are in a locked gun safe. I am not a member of the NRA.]

The spokesperson for the NRA had the “decency” to wait one whole week after the tragedy to share their POV and recommendations. The Friday press conference was announced on Tuesday, with the promise that they would make an important contribution to discussions about what happened and what could be done to prevent future mass murders.

“The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

If you have not seen or heard or read Mr. LaPierre’s speech, you should. It is an amazing demonstration of hubris, boldness, and a complete lack of conscience. The Washington Post has both a transcript and a video of LaPierre’s presentation. One reason for the delay in their statement on Newtown catastrophe may have been to give their talented speech writers and gun industry people the time to craft this chilling message.

Chilling? Yes. Because it says NOTHING about the power of and the devastation wrought by that Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle used by Adam Lanza at the elementary school on helpless, innocent first graders. As back-up he carried a Glock 10 mm pistol and a Sig Sauer 9mm pistol. Both semi-automatic. He had hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

[One of the questions is why he stopped killing when he did and turned one of the guns on himself. He could have kept going—there could have been fifty or more dead in his wake.]

(I am no gun expert. However, here is what I understand: An automatic weapon is like a machine gun—one squeeze and the gun will continue to fire until you take your finger off the trigger; semi-automatic means that the gun fires as fast as you can move your finger on the trigger. Legal ammo clips contain 15 or 30 rounds; the ammo drum used in the massacre at the theater in Aurora, Colorado, contained 100 rounds. Apparently, a semi-automatic weapon can be easily modified to create a fully-automatic weapon by filing away a part or parts of the weapon, or you can purchase a kit to accomplish the same thing.)

Really. Who really needs an assault weapon? Who needs a sem-automatic Glock or Sig Sauer? Who needs to be able to fire bullets at that speed or with that power? Who needs to be prepared to take on a small army all at once?

Certainly we need to take a close look at what impact violent movies and video games may have on vulnerable people. Certainly we MUST provide improved identification of and treatment for a variety of mental illnesses that plague humans. However, more guns in our schools, armed guards or armed volunteers at schools should not be the solution. Gun control must take center stage in our resolution of this continuing problem.

Recent mass murders in schools, theaters, temples, parks get a lot of attention—as well they should. BUT, likewise, the numbers of gun deaths, accomplished one by one, across this country in one year’s time are astounding. The weapons used on the kid on the corner or the woman down the the street deserve as much attention.

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