The horror of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center did not quickly fade away -- still has not faded, really. America changed the way it protects itself after those attacks. And while Homeland Security sometimes overreaches, at least nobody can say we watched the twin towers fall and did nothing.
In Newtown, Conn., and among parents of schoolchildren across the country, comparisons to 9/11 keep coming up. The wrenching pain of Friday's execution of 20 innocent children and of brave adults trying to protect them inspires the same transformative fear, a sense that no one is really safe. It's not just Newtown's child-survivors who will never see the world the same way again.
Will Americans let this pass as they did Aurora, Oikos, Virginia Tech and all the other pointless slaughters of recent years without at least trying to do something to deter them? Will we again dry our tears, swallow our empty words and do nothing, absolutely nothing, to even try to temper the gun violence that horrifies the rest of the civilized world? In gun carnage, America truly is No. 1.
This is the time to talk about it. Ignore the cynical posturing about a time of mourning. There is no better way to honor the dead of Sandy Hook school than to introduce legislation and begin a conversation about common sense regulation.
Shrill warnings by gun-rights activists portray President Barack Obama as ready to "take away our guns." In fact, Obama has not suggested, let alone done, a single thing to restrict access to guns, despite all the mass shootings during his presidency. Yet there are common sense ideas: limit armor-piercing bullets and large ammunition clips, for example; require background checks for sales at gun shows the same as in stores; improve mental health screening and reinstate the assault weapons ban that was allowed by Congress to lapse in 2004.
Gaining traction instead is the idea that people would be safer if everyone carried guns. The Michigan Legislature just passed a law permitting concealed weapons in schools; school boards across the state are pleading for a veto. If loaded weapons were everywhere, especially around kids, you wouldn't need mass killers like Newtown's to create carnage. Rather, you'd have many more tragedies like last week's in Pennsylvania, where a 7-year-old was killed when his dad's gun went off as they were getting into a car.
Strengthening guns laws will not solve the problem by itself, but it is a place to start. It is a process that we should begin -- now, right now.
The National Rifle Association may be the most powerful lobbying organization of all time. Any lawmaker who even hints at supporting gun restrictions is in its cross hairs, a political tactic that effectively keeps this issue from the national conversation.
Raising voices of reason now could at least begin to turn the tide.