By now we’ve all heard about what happened in Newtown, Connecticut: yet another mass shooting not unlike what has happened so many times over the years, only this time it was 20 murdered children and six murdered adults. There’s no need to go into the details now, we’re all going to hear it ad nauseum for the next couple weeks. It’s easy to foretell how the national conversation will go: there will be a hue and cry for better and more effective (and more effectively enforced) gun control laws (Mayor Bloomberg is already raising the gun-control flag), and as soon as we all finish recoiling in shock and horror, gun-rights advocates and the NRA (in a repeat of what they did after the massacres at Columbine, the Gabby Giffords rally, and in a theater at Aurora, Colorado) will release statements that go along the line of “We are deeply sympathetic to the victims and the bereaved families, but in this time of sorrow we should not allow ourselves to overreact and take guns away from law-abiding citizens”.
Their logic goes along the line of the old conservative saw that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, that guns cannot in and of themselves be a significant factor in our nation’s shameful homicide rate; indeed, most conservatives seem to think that “An armed society is a polite society”, never mind that there is precisely zero evidence that crime somehow becomes less of a problem if everyone carries their own guns. In fact, the homicide rates of the South show quite the opposite when compared to that of the rest of the nation.
But something else happened today, something that shows indisputably the difference between a supposedly polite armed society, and one where firearms owners are very much the exception to the rule. Today a man in China’s Henang Province attacked a schoolteacher and students with a knife. The teacher and 22 students were wounded, some critically, but none died.
The difference is painfully clear: here in freedom-loving America, a man took a gun and killed 20 children and six adults, while in communist China, a man who was apparently every bit as deranged as his comrade-in-madness in Connecticut was not able to get a gun, and so used a knife; and no one died. His actions are still shocking and inexcusable, but 22 children there are still alive today, whereas 20 children here in America are dead. The only difference of note was that one man had easy access to firearms, and the other did not.
Anyone who supports getting rid of all guns is living in a fantasy land; gun-totin’ Pandora is out of her box and she’s never getting back in. But we can try to minimize the violence and mitigate the damage done by those who seem to hold guns to be some sort of holy religious icon. All firearms must be registered, all owners must be licensed, and all owners must be responsible for what happens with their firearms. All of these already apply to vehicle ownership anyway, but we can safely assume that nothing’s going to happen; the gun lobby in Washington is still too powerful, too strong. And so we will learn nothing as a nation, and more innocent people will die.
It’s as if Thomas Jefferson’s quote is incomplete and needs to be rewritten: “The tree of Second Amendment liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants and innocent children,” for if tragedies such as those that happened today cannot serve as object lessons that easy access to firearms is nothing more than a recipe for horror and grave injustice, then what indeed is the meaning of the blood shed by those 20 innocent children in that elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut?