There is no way to express the horror and grief I feel this morning in the aftermath of the Connecticut school massacre. All I can do is pray for the parents, knowing that only God can comfort them. I cannot imagine what darkness filled the heart of the young man who gunned those children down. How do you look into the eyes of a terrified five-year-old and pull the trigger?
As the nation absorbs the shock and revulsion that such a catastrophe evokes, predictable hysteria is emerging. We need a villain in such a tragedy.
The most obvious villain is the National Rifle Association. But a craven Congress and conciliatory administration must share the guilt.
Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler spoke for many Americans when he called for an all-out war against the powerful lobbying organization. The New York representative is quoted in Salon.com this morning as saying “the shooting should be a wake-up call to our crazy attitude to guns and the power of the gun lobby.”
According to the Salon article, Nadler “noted that other modern industrialized countries like the U.K., Sweden and Germany have fewer than 50 gun homicides every year, compared to the roughly 10,000 people killed in America. The difference, he said, is that the other countries have “rational gun control regimes,” while American politicians are afraid even to discuss gun control because of the gun lobby’s power.
The article further quotes Nadler as comparing the NRA to the Nine-Eleven terrorists. Here’s what he is quoted as saying:
Al-Qaida killed 3,000 people in the World Trade Center in 2001. The United States went to war because of that. Because of the NRA, we’ve lost 10,000 people last year unnecessarily. It’s time we went to war… You have to say the National Rifle Association is the enabler of mass murderers. And we’ve got to stomp on them instead of kowtowing to them.
Nadler is not alone in his condemnation of the NRA. The organization has earned widespread opprobrium by its obdurate opposition to any type of gun control, its lavish bribery of politicians who do its bidding and its venomous attacks on those who dare to suggest a sane approach to gun ownership.
But railing against the NRA is counter-productive. The association’s members are certainly not terrorists. The vast majority are decent, law-abiding citizens who like to hunt, target shoot or collect guns. Unfortunately, some of them go overboard. I cannot imagine why any ordinary citizen would want to own an assault rifle or a machine gun.
I believe it might be more helpful to take a civil approach to gun owners. The NRA should be invited to propose gun control legislation acceptable to its members. And the president should be the one to do the inviting.
Surely, after the repeated massacres that have shaken the nation in recent months, the NRA must realize its current position is untenable. Even the politicians whose pockets the lobbyists have lined must now face the urgent need for some form of gun control.
Screaming epithets at the NRA can be therapeutic for the screamers, but that will only solidify the members’ opposition to reform. It would be much more productive to approach the NRA and its members in a reasonable manner.
I cannot believe that even the most ardent First Amendment supporter could now argue in favor of unlimited access to the means of such carnage.
If the NRA refuses to cooperate, then I would agree with Representative Nadler that the time has come for the president and Congress to step up to the plate.
It might even be necessary for the American public to intervene. A massive march on Washington, like the ones that ended the Vietnam War, might help the politicians find the courage to act.
Americans can no longer stand idly by while so much innocent blood is being shed – even in kindergarten classrooms.
Photos show Adam Lanza, top left; a young woman awaiting news of her sister, a teacher at the school, top right; and a woman comforting a girl during a Friday vigil for victims (bottom).