Friday, December 14, 2012

Rage, Sorrow and Gun Control

“A Robin Redbreast in a Cage/Puts all Heaven in a Rage,” wrote William Blake. But there is something even more heinous that can put heaven, and all of us, in a greater rage.

It is the murder of children.

A gunman shot 26 people to death in an elementary school in rural Connecticut this morning. Twenty of them were children between the ages of 5 and 10. As gruesome details emerge, we ask: Where and how can we vent our rage against this unimaginable atrocity? What did these twenty children do to deserve this? One more week of school and, like millions of other schoolchildren, they would have been off for the holidays.

Instead, for these families, and for us, the coming holidays have been touched by evil. The little ones have left a vacuum that nothing on this earth is large enough to fill. At least that’s how it appears at this traumatic moment.

America has always been a gun society and is becoming more so every passing year. The tragic thing is that gun sales spike after the kind of violence that occurred this morning in Connecticut. Stores can barely meet demand for lethal firearms. Since government is not doing anything about gun control, many Americans feel that they are on their own against the psychopaths. A besieged mentality feeds on itself and gun sales rise exponentially.

It is impossible to detect human time bombs. Only two days ago, Jacob Tyler Roberts, 22, armed with a stolen AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, went on a rampage in a shopping mall in Oregon that left two people dead. "Jake was never the violent type," Roberts' ex-girlfriend, told the media. "His main goal was to make you laugh, smile, make you feel comfortable.” "Of everyone in my entire life, if I could put them on a list of how crazy they are, how likely they are to snap, I'd put him at the very bottom," said Jaime Eheler, 26, the gunman's close friend and roommate. "He'd be the very last person." Eheler added that her friend had a "weird look on his face" when he left their house.

But what alarm can a mere “weird look” set off?  After all, it is common for “unexpected” killers to mask their murderous rage with preternatural calm. Trying to stop human time bombs before they explode is, therefore, not a practical option.

But there is something we can and must do as a nation: Enforce gun control, damn the Second Amendment distortionists. This fruitless debate about rights has run its pathetic course. The government has got to step in and set things right, and make it difficult for anyone to purchase firearms. The NRA needs to be given the boot and right now, there is enough consensus in the country to make it happen. “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics,” said President Obama after the shooting. “Meaningful action?” What does this mean? This type of euphemism will not wash any longer. The time for “meaningful action” is long past. What is needed is drastic action to put the leash on NRA and the gun lobby and ban firearms.

It is tempting to conclude that our schools, colleges and malls have turned into killing fields. They have not, but neither are they remotely as safe as we have the right to expect and demand. Without drastic gun control, they will attain that fatal distinction sooner than we may think. Can we afford that as a nation?

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